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Dangerous Mexican/U.S. Criminal Enterprises Operating Along the

by Michael Webster Investigative reporter Saturday, May. 03, 2008 at 7:41 AM
mvwsr@aol.com 949 494-7121

Many were beheaded with or without written messages on bodies or in vehicles. The cartels’ methods of torture and killing are particularly brutal. On September 6, 2006, masked gunmen entered a nightclub in the Michoacan, fired guns in the air and rolled five severed human heads onto the dance floor



Michael Webster: Investigative Reporter May 1, 2008 8:00 PM PDT

The overwhelming influence and power of the Mexican Drug Cartels who are the Mexican drug trafficking organizations and criminal gangs operating in Mexico and the United States.

They have emerged in recent years as the most dangerous and politically influential drug traffickers in the western hemisphere if not the world. The Mexican cartels have existed for some time, they have become increasingly powerful with the demise of the Medellin and Cali cartels in Colombia and have now come to dominate the U.S. illicit drug market and other criminal enterprises.

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, Mexican cartels are “the predominant smugglers, transporters, and wholesale distributors of cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and Mexico-produced heroin in the United States” and “are expanding their control over the distribution of these drugs in areas controlled by Colombian and Dominican criminal groups, and now believed to include all of the U.S.A..

In addition to drug trafficking, cartels have been tied to illegal alien, terrorist, arms smuggling and those proceeds are subsequently laundered through seemingly legitimate local businesses.

.

The cartels through the criminal gangs who work for them have been involved in kidnappings and

military style training camps, some reported to be along the border with the U.S.

FBI Director Robert Mueller described U.S. based-gangs as “more organized, more violent, and more widespread than ever.” The Department of Justice

estimates there are approximately 30,000 gangs with more than 800,000 members in the U.S. Mueller believes these violent gangs pose a growing threat to the safety and security of Americans.

As this reporter has documented Mexican Drug cartels are ordering decapitations of cartel enemies, including federal, state and city police officers. Many of these victims were blind folded and hooded before they shoot them.

Other types of violence to murder victims are: Physical beatings, torture, or bodies dumped on streets or lot torture involving beatings, tooth removal, appendage removal, death by torture, strangulation, single shot to head and/or multiple shots to head and body.

Other tactics were same as above with head and/or face fully or partially wrapped with duct tape or other head wrappings or blind folds. Bodies often disposed of by the alternate “Pozole” method. The pozole is where they stuff the body sometime still alive into a 55 gallon barrel and fill it with gas, battery acid and other corrosive chemicals. The theory being that they think it makes the body easer to dispose of and makes what may remain very difficult to identify later by authorities.

Many were beheaded with or without written messages on bodies or in vehicles.

The cartels’ methods of torture and killing are particularly brutal. On September 6, 2006,

masked gunmen entered a nightclub in the Michoacan, fired guns in the air and rolled five severed human heads onto the dance floor. The gunmen left a sign among the severed heads that read:

“The family doesn’t kill for money. It doesn’t kill women. It doesn’t kill innocent people, only those who deserve to die. Know that this is divine justice.”

Alarming Sensitive U.S. Government Report on Mexican Violence

By using these horrible and terrifying tactics the Cartels are sending a chilling message to the Mexican President Felipe Calderon Administration by adopting methods of intimidation made notorious by Middle Eastern terrorist groups.

Dozens of people have been decapitated in Mexico so far this year, with heads stuck on fence posts, found in trash bags and heads being tossed onto a nightclub dance floor for all to see.

Dozens of U.S. citizens have been kidnapped, held hostage and killed by their captors in Mexico and many cases remain unsolved. Moreover, new cases of disappearances and kidnap-for-ransom continue to be reported yet no high level warning has been issued to protect Americans against this world class violence. Many kidnapped victims where held in deplorable jail like metal cages in so called safe houses.

U.S. intelligence officials report that human smuggling has become another component of the drug cartels’ business. This fact is of particular import in a post 9/11

environment and at a time in history when the United States is more concerned than ever about securing its borders.

Americans Being Kidnapped, Held and killed in Mexico

Mexican cartels have also increased their relationships with prison and street gangs in the United States to facilitate trafficking drugs, murders and kidnappings within the United States. For example, gangs

including the Latin Kings and Mara Salvatrucha (MS13), El Paso's Barrio Azteca gang and many others know and unknown.

Federal authorities point to the Mexican drug cartels who are ultimately responsible for border violence by having cemented ties to street and prison gangs like Barrio Azteca on the U.S. side. Azteca and other U.S. gangs retail drugs that they get from Mexican cartels and Mexican gangs. Mexican gangs run their own distribution networks in the United States, and they produce most of the methamphetamine used north of the border. They have even bypassed the Colombians several times to buy cocaine directly from producers in Bolivia, Peru and even Afghanistan. These same gangs often work as cartel surrogates or enforcers on the U.S. side of the border. Intelligence suggests Los Zetas have hired members of various gangs at different times including, El Paso gang Barrio Azteca, Mexican Mafia, Texas Syndicate, MS-13, and Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos to further their criminal endeavors.

Many members of violent street gangs are actively involved in other crimes such as rape,

robbery, and murder. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has found that approximately half of the apprehended gang members have violent criminal histories,with arrests and convictions for crimes such as robbery, assault, rape and murder. This figure includes only those whose criminal histories are known. Approximately 90 percent of U.S. MS-13 members are foreign-born illegal aliens and depend upon the Texas-Mexico border smuggling corridor to support their criminal operations. MS-13

members are involved in a variety of other types of criminal activity, including rape, murder, and extortion.

FBI Director Robert Mueller described U.S. based-gangs as “more organized, more violent, and more widespread than ever.” The Department of Justice

estimates there are approximately 30,000 gangs with more than 800,000 members in the U.S..

Dangerous Mexican Cartel Gangs

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reports that the Mexican drug syndicates operating today along our Nation’s border are far more sophisticated and dangerous than any of the other organized criminal groups in America’s law enforcement history. Indeed, these powerful drug cartels, and the human smuggling networks and gangs they leverage, have immense control over the routes into the United States and

continue to pose formidable challenges to our efforts to secure our border.

According to the late El Paso County Sheriff Leo Samaniego, drug cartels operating along the

southwestern U.S. border are a “country unto themselves” with intelligence capabilities,

weaponry and communications equipment that challenges the Border Patrol and local law

enforcement. Sheriff Samaniego advised his deputies to “back off” when they see well armed individuals from cartels and other criminal organizations.

Many of these sophisticated networks include placing spotters with high-powered binoculars and encrypted radios along smuggling routes to guide smugglers past Border Patrol and other law enforcement agencies operating along the border. A Library of Congress report on Criminal and Terrorist Activity in Mexico describes how smugglers carry on a “technological arms race” with CBP and ICE.

Webb County, Texas Sheriff Rick Flores indicated that he is disturbed by the level of resources the cartels and criminal organizations possess and utilize against local lawenforcement noting that the cartels utilize rocket propelled grenades…automatic assault

weapons, and “level four” body armor and Kevlar helmets similar to what the U.S. military uses. Some local officials are taking steps to protect their officers from these weapons. The Sheriff for Hidalgo County, Texas Sheriff has prohibited the deputies in his department from patrolling along the banks of the Rio Grande River because of the threat of violence from the cartels.

Along the U.S. Mexican border, drug cartels as organized criminal groups have established a robust presence in key strategic areas from Brownsville to San Diego it includes dozens of Ports of Entry, and has major interstate highway connections to all parts of the country. Thereby providing the organized crime groups with access to all of the America's. These smuggling routes start in South America through Panama,

Honderous, Guatemala and Mexico and then extend from border to border ocean to ocean and points north all the way to Alaska.

Federal authorities point to the Mexican drug cartels who are ultimately responsible for border violence by having cemented these ties to street and prison gangs like Barrio Azteca on the U.S. side. Azteca and other U.S. gangs retail drugs that they get from Mexican cartels and Mexican gangs. Mexican gangs run their own distribution networks in the United States,

and they produce most of the methamphetamine used north of the border. They have even bypassed the Colombians several times to buy cocaine directly from producers in Bolivia, Peru and even Afghanistan. These same gangs often work as cartel surrogates or enforcers on the U.S. side of the border. Intelligence suggests Los Zetas have hired members of various gangs at different times including, El Paso gang Barrio Azteca, Mexican Mafia, Texas Syndicate, MS-13, and Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos to further their criminal endeavors.

Dangerous Mexican Cartel Gangs

The South Texas region alone covers approximately 625 miles of border territory – a total area

of 20,963 square miles and borders three separate Mexican States. Inside the territory are

11 Ports of Entry that include 15 international bridges. Directly across the cities of Brownsville, McAllen, Laredo and El Paso are major Mexican cities, each with a population between 600,000 and 1,500,000. Trains from Central America and Mexico en route to the U.S. border with McAllen, Brownsville and El Paso host interstate highways and thoroughfares

to all points north. These trains, usually 90 to 160 cars in length, traveling from Central America through Mexico are one mode of transportation criminal enterprises use to enter the United States with their illegal contraband human and otherwise. Each year thousands of illegal aliens cling to the sides and tops of the rail cars for the journey to the north.

The El Paso-Juarez corridor in west Texas also serves as the gateway for drugs destined to major metropolitan areas in the United States. Mexican drug cartels transport significant quantities of methamphetamine, and Mexico-produced heroin, marijuana, and imported cocaine through the El Paso Port of Entry using major east/west and north/south

interstate highways. As stated earlier these highways provide the Mexican cartels with transportation routes for drug distribution throughout the United States. Drug cartels also obtain warehouses in El Paso and near by areas for stash locations and run ads in newspapers and on the internet to recruit drivers from the local area to transport the drugs to various

destinations throughout the United States.

According to the feds the Alpine area is largely rural and sparsely populated, encompassing the Big Bend corridor, a transshipment route for drugs entering the United States from Northeast Mexico. The drug cartels maintain command and control elements to the north in the Midland-Odessa area and in the border towns to the south in Presidio and Redford.

The Laredo Port of Entry is the 2nd busiest and 2nd most heavily traversed land Port of Entry on the Southwest border excluding El Paso/Juarez ports of entry. The Laredo port handles approximately 6,000 commercial vehicles a day. Forty percent of all Mexican exports cross into Laredo, Texas, where Interstate 35 connects directly to Dallas, and from there throughout the United States.

U.S. Border Patrol Chief John Montoya describes this Port of Entry as one of “the key ingress into the United States.”“It’s called a gateway city, not only into Mexico but into the United States as well.” The

very conditions that make the Laredo Port of Entry so attractive to legitimate commerce also make the city ideal for the illicit drug and human smuggling trade.

Cartels waging violent turf battle over Control of these key smuggling corridors from Nuevo Laredo, to San Diego. The neighboring cities on the Mexico side of the border, are the most important launching point for illegal contraband entering the United States.

These twin cities all along our border with Mexico are where much of the violence and drug cartel activity is taking place. The violence is due to the fact that the major drug cartels are currently battling for control over this highly coveted corridors into the United States known as a“plaza.”

The plaza proceeds through major cities with large highway systems where aliens, terrorist and drugs can be staged prior to movement to other parts of the United States. Control of this corridor translates into control of all illegal smuggling.

All criminal organizations that want to smuggle through these established safe passages into the United States is required to pay a tax to the cartel that controls the plaza.

The Sinaloa cartel began to contest the Gulf Cartel’s domination of the coveted southwest Texas corridor following the arrest of Gulf Cartel leader Osiel Cardenas in March 2003.

While in prison, Arellano Felix, head of the Tijuana cartel, and Cardenas forged an alliance against the Sinaloa and its ally the Juarez cartel. As a result, the cartels are now largely aligned into two blocks, some which support the Gulf Cartel and others which support the Sinaloa Cartel. It is these two blocks that are involved in the massive and violent turf wars which are currently being carried out in northern Mexico.

To protect and expand their criminal operations, Mexican drug cartels maintain highly developed intelligence networks on both sides of the border and have hired private armies to carry out enforcement measures. For example, the Gulf Cartel leader Cardenas employs a group of former elite military soldiers known as “Los Zetas.” The Zetas are

unique among drug enforcer gangs in that they operate as “a private army under the orders of Cardenas’ Gulf Cartel, the first time a drug lord has had his own

paramilitary.” The Zetas have been instrumental in the Gulf Cartel’s domination of the drug trade in much of Mexico and have fought to maintain the cartel’s influence in northern cities following the arrest of Cardenas. The Zetas’ activities are not limited to defending the Gulf Cartel’s terrain in northern Mexico. The paramilitary force is also believed to control trafficking routes along the eastern half of the U.S.-Mexico border and perhaps others as well.

The Zetas are believed to be a serious threat to public safety on both sides of the U.S. Mexican border. They are well-financed and well-equipped and have demonstrated a willingness to shoot, torture, and kill law enforcement officers, or rival cartel and gang

members on both sides of the border. Federal law enforcement officials deem the Zetas

among the most dangerous criminal enterprises in the Americas.

Reports indicate that while the Zetas were initially comprised of members of the Mexican

military’s Special Forces, they now include Federal, State, and local law enforcement personnel as well as civilians. Moreover, according to U.S. intelligence officials, Zetas are recruiting former Guatemalan Special Forces military personnel known as Kaibiles

and members of the notorious cross-border gangs known as Maras, including the violent

Mara Salvatruchas (MS-13).They're known as "Los Zetas

According to Federal law enforcement officials; these hideous acts was a revenge killing between warring gangs. Decapitations are becoming quite common in many areas in Mexico where cartels and gangs battle for control over lucrative smuggling corridors.

Heads are publicly displayed for the purpose of intimidation.

Another brutal means of torture and death is called “guisoe.” This practice involves putting a person into a 55 gallon drum, usually dead, but not always, and pouring various flammable liquids over the body and lighting it on fire. A variation on this method is to

place a burning tire around the neck of an individual, burning the victim alive. The remains are dumped on roadsides as a message to others who would consider crossing the cartels. The ruthless methods employed by these cartels to torture and kill their competitors are no different than the techniques used by Al Qa’ida and other terrorist organizations.

This level of brutality is particularly troubling as the cartels are executing these vicious murders a mere stones-throw from U.S. soil.

Sometimes the violence and intimidation is captured on video. In 2005, a video was anonymously delivered to the Dallas Morning News showing four men, handcuffed and badly beaten in front of a backdrop of black plastic, describing to off-camera

interrogators their work as cartel assassins. The men were members of the Zetas. The video ends when one of the Zetas is shot in the head at point blank range by an off-camera captor. Law enforcement authorities have never found the body of the murdered Zeta, nor the other three men, dead or alive.

U.S. law enforcement officials are struck with the resiliency and determination of these

criminals. In the words of one law enforcement official: “They [the Zetas] have the Texas-Mexico border wired.” For example, in 2005, just six hours after being sworn in as Nuevo Laredo’s Police Chief, Alejandro Dominguez was killed. He had announced a crackdown on the cartels. He was shot more than 50 times.

During mid-September 2006, a group of 25 individuals in Nuevo Laredo were gathered in a local hotel with visas to travel to the U.S. for work. The Zetas mistakenly thought the workers were from a

rival cartel and kidnapped and tortured them. The workers were released when the cartels realized their mistake. U.S. Federal law enforcement authorities said Mexican police would not respond to the emergency calls for help that were made during the incident.

The violence has spread to neighboring Mexican States also sharing a border with the U.S. Nuevo Leon, once thought to be one of the safest States and home to some of the richest families in Mexico, has seen the murders of three top law enforcement

officials who had spoken out against the drug cartels. During September 2006, two police chiefs were killed as well as the top crime investigator. In the past two years, six journalists covering drug trafficking along the border have also been killed.

The Zetas have now become completely entrenched along the U.S. Mexican border and have grown to more than 1200 with hundreds more in a support network throughout Mexico.

In an example of the Zeta’s capabilities, a shootout on September 22, 2006 in Nuevo Laredo between the Zetas and an assassination target lasted approximately 40 minutes.

The shootout included bazookas and grenades and reportedly killed approximately five Zetas and injured approximately five others.

In response to such aggressive efforts on the part of the Zetas to defend and control parts of Mexico and its border with the U.S., the Sinaloa cartel established its own heavilyarmed enforcer gang, “Los Negros.” The group operates in a similar fashion to the Zetas.

Los Negros, attempting to wrest control from the Zetas over the local police in Nuevo Laredo are believed to be responsible for the rise in violence there. According to Webb County Sheriff Rick Flores, the warring cartels and the increase in violence

wrought by these paramilitary enforcers have provoked a major cross-border human

exodus from Nuevo Laredo into Laredo, Texas.

Federal, State, and local law enforcement officials are witnessing a growing nexus between the Mexican drug cartels, illegal alien smuggling rings, and U.S. based gangs.

The human smuggling networks that operate along the Southwest border cannot move their human cargo through drug cartel controlled corridors without paying a fee. The typical Mexican illegal alien now pays approximately ,200 to ,500. For aliens from

countries other than Mexico this price is often considerably higher, and may even be

more alluring for the cartels. Foreign nationals and terrorist are often charged an exorbitantly

higher fee ranging anywhere from ,000 to 0.000 per person. Indeed, it is estimated

that human smuggling through Mexico into the United States each year puts billions of dollars into criminal hands.

According to U.S. law enforcement officials, tremendous incentive exists for drug cartels

to diversify their criminal enterprises to include the human smuggling trade. Human smuggling can be more lucrative than the illicit drug trade and the benefits far outweigh the risks for the cartels. There are many reasons for this. Law enforcement is dealing

with a different type of commodity – drugs don’t hide themselves as humans are able.

Consequently, smugglers can transport large numbers of illegal aliens across the border at one time and meet with some success.

Moreover, prosecutions for human smuggling are abysmally low. Typically, groups of illegal aliens apprehended attempting to cross the border will not identify the smuggler in the group. For those smugglers that are identified and captured, most are simply returned to their country of origin. Thus, there is a revolving door for the smugglers. Since it is

unlikely the smuggler will be prosecuted he or she can opt for voluntary removal, face no criminal penalties and smuggle again. As human smugglers charge anywhere from ,000 to ,000 per alien and face little or no consequences if caught, human

smuggling is a far less risky business endeavor than the drug trade.

Federal law enforcement officials also report that the cartels are not only increasingly engaged in the human smuggling business, they are also actively coordinating with existing human smuggling rings, using diversionary tactics to protect their loads. It is not uncommon for cartels to facilitate the crossing of fifty or more illegal aliens across the U.S.-Mexico border to divert Border Patrol resources away from an area they plan to

transport large amounts of drugs across.

The criminal organizations are indeed extremely advanced, well-equipped, and highly

adaptable to enforcement measures marshaled against them. In January 2006, ICE agents, along with ATF agents and Laredo Police Department officers seized an enormous cache of weapons in Laredo, Texas. Authorities confiscated two completed

improvised explosive devices (IEDs) materials for making thirty-three more, military style grenades, twenty-six grenade triggers, large quantities of AK-47s and AR-15 assault rifles, 1,280 pounds of ammunition, silencers, machine gun assembly kits, 300 primers,

bulletproof vests, police scanners, sniper scopes, narcotics and cash. These seizures clearly illustrate the level of violence along the border, especially in Nuevo Laredo, Juarez and Tijuana area.

Many in law enforcement believe the manpower, resources, and technology utilized by U.S.

law enforcement needs to be enhanced to combat the highly organized and sophisticated cartels.

These criminal enterprises have seemingly unlimited money to purchase the most advanced

technology and weaponry available. The cartels are able to break the encryptions on both Border Patrol and sheriffs’ deputies’ radios. Lookouts for the cartels, using military grade equipment, are positioned at strategic points on the U.S. side of the border to

monitor movements of U.S. law enforcement. In response, the cartels then move their cargo accordingly. The cartels use automatic assault weapons, bazookas, grenade launchers and IEDs. In contrast, U.S. Border Patrol agents are issued .40 caliber Beretta hand guns.

Not all illegal aliens are crossing into the United States to find work. Law enforcement officials indicate that there are individuals coming across the border who are forced to leave their home countries because of their criminal activity. These dangerous criminals

are fleeing the law in other countries and seeking refuge in the United States. For instance, it is known that many of the operatives of cartels in Mexico actually live in the United States. Information received by several law enforcement agencies indicates these

criminals are living in our communities and that they come to the U.S. to escape the possibility of apprehension in Mexico.

The Violent Crimes Institute conducted a 12 month in-depth study of illegal immigrants who committed sex crimes and murders for the time period of January 1999 through April 2006. This study makes it clear that the U.S. faces a dangerous threat from sexual

predators that cross the U.S. borders illegally.

The Institute analyzed 1,500 cases in depth, including serial rapes, serial murders, sexual homicides, and child molestation committed by illegal immigrants. Police reports, public records, interviews with police, and media accounts were all included. Offenders were

located in thirty-six states, with the most of the offenders were located in States with the

highest numbers of illegal immigrants. California was ranked first, followed by Texas, Arizona, New Jersey, New York, and Florida.

Based on an estimated illegal immigrant population of 12,000,000 and the fact that young males make up more of this population than the general U.S. population, the Institute concluded that sex offenders in the illegal immigrant group make up a higher percentage.

ICE reports and public records show sex offenders comprising 2% of illegals apprehended. Based on this 2% figure, which is conservative, the Institute estimates that there are approximately 240,000 illegal immigrant sex offenders in the United States.

The study concluded, when applied to ongoing illegal immigration at the borders, these estimates translate to 93 sex offenders and twelve serial sexual offenders coming across U.S. borders illegally per day. The 1,500 offenders in this study had a total of 5,999

victims. Each sex offender averaged four victims. This puts the estimate for victimization numbers around 960,000 for the 88 months examined in this study.

The violence of illegal aliens is not confined to border communities. Residents and law enforcement in the interior cities are also vulnerable to criminals crossing the border.

The number of aliens other than Mexican (“OTMs”) illegally crossing the border has grown at an alarming rate over the past several years. Based on U.S. Border Patrol statistics there were 30,147 OTMs apprehended in FY2003, 44,614 in FY2004, 165,178 in FY2005, and 108,025 in FY2006. 210,027 FY 2007. Most of them were

apprehended along the U.S Southwest border.

The sheer increase of OTMs coming across the border makes it more difficult for Border Patrol agents to readily identify and process each, thereby increasing the chances that a potential terrorist could slip through the system. Moreover, there is no concrete

mechanism for determining how many OTMs evade apprehensions and successfully enter the country illegally.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) pays particular attention to OTMs

apprehended by the Border Patrol who originate from thirty-five nations designated as “special interest” countries. According to Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar, special interest countries have been “designated by our intelligence community as countries that could export individuals that could bring harm to our country in the way of terrorism.”

Though the majority of overall apprehensions made by the Border Patrol occur in the Tucson sector of Arizona, the Texas border – specifically the McAllen sector – far outpaces the rest of the country in OTM and Special Interest Alien apprehensions. Since

September 11, 2001, DHS has reported a 501% increase in arrests along the U.S. Mexican border of Special Interest Aliens.

The data indicates that each year hundreds of illegal aliens from countries known to harbor terrorists or promote terrorism are routinely encountered and apprehended attempting to enter the U.S. illegally between Ports of Entry. Just recently, U.S.

intelligence officials report that seven Iraqis were found in Brownsville, Texas in June 2006. In August 2006, an Afghani man was found swimming across the Rio Grande River in Hidalgo, Texas;104 as recently as October 2006, seven Chinese were apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley area of Texas.

Items have been found by law enforcement officials along the banks of the Rio Grande River and inland that indicate possible ties to a terrorist organization or member of military units of Mexico. A jacket with patches from countries where al Qa’ida is

known to operate was found in Jim Hogg County, Texas by the Border Patrol. The patches on the jacket show an Arabic military badge with one depicting an airplane flying over a building and heading towards a tower, and another showing an image of a lion’s

head with wings and a parachute emanating from the animal. The bottom of one patch read “martyr,” “way to eternal life” or “way to immortality.”

Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar was asked by a reporter from KGNS television station in Laredo, Texas, about the outcome of the investigation of the

jacket. Chief Aguilar responded that the patches were not from al Qa’ida but from countries in which al Qa’ida was known to operate.

According to ICE testimony, on September 8, 2004, ICE agents arrested Neeran Zaia and

Basima Sesi. The human smuggling organization headed by Zaia specialized in smuggling Iraqi, Jordanian, and Syrian Nationals and was responsible for the movement of more than 200 aliens throughout the investigation. The investigation was initiated

when a confidential informant familiar with the organization reported ongoing smuggling

activities by Zaia, who had been previously convicted of alien smuggling. Investigative efforts revealed that the aliens were smuggled from the Middle East to staging areas in Central and South America. Once in these staging areas, the conspirators would arrange

to smuggle the aliens from these sites into the U.S. or its territories.

Members of Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based terrorist organization, have already entered into

the United States across our Southwest border. On March 1, 2005, Mahmoud Youssef Kourani pleaded guilty to providing material support to Hezbollah. Kourani is an illegal alien who had been smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border after bribing a

Mexican consular official in Beirut for a visa to travel to Mexico. Kourani and a Middle Eastern traveling partner then paid coyotes in Mexico to guide them into the United States. Kourani established residence among the Lebanese expatriate community in

Dearborn, Michigan and began soliciting funds for Hezbollah terrorists back home in Lebanon. He is the brother of the Hezbollah chief of military operations in southern Lebanon.

Salim Boughader Mucharrafille, a café owner in Tijuana, Mexico, was arrested for illegally smuggling more than two hundred Lebanese illegally into the

United States, including several believed to have terrorist ties to Hezbollah. Robert L. Boatwright, Assistant Chief Patrol Agent of the El Paso Texas Sector, reported, “We have apprehended people from countries that support terrorism…they were thoroughly debriefed and there was a tremendous amount of information collected from them.”

Statements made by high-ranking Mexican officials prior to and following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks indicate that one or more Islamic terrorist organizations has sought to establish a presence in Mexico. In May 2001, former Mexican National security adviser and ambassador to the United Nations, Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, reported, that

“Spanish and Islamic terrorist groups are using Mexico as a refuge.”

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller has confirmed in testimony “that there are individuals from countries with known al-Qa’ida connections who are changing their Islamic surnames to Hispanic-sounding names and obtaining false

Hispanic identities, learning to speak Spanish and pretending to be Hispanic immigrants.

These examples highlight the dangerous intersection between traditional transnational criminal activities, such as human and drug smuggling, and more ominous threats to national security. Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez summed it up this way: “I dare to say that at any given time, daytime or nighttime, one can get on a boat and traverse back and forth between Texas and Mexico and not get caught. If smugglers can bring in tons of

marijuana and cocaine at one time and can smuggle 20 to 30 persons at one time, one can just imagine how easy it would be to bring in 2 to 3 terrorists or their weapons of mass destruction across the river and not be detected. Chances of apprehension are very slim.”

Furthermore, according to senior U.S. military and intelligence officials, Venezuela is emerging as a potential hub of terrorism in the Western Hemisphere, providing assistance to Islamic radicals from the Middle East and other terrorists.

General James Hill, commander of U.S. Southern Command, has warned the United States faces a growing risk from both Middle Eastern terrorists relocating to Latin America and terror groups originating in the region. General Hill said groups such as Hezbollah had established bases in Latin America. These groups are taking advantage of smuggling hotspots, such as the tri-border area of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, and Venezuela’s Margarita Island, to channel funds to terrorist groups around the world.

Venezuela is providing support—including identity documents—that could prove useful to radical Islamic groups, say some U.S. officials. The Venezuelan government has issued thousands of cedulas, the equivalent of Social Security cards, to people from

places such as Cuba, Columbia, and Middle Eastern nations that host foreign terrorist organizations. The U.S. officials believe that the Venezuelan government is issuing the documents to people who should not be getting them and that some of these cedulas

could be subsequently used to obtain Venezuelan passports and even American visas, which could allow the holder to elude immigration checks and enter the United States.

Recently, several Pakistanis were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexican border with fraudulent Venezuelan documents.

“Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, has been clearly talking to Iran about uranium,”

said a senior administration official quoted by the Washington Times. Chavez has made several trips to Iran and voiced solidarity with the country's hard-line mullahs. He has hosted Iranian officials in Caracas, endorsed Tehran's nuclear ambitions and expressed

support for the insurgency in Iraq. The Times reports Venezuela is also talking with Hamas about sending representatives to Venezuela to raise money for the militant group's elected Palestinian government as Chavez seeks to build an anti-U.S. axis that also

includes Fidel Castro's Cuba. “I am on the offensive,” Chavez said on the al Jazeera television network, “because attack is the best form of defense. We are waging an offensive battle….”

Given all that is happening in Chavez’s Venezuela, some American officials regret that terrorism is seen chiefly as a Middle East problem and that the United States needs to start looking to protect its southern flank. A U.S. intelligence official expressed concern

that “Counterterrorism issues are not being aggressively pursued in this hemisphere.”

Another intelligence official stated terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay are not being interrogated about connections to Latin America. The bottom line, when it comes to terrorism so close to U.S. shores, says the official, “We don’t even know what we don’t

know.”

Islamic radical groups that support Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamiya Al Gamat are all active in Mexico and other Latin American countries. These groups generate funds through money laundering, drug trafficking, and arms deals, making millions of dollars every year

via their multiple illicit activities. These cells reach back to the Middle East and extend to this hemisphere the sophisticated global support structure of international terrorism.

While threats to our nation from international terrorism are well known, lesser known threats spawned by narcoterrorism reach deeply into this country.

Federal law enforcement entities estimate they apprehend approximately 10 to 30 percent

of illegal aliens crossing the border. U.S. intelligence officials along the southwest border, on the other hand, are less optimistic. To be sure, it is unclear how many illegal aliens of any nationality evade capture by law enforcement each year and succeed in

entering the United States illegally.

One thing, however, is known for certain – hundreds of people from countries known to harbor terrorists or promote terrorism are caught trying to enter the United States illegally along the land border, and the massive flow of immigrants and our porous border create

various and abundant opportunities for concealment. Given the ever-present threat posed by al-Qa’ida and other terrorist organizations show the vulnerability of our borders – the need for immediate action to enforce our borders could not be more apparent.

The Federal government has taken positive steps to secure its borders, but much more is needed to combat an increasingly powerful, sophisticated, and violent criminal network which has been successful in smuggling illegal contraband, human or otherwise, into our country. The growth of these criminal groups, along the border, and the potential for terrorists to exploit the vulnerabilities which they create, represents a real threat to America’s national security.

It is imperative that immediate action be taken to enhance security along our border with Mexico.

Thousands of Mexican soldiers have been sent to the Mexican border cities and towns after many pleas from residents and local politicians. The Mexican troops arrived by troop transport C-130 Hercules aircraft, military transport vehicles, gunship helicopters, troop personal carries, pickups and Humvees with mounted .50-caliber machine guns. These Mexican army and Federal police now operating throughout the border region.

 

The Mexican soldiers are armed with combat American supplied M-16 fully automatic rifles. This latest action by Mexican President Calderon now places Mexican armed soldiers on the U.S. Border with Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

These Mexican troop movement places more than 30,000 Mexican troops combating the Mexican cartels throughout the country. This operations, carried out by the Mexican army is expected to provoke a violent response from Mexican drug cartels, officials said.

Sources:

Laguna Journal, FBI, DEA, CBP, ICE, ATF, and various Mexican City Police Departments, El Paso County Sheriff's Dept., National Drug Intelligence Center, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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