America spent $11 billion securing our borders; $1.3 billion went to the city of Juarez in 2009 as U.S. aid. However, Mexican cartels make as much as $35 billion a year from the illicit drug trade (a conservative estimate), and additional untold billions in human trafficking.
Cartels may spend as much as 60 percent of that income in bribes known as "la mordida" (the bite). This corruption occurs on both sides of the border. Last year, Homeland Security reported 839 allegations of public corruption among U.S. officials. This is one of the greatest dangers threatening this country. Unless the corrupting drug money is stopped, our system will soon resemble our Mexican neighbor's.
American banks launder this illicit money. Why? Because it is just too tempting. The multiple billions of unregulated cash and electronic transfers have already corrupted Wells Fargo, Wachovia, Bank of America, and many others. These banks know where this blood money comes from, but cooperate with the cartels anyway. Without this cooperation, the drug wars and violence on the border would be significantly reduced. This is where the federal government should be doing more. Follow the money.
Of all the American contributions to the Mexican drug wars, the American street gangs are the most lethal. The American Latino street gang culture was born here in the Juarez-El Paso border area. But the Pachuco culture flourished in America. The U.S. gangs have become the transportation and distribution system facilitators in the U.S. Recently they have aligned more closely to the Mexican drug cartels and some of the major U.S. gangs have become directly involved with cartels in Mexico trafficking in drugs and human cargo.
As it turns out, it was not the U.S. consulate worker that was the target of the drug cartels. Despite the grenade attacks recently against U.S. consulates in Mexico; it was her husband that the assassins wanted. The suspects were members of the street and also the prison gang known as Barrio Azteca. The husband worked on the Texas side in a custody facility. Allegedly he had offended the Barrio Azteca gang while on duty, and the gang targeted him and his wife while off duty.
Mexico has begun extraditing some of these gang members back to the U.S. for prosecution. This is a promising development.
This targeting of American law enforcement by cross-border gangs will continue and escalate unless both governments turn up the heat. The U.S. government can assist Mexico by sharing intelligence about the gangs and the identity of the members. I know there are several organizations who are now sharing training and intelligence with the Mexican police and military. But more of this must be done, even at the risk of exposing some intelligence to compromised authorities.
This is best done not at the federal level, but by leveraging working relationships between local officers. Instead of spending billions on federal law enforcement, the poor local county law enforcement on the front line should be assisted with vehicles, weapons, ballistic vests, night-vision equipment, training and discretionary funds.
If mutual trust can be established between two law enforcement entities, the nucleus for a cross-border multinational task force might be established. This might be under the sponsorship of Interpol or some other neutral third party. This unit could begin by targeting "Chapo" Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel and his drug sources, money laundering systems and gang enforcement on both sides of the border.