This is a source for analysis, interviews, and commentary on security in Latin America. Herein you will find rumors, the results of off the record interviews, and information you'll not find in international or United States news media.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Operation Xcellerator

Yesterday, the Drug Enforcement Administration (not Agency as many like to put it), released the results of Operation Xcellerator (photos here).

I'll quote their press release:

"To date, Operation Xcellerator has led to the arrest of 755 individuals and the seizure of approximately $59.1 million in U.S. currency, more than 12,000 kilograms of cocaine, more than 16,000 pounds of marijuana, more than 1,200 pounds of methamphetamine, more than 8 kilograms of heroin, approximately 1.3 million pills of Ecstasy, more than $6.5 million in other assets, 149 vehicles, 3 aircraft, 3 maritime vessels and 169 weapons."

I'd say that's major news.

On the heels of Project Reckoning, which focused on the Gulf Cartel, this operation seems to have delivered a gut shot to the Sinaloa DTO.

It's a given that most of the 755 arrests were mid- to low-level operatives. But they are a functioning part of a much larger machine, one that cannot run smoothly without even the smallest cog.

Here is some information on what was not reported.

Two reactions to this news:

First, the renown of the intelligence networks operated by Mexican DTOs has been somewhat dissipated - at least when they operate on the US side of the border. In Mexico, these guys can buy off just about anyone, and set up a pipeline of information that extends all the way to the top levels of state and municipal government - even federal government in some cases.

This level of corruption is simply not going to happen inside the United States.

The Mexican DTOs have a well funded and deeply entrenched network of lookouts, informants, and others who work within their own capacity to provide information, but the high number of arrests in Xcellerator suggests that the operation maintained integrity until boots started kicking in doors.

Second, we've gotten a glimpse, and only a glimpse, of the extent to which Mexico's DTOs have stretched their operations across the United States. This is not just a border state phenomenon. We have seen in Texas and in Arizona where there has been violence directly related to Mexican DTOs, and it's spreading.

I talked here (paragraph 5) about when five Mexicans where found dead in their apartment outside of Birmingham, Alabama. And in another case, a man was abducted and tortured until police came to the rescue in Atlanta. He owed Los Zetas money - never an ideal debtor.

Here is a map of all the places - towns, cities, hamlets, etc - that have reported a Mexican DTO presence.

For better or for worse, Mexican immigrants are working and living in just about every state. Most of these people are hard working and give a necessary contribution to their community, even if they syphon some of the "commons".

But as we get a glimpse of Mexican DTO activity in the United States, and especially as Washington begins to absorb this reality (and they take a very long time on The Hill), we will see the merging of two formerly separate worlds: immigration policy and drug trafficking interdiction.

Where and when the two will meet is largely up to Janet Napolitano, her staff, the president, and Congress.

Until then, I'm sure we will continue to see more shining examples of the DEA's exemplary work in the field of interdiction - but while necessary, interdiction is less than half the battle...

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