Mexican Drug Cartels Are ‘Greatest’ Criminal, Opioid Threats to U.S., Says DEA

Los Zetas beheading 2
Breitbart Texas / Cartel Chronicles

Mexican drug cartels continue being the greatest criminal threat to America and are largely to blame for the current opioid crisis striking most of the nation, a new assessment by the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration revealed.

In their 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment, the agency claims that Mexican drug cartels remain unchallenged in their hold of the drug market in the U.S. and continue to expand their territory from the Southwest border into areas like New England. Once the drugs are crossed into the country, they are distributed by gangs managed or influenced by Mexican cartels. The DEA claims that the greatest drug threat to the city of Chicago comes from cartels since they control the flow of heroin, methamphetamines, marijuana, and cocaine without competition. Other areas that have seen a stronger influence by Mexican drug cartels include Pittsburgh and Indiana. 

According to the DEA, in the past 10 years, the drug landscape has changed with the dramatic increase of opioids; the agency claims that drug poisoning deaths typically tied to overdose or to emerging drugs like fentanyl are spiking. In 2015, 140 died every day from drug poisoning, the report revealed.

One of the alarming admissions made in the assessment points to the Sinaloa Cartel having active cells and at least one leader operating in Phoenix, Arizona, to oversee the distribution of drugs. While drug cartels tend to avoid carrying out brazen acts of violence in the U.S. in order to not attract attention, violent cases have taken place in the country, the DEA claims. For the most part, cartels will hire out U.S.-based gangs to carry out other attacks and not draw attention. 

The report does not seem to mention the complicity of Mexican officials at various levels of the government. As Breitbart Texas reported, two former governors of Tamaulipas are current fugitives of the U.S. Department of Justice on money laundering charges, while several other governors and politicos were outed as cartel surrogates. Current Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto was named by various news outlets in Mexico for receiving campaign money from Juarez Cartel operators, Breitbart Texas reported. 

The report identified six major drug cartels as being the ones with the most influence north of the border:

Sinaloa Cartel — Once led by the famed Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the criminal organization is currently led by Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, El Chapo’s family, and Rafael Caro Quintero. The drug cartel is considered to be the one with the largest footprint in the U.S., where the criminal organization has established routes into Phoenix, Los Angeles, Denver, and Chicago.

Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG) — An offshoot of the Sinaloa Cartel, the CJNG has rapidly become one of the most powerful cartels in Mexico. According to the DEA, CJNG’s rapid expansion is characterized by their willingness to engage in violent confrontations with Mexican Government security forces and rival cartels. The drug cartel operates in border cities in Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, and Baja California and has distribution hubs in the U.S. cities of Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta.

Juarez Cartel — Based out of the Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, the criminal organization operates primarily through West Texas and New Mexico. It’s drug distributions hubs include El Paso, Denver, Chicago and Oklahoma City. A turf war between the Juarez and Sinaloa Cartels is to blame for the 2010 spike in murders in that city.

Gulf Cartel — Another of the older cartels in Mexico, the criminal organization operates primarily out of South Texas moving marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine to Houston, Detroit, and Atlanta. In South Texas, the Gulf Cartel coordinates with local gangs to not only handle local distribution, but also carry out attacks and assassinations against targets throughout the nation, the DEA revealed.

Los Zetas — An offshoot of the Gulf Cartel, the criminal organization crosses their drugs through the states of Coahuila and Tamaulipas to deliver them to Laredo, Dallas, New Orleans and Atlanta. The cartel underwent a series of schisms that led to the criminal organization’s diminished influence, but still maintains busy smuggling corridors.

Beltran Leyva Cartel — Another offshoot of the Sinaloa Cartel, the criminal organization operates in the Mexican states of Guerrero, Morelos, Nayarit, and Sinaloa and has working relationships with Juarez , Los Zetas, and CJNG to access smuggling corridors. The BLO runs distribution hubs in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta.

While the assessment identifies cartels as the biggest threat, the study provides a dark forecast where the criminal organizations will continue to expand their operations in the country.

It is anticipated that Mexican TCOs (drug cartels) will continue to grow in the United States through expansion of distribution networks and interaction with local criminal groups and gangs. This relationship will insulate Mexican TCOs from direct ties to street-level drug and money seizures and drug-related arrests made by U.S. law enforcement.”

Ildefonso Ortiz is an award-winning journalist with Breitbart Texas. He co-founded the Cartel Chronicles project with Brandon Darby and Stephen K. Bannon.  You can follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Brandon Darby is managing director and editor-in-chief of Breitbart Texas. He co-founded the Cartel Chronicles project with Ildefonso Ortiz and Stephen K. Bannon. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He can be contacted at


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