January 6, 2012
The Sinaloa criminal cartel uses its control of drug corridors on both sides of the Arizona-Mexico border to extend its influence well beyond the border area into “much of the United States,” according to the Department of Justice.
U.S. prosecutors have described Sinaloa as “one of the largest narcotics trafficking organizations in the world.”
A member of the cartel, who is facing federal charges in Chicago, claims that he was allowed to traffic tons of drugs into the United States under an immunity deal granted by the U.S. government in exchange for information on rival cartels – a deal allegedly linked to the aborted law enforcement operation known as “Fast and Furious.”
In its Drug Market Analysis 2011 for Arizona, the DOJ’s National Drug Intelligence Center reports that the cartel “dominates drug trafficking routes in Sonora, Mexico, and also controls the drug trafficking corridors in Arizona adjacent to Sonora.”
“The numerous Mexican organizations that constitute the Sinaloa Cartel, such as the Guzmán-Loera and Zambada-Garcia DTOs [drug trafficking organizations] control most drug corridors that cross the international border between Mexico and Arizona, including the Tohono O’odham Nation Indian Reservation and the Nogales POE [U.S. port of entry],” it says.
“The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) estimates that the Sinaloa Cartel-affiliated DTOs control approximately 90 percent of the drugs that cross the border into Arizona. The cartel also controls much of the illicit money and weapons trafficking along the Arizona–Mexico border and within most areas of the Arizona HIDTA [High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area] region.
“The Sinaloa Cartel’s wholesale distribution of heroin and marijuana extends beyond Arizona HIDTA counties to much of the United States,” the analysis adds.
“Local law enforcement agencies within the HIDTA region report that most of the marijuana and heroin that transits the Mexico–Arizona border area is destined for other domestic markets, including those in East Coast states such as New York, Georgia, and Florida, and Midwestern states such as Missouri and Iowa,” the report continues.
“Additionally, the Sinaloa Cartel smuggles large quantities of drugs into the United States through California that members use to supply the Arizona HIDTA region as well as other domestic markets.”
According to the White House, the HIDTA is a federally funded program created by Congress through the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988.
It brings together federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies in task forces that conduct investigations into traffickers in areas identified as “critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States.” HIDTA-designated regions are located across the continental U.S. including the nation’s capital, as well as in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The DOJ’s 2011 analysis focuses on HIDTA regions in Arizona.
“The Arizona HIDTA region is a major entry point for illicit drugs, particularly marijuana and heroin, transported from Mexico to the United States,” it states. “Approximately half of the marijuana smuggled from Mexico typically transits Arizona HIDTA counties. Seizure statistics indicate that Mexican traffickers are increasing marijuana and heroin smuggling from Mexico into the region.
“The Sinaloa Cartel represents the greatest organized criminal drug threat in the Arizona HIDTA counties through its continued dominance over drug trafficking into and through the region.”