Violence along the U.S.-Mexico border is undergoing an unprecedented surge
Violence along the U.S.-Mexico border is undergoing what U.S. law-enforcement authorities call "an unprecedented surge," some of it fueled by weapons and ammunition purchased or stolen in the United States.
Federal, state and local law-enforcement officials from Texas to California, concerned about the impact of illegally imported weapons into Mexico, say they already are outmanned and outgunned by ruthless gangs that collect millions of dollars in profits by smuggling aliens and drugs into this country.
"These gangs have the weapons and the will to protect their lucrative cargoes," said Sigifredo Gonzalez Jr., the sheriff of Zapata County, Texas, who founded and served as the first president of the Texas Border Sheriff's Coalition. "With automatic weapons, grenades and grenade launchers, they pose a significant danger."
Last month, Mexican military officials in Matamoros, just south of Brownsville, Texas, stopped a tractor-trailer containing weapons and ammunition, along with a pickup truck fitted with armor and bulletproof glass.
The weapons included 18 M-16 assault rifles, one equipped with an M-203 40mm grenade launcher. Also seized were several M-4 carbines, 17 handguns of various calibers, 200 magazines for different weapons, 8,000 rounds of ammunition, assault vests and other military accessories.
While Mexican authorities have not determined the source of the weapons, the truck was registered in Texas and authorities think the weapons were being smuggled across the border from the United States. U.S. and Mexican law-enforcement authorities have long described Matamoros as a key shipping center for drugs, weapons and illegal aliens.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) also ended a 20-month investigation last month into a Mexican drug-trafficking organization and its U.S.-based distribution cells, which resulted in the arrest of 400 persons nationwide and the seizure of $45 million in cash and 100 weapons.
Operation Imperial Emperor targeted the Victor Emilio Cazares-Gastellum drug cartel, which supplied multiton quantities of cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana monthly to distribution cells throughout the United States.
A task force led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) also seized two completed improvised explosive devices, materials for making 33 more, 300 primers, 1,280 rounds of ammunition, five grenades, nine pipes with end caps, 26 grenade triggers, 31 grenade spoons, 40 grenade pins, 19 black powder casings, a silencer and cash during raids in Laredo, Texas, last month.
"Keeping explosives and other high-powered weaponry out of the hands of violent criminal organizations is a central focus of the new Border Enforcement Security Task Force in Laredo," said Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers, who heads ICE. "ICE is working day and night with its task force partners to stem the tide of violence that has been ravaging border communities in south Texas."
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