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26 February 2009

CONTACT: Tim Bueler
(310) 855-3460


Conducting interview on this topic is the founder and president of the Minuteman Project Jim Gilchrist.

U.S. Moves Against Top Mexican Drug Cartel

PHOENIX — Calling Mexican drug trafficking organizations “a national security threat,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced Wednesday that federal authorities had mounted their biggest assault against one of Mexico’s most powerful drug cartels.

More than 750 people nationwide have been arrested, tons of cocaine and marijuana have been seized and the distribution of drugs has been disrupted through a series of raids and arrests as part of an investigation begun under the Bush administration 21 months ago, Mr. Holder said.

The operation comes at a time of rising concern over MexicoÂ’s drug violence and the reach of trafficking organizations into the United States. It has focused on the Sinaloa cartel and culminated with a wave of arrests, unsealed indictments and seizures on Tuesday and early Wednesday in California, Maryland and Minnesota.

The Sinaloa organization, based in Sinaloa State in northwest Mexico, is one of the oldest cartels and has been blamed for a large share of the spiraling violence in the country that has left more than 6,000 people dead in the past year amid turf wars and a government crackdown on their operations.

“From Washington to Maine, we have disrupted this cartel’s domestic operations,” Michele M. Leonhart, the acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said in a statement before a news conference in Washington with Mr. Holder.

The investigation, known as Operation Xcellerator, included the arrest of 755 people, among them leaders of the cartel’s cells based in the United States that helped transport and distribute drugs, Ms. Leonhart said. She said the arrests had also “seriously impacted” the cartel’s Canadian operations.

The authorities said they seized $59.1 million in cash, more than 13 tons of cocaine, 8 tons of marijuana, more than a half-ton of methamphetamine and lesser amounts of other illicit drugs. Agents confiscated 149 vehicles, 3 aircraft, 3 vessels and 169 weapons, the officials said.

In the crackdown announced Wednesday, federal authorities said the Sinaloa cartel had established “an enterprise of distribution cells” in the United States and Canada.

It was unclear how many of those arrested were considered members of the cartel, but officials said they all played a role, some of them vital, in distributing its drugs. They were charged with offenses including money laundering, engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise and conspiracy to import controlled substances.

Mr. Holder pledged more crackdowns on the Sinaloa cartel and others, in cooperation with Mexican law enforcement agencies.

“International drug-trafficking organizations pose a sustained, serious threat to the safety and security of our communities,” he said, adding, “They are a national security threat.”

The announcement came a day after Mr. Holder met with MexicoÂ’s attorney general, Eduardo Medina-Mora, who has expressed frustration with the flow of cash and guns, including military-style rifles, to Mexico from the United States, including a significant amount from Arizona. Other Mexican officials have also complained that their country pays the price for the worldwide demand for illegal drugs, with the United States the largest market.

In the past year, local and federal officials have grown increasingly worried about the drug war in Mexico and its repercussions in the United States.

A federal report in December said the cartelsÂ’ distribution network had reached 230 United States cities and towns, several far from the border.

There is growing worry among border states that the bloodshed in Mexico, including beheadings and mutilations of drug war combatants and police and military officers, will cross into the United States.

Officials in Arizona this week said a gun battle last November in Nogales, Sonora, just across the border in Mexico, left the police there running out of ammunition. A top police official was also killed there that month one day after attending a cross-border law enforcement conference in Tucson, while Ciudad Juárez, just across from El Paso, has emerged as one of that countryÂ’s bloodiest towns.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

About Jim Gilchrist:

Jim Gilchrist founded the multi-ethnic Minuteman Project on Oct. 1, 2004, after years of frustrated efforts trying to get a neglectful U.S. government to simply enforce existing immigration laws.

Jim holds a B.A. in newspaper journalism, a B.S. in business administration, and an M.B.A. in taxation. He is a former newspaper reporter and a retired California CPA (Certified Public Accountant).

Jim is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and recipient of the Purple Heart award for wounds sustained while serving with an infantry unit in Vietnam, 1968 - 1969.

Mr. Gilchrist is a passionate defender of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and an avid supporter of law enforcement organizations. He has appeared on over 1000 radio and TV news and commentary shows in the past twelve months, and he believes he is only one of millions of 21st century minutemen / women / children who want the U.S. to remain governed by the "rule of law" and who want proactive enforcement of our national security protections and our immigration legal code.

Jim has lived in California since 1976 and currently resides in Aliso Viejo with his wife, Sandy.

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