President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that the administration was launching an all out assault on Mexican drug cartels using the U.S. military.
“As governments and nations focus on the Coronavirus, there is a growing threat that cartels, criminals, terrorists, and other malign actors will try to exploit the situation for their own gain and we must not let that happen,” Trump said. “We will never let that happen. Today the United States is launching enhanced counter narcotics operations in the western hemisphere to protect the American people from the deadly scourge of illegal narcotics.”
“We must not let the drug cartels exploit the pandemic to threaten American lives,” Trump continued. “In cooperation with the 22 partner nations, the U.S. Southern Command will increase surveillance, disruption, and seizures of drug shipments, and provide additional support for eradication efforts that are going on right now at a record pace.”
“We are deploying additional Navy destroyers, combat ships, aircraft and helicopters, Coast Guard cutters and Air Force surveillance aircraft, doubling the capabilities in the region,” Trump continued. “Very importantly, our forces are fully equipped with personnel protective equipment, and we have taken additional safety measures to ensure that our troops remain healthy.”
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said, “Today at the president’s direction, the Department of Defense in close cooperation with our interagency partners began enhanced narcotics separations in eastern Pacific oceans and the Caribbean sea.”
“To conduct to the enhanced operations, the president has directed deployment of ships, aircraft and security forces to the United States Southern Command area of responsibility,” Esper continued. “Included in this force package are Navy destroyers and littoral combat ships, Coast Guard cutters, P8 control aircraft, and elements of an Army security force assistance brigade. These additional forces will nearly double our capacity to conduct counter narcotics operations in the region.”
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper: enhanced operations will keep pressure on the drug cartels during coronavirus pandemic pic.twitter.com/llnEaB96rH
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) April 1, 2020
The DEA reported in its most recent threat assessment guide that Mexican drug cartels remained by far the greatest criminal threat to the U.S.
“Mexican TCOs remain the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States; no other groups are currently positioned to challenge them,” the DEA stated. “The Sinaloa Cartel maintains the most expansive footprint in the United States, while the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cartel Jalisco Nueva
Generación or CJNG) has become the second-most dominant domestic presence over the past few
The DEA added, “Although drug-related murders in Mexico continue to reach epidemic proportions, U.S.-based Mexican TCO members still generally refrain from domestic inter-cartel conflicts, resulting in minimal spillover violence in the United States.”
The DEA noted that Colombian TCOs’ have a heavy but indirect influence on U.S. drug markets because they supply cocaine to the Mexican cartels, who then move it into the U.S.
Mexican cartels are responsible for the overwhelming majority of illicit drugs that are present in the U.S., including cocaine, meth, fentanyl, heroin, and marijuana.
The report added, “DEA reporting continues to indicate the Sinaloa and CJNG Cartels are likely the primary trafficking groups responsible for smuggling fentanyl into the United States from Mexico.”
This report has been updated to include additional information.