- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2009


A 21-month operation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration targeted one of Mexico’s largest drug-trafficking cartels and concluded with more than 751 arrests and the seizure of 20 tons of narcotics and tens of millions of dollars, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.

“International drug trafficking organizations pose a sustained, serious threat to international safety and security,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said. “They are lucrative. They are violent. And they are operated with stunning precision.”

Fifty-two people were arrested as late as Wednesday in California, Minnesota and Maryland, the Justice Department said. Arrests took place all over the country throughout the operation, with about 50 arrests taking place in Mexico.

The operation also led to the seizure of boats, planes and guns.

The Sinaloa Cartel, which operates in western Mexico, is considered one of the two most powerful cartels. In recent years, the drug cartels have corrupted public officials and have been linked to thousands of killings and kidnappings in that country and along the U.S. border.

The arrests did not include any of the cartel’s top leaders, who are on the run in Mexico, according to DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. The leader of the cartel, Victor Emilio Cazarez-Salazar, is among the fugitives.

The operation came days after the State Department issued a travel alert for Mexico, an announcement that replaced a previous, similar warning. It urges Americans to take “common-sense precautions” while in Mexico.

The State Department said that Mexico is particularly perilous along the U.S. border. It urged American citizens to travel only during daylight, follow local alerts, and avoid displaying expensive jewelry and large amounts of money. “In recent years, dozens of U.S. citizens have been kidnapped across Mexico,” according to the State Department alert. “Many of these cases remain unresolved.”

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