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Drug cartels are a common enemy

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Brian McKnight of the Drug Enforcement Administration and various members of the Mexican government unveiled strategies for combating Mexican drug cartels during a news conference last week.

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Powerful and well funded drug cartels are responsible for misery on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. A new bilateral partnership to target the cartels’ finances could be a powerful strategy for addressing the threat posed by the vicious gangs and improving neighborly relations as well.

The Drug Enforcement Administration recently announced it was launching a collaborative unit based in Chicago with Mexican authorities to target the cartels’ finances. The group aims to make it tougher for the cartels to do business.

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The new cross-border team also plans to step up the manhunt for cartel leaders. The capture and extradition of Sinaloa cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, now awaiting trial in New York, was a success. Now the authorities have set their sights on an even more elusive cartel leader, Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera Cervantes, head of the Jalisco New Generation cartel.

The cartels have exploited poor relations between Mexico and the United States and real weaknesses at the border between the two countries.

They smuggle drugs into the U.S. that fuel the opioid epidemic in Ohio and the gang violence in cities like Chicago. A DEA threat assessment from 2015 showed that the majority of heroin coming into the United States comes from Mexico. The cartels also are working with Chinese drug suppliers to smuggle even more deadly synthetic opioids such as fentanyl here.

And the cartel smuggling isn’t limited to drugs. These criminal organizations are also responsible for human trafficking, sneaking vulnerable and exploited migrants across the border who later are trapped in sex trafficking or labor.

When they return south, the cartel smugglers are often carrying illicit American guns into Mexico. Despite its rather strict gun laws, Mexico is suffering an epidemic of gun violence thanks to these weapons.

Both countries have good reason to seek a solution to the cartel problem. Setting up a joint project to tackle it cooperative is a smart strategy. The cartels have exploited U.S.-Mexico diplomatic tensions for too long and innocents in both countries have paid the price.

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