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CBP: Taking Out Cartel Leadership Has No Impact On Flow Of Drugs

07/15/2011 -

If the CEO of a major company is sentenced to prison, it wouldn't shut down a company’s operations. Similarly, the loss of upper-level leadership seems to have no effect on the production and trafficking capabilities of drug cartels that operate around the U.S.-Mexican border, according to an unclassified Customs and Border Protection (CBP) document. The two-page summary was among the documents leaked by LulzSec after it hacked Arizona law enforcement networks .

CBP compared drug seizure data to the arrests or deaths of key drug trafficking organization (DTO) personnel. It found that the removal of cartel higher ups had no effect on the flow of drugs based on how much was being seized at the borders.

A graph on the last page of the assessment compares the average weight of drugs seized monthly to the dates of arrest or deaths of key personnel. The graph shows a gradual decline over the course of the year, but the decline is most likely because of marijuana harvest cycles in Mexico. “There is the assumption that marijuana trafficking from Mexico decreases annually in the summer months due to it being the end of the harvest cycle,” the CBP says in the report. “Subsequently, the only marijuana available for trafficking is the remainder from the previous year’s harvest in the fall.”

The cartels operate much like businesses, where members are assigned tasks and built in redundancies ensure that operations continue even if something happens to one member. “Generally, a steady stream of drugs are trafficked across the Southwest border as long as they are available in Mexico,” the assessment states.

The arrest or death of a cartel leader could have long-term implication on control and viability of operations but probably wouldn’t impact the overall flow of drugs into the United States. Two gaps in intellgence noted in the report were the lack of information on succession within trafficking organizations and the inability to know the total amout of drugs moved across the border.  

One interesting finding: The lowest seizure rates correlated with major religious holidays.

photo byjim.greenhillfrom flicker