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Operation cooperation

Crime | Coordinated efforts with other nations and agencies help U.S. drug enforcers put a knife in the heart of the violent Gulf Cartel

WASHINGTON, D.C.-On Wednesday an international operation led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency arrested 175 people allegedly connected to the Mexican drug trafficking Gulf Cartel. Among those indicted in Washington, D.C., district court were three suspected leaders of the extremely violent group: Ezequiel Cardenas-Guillen, Heriberto Lazcano-Lazcano, and Jorge Eduardo Costilla-Sanchez.

The massive bust, part of "Project Reckoning," required investigations across oceans and borders, with cooperation from the governments of Mexico and Italy as well as multiple law enforcement agencies within the United States.

The Gulf Cartel is believed to launder millions in criminal proceeds and traffic cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana in the United States. The group has been known to use violent tactics, allegedly beheading a dozen drug dealers just over the border in Mexico in late August. The cartel reached all the way to Italy, where an organized crime group in Calabria supplied cocaine for trafficking in New York, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Wednesday morning.

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"We believe these arrests are a substantial blow to the Gulf Cartel," said Mukasey, "and law enforcement can take just pride in the success of this operation. The coordination and cooperation displayed-among districts, agencies, and even among nations-was tremendous."

Over the past 15 months, Project Reckoning has brought about the arrests of 507 people and the seizure of $60 million, more than 16 tons of cocaine, 25 tons of marijuana, and 1,000 pounds of methamphetamine.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has hoped to wield an iron fist on the drug violence that has consumed his country since 2006, sending the military to afflicted regions, but more than 2,700 people have been killed in drug violence in Mexico this year, including eight in suspected cartel-related grenade explosions in the western Mexican town of Morelia Monday night.

"The international aspect of this case reminds us that to be effective, we must fight the war on drugs collectively, and across borders," said Mukasey.

The war is certainly within U.S. borders as well. Mukasey made his comments in Atlanta, where two cells of the Gulf Cartel were indicted.

"Metro Atlanta unfortunately continues to be a major drug distribution center for the Southeast and beyond," said David Nahmias, U.S. attorney for the northern district of Georgia.

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emzleb.

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