US strikes at Mexican cartel's drug-and-gun trade
A violent Mexican cartel, La Familia, is target of US raids. More than 300 arrested.
Federal agents have launched a massive assault on the US-based distribution network of a major Mexican drug cartel in an effort to disrupt the flow of drugs into the US and the counter-flow of military-grade firearms to Mexico.Skip to next paragraph
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The coast-to-coast take-down was aimed at La Familia Michoacana, Mexico's youngest cartel and one of its most violent.
"The sheer level of depravity of violence that this cartel has exhibited far exceeds what we unfortunately have become accustomed to from other cartels," said Attorney General Eric Holder in announcing the operation in Washington.
The operation, conducted on Wednesday and Thursday, featured raids in 19 states and 49 US cities. It is said to be the largest coordinated effort against a Mexican drug cartel in law-enforcement history.
Agents made 303 arrests and seized $3.4 million in cash, nearly 730 pounds of methamphetamine, 62 kilograms of cocaine, 967 pounds of marijuana, 144 weapons, and two clandestine drug labs.
"This operation has dealt a significant blow to La Familia's supply chain of illegal drugs, weapons, and cash flowing between Mexico and the United States," Attorney General Holder said. "The cartels should know that we here in the United States are not going to allow them to operate unfettered in our country."
The aggressive action is aimed at helping Mexican officials dismantle a growing and increasingly violent group of six criminal cartels.
La Familia Michoacana was organized in the 1980s as a marijuana production and distribution organization, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. The group reportedly served as a vigilante force to protect the local population from street crime and police corruption.
By 2006, La Familia emerged as one of the top five drug cartels in Mexico.
The group is lead by an executive council, and members share common and strong religious beliefs. Members are forbidden from using illegal narcotics themselves. According to the DEA, La Familia portrays itself as a kind of Mexican Robin Hood, taking from the rich (North Americans) and giving to the poor.