This morning, Spain announced the apprehension of four traffickers associated with the Mexican Sinaloa cartel, including the cousin of billionaire kingpin fugitive Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. Near the end of July, Spanish authorities discover the four men with a shipping container of 373kg of cocaine, worth more than $24 million in street value. Today, Spain went public with the seizer and apprehensions.
According BBC News, “it was only a matter of time before the cartel tried to expand into Europe and Spain was the natural choice as an entry point, given the common language and its sea ports.” Sinaloa, which controls near half of all US narcotics trade, may have connections in more than 50 countries.
This extensive transnational criminal network may be uncovering a major strategy shift among Mexican cartels to distance themselves from the violent corridor into the US.
And speaking of “natural entry points,” landlocked Mongolia has become a new hotspot of narcotics trafficking. Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) are packing up their supplies and heading to the steppes. The opportunity of tapping the vast Mongolian market has encouraged Sinaloa and others to set up shop in Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital. “The pay-off is endless out here,” said an anonymous DEA spokesman, “they’re calling it the ‘Hot Gobi.’”
“What’s the point in fighting bitterly over millions of wealthy customers, when you can relax in a yurt all day and sell dime bags to a few thousand nomads,” said one former dealer.
Such is the logic of ruthless DTOs. First it was the Caribbean corridor, then it was Mexico and Central America, now it’s the entire Pacific Ocean with a rendezvous along Russia’s Eastern Seaboard, followed by a quick jaunt through northern China. The balloon effect – a tightening of enforcement in one area leading to an expansion of trafficking in another – has really taken a bizarre turn.
What used to be a 3,500 mile journey from Colombia to the US border is now an 8,500 mile journey to Mongolia. As of a few hours ago, the DEA announced it will relocate its Mexican and Central American operations to Ulaanbaatar. “This is ground zero,” said another DEA agent. The CIA is likely to follow, capitalizing on the lucrative and practical Mongolian corridor.
Disclaimer: Half of this news update is veritably untrue. For real news on the East Asian drug trade follow this link: http://www.china.org.cn/china/news/2009-06/27/content_18023666.htm.