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An Insurgency Coming to a Place Near You?

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has taken criticism for Chicago’s skyrocketing homicide rate which stands this year at a shocking 19.4 per 100,000 residents. This is roughly triple the murder rate in New York City, is worse than in perennially crime-ridden Oakland and is within shouting distance of  war-torn Afghanistan and Mexico, which are fighting vicious insurgencies. Even for Chicago, the current level of street violence is unusually brazen.

Chicago has always taken an ambivalent attitude toward it’s enormous, 100,000 strong, network of rival street gangs. Traditionally, part of the social fabric of Chicago’s ethnically divided wards, Chicago’s street gangs were far better organized and more ruthlessly disciplined than street gangs elsewhere, which allowed them a limited entree into participation in local politics. The Chicago Outfit from Al Capone’s day on controlled the votes in the old 1st Ward, ran several near suburbs like Cicero and recruited especially brutal sociopaths from the Forty-Two gang; the legendary Mayor Richard J. Daley in his youth had been a thug for the Hamburg Athletic Club, the Democratic Party’s election-time enforcers in the 11th Ward. In more recent decades, the Black P. Stone Nation/El Rukns were Federal grantees and a number of powerful street gangs today use the Black United Voters of Chicago as a front group and cut-out to make deals with local politicians and swing aldermanic races.

However disturbing the status quo may have been in Chicago, it is potentially changing for the worse. Much worse.


The city may be nearly 2,000 miles from Mexico, but the country’s drug cartels are so deeply embedded in Chicago that local and federal law enforcement are forced to operate as if they are “on the border,” according to Jack Riley, special agent in charge for the Chicago Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Because of Chicago’s location in the heart of the United States, its large Mexican population and its abundance of street gang activity, drug cartels have designated the city as one of its main hubs of operation in America, Riley told TheBlaze in an exclusive interview. Inevitably, the increasing presence of cartels has also contributed to the Windy City’s skyrocketing violent crime rates, the DEA boss revealed.

“My opinion is, right now, a number of the Mexican cartels are probably the most organized, well-funded, vicious criminal organizations that we’ve ever seen,” said Riley.

Right now, at least three major Mexican cartels are fighting for control of billions of dollars worth of marijuana, cocaine and heroin in Chicago. That includes the ruthless Zetas and the powerful Sinaloa cartel, run by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, arguably the most wanted man in North America, and perhaps the entire world….

….“If I pitted the Italian organized crime groups against for instance, ‘Chapo’ Guzman and the Sinaloa Cartel, it wouldn’t be a fight,” he told TheBlaze. “In my opinion, Chapo Guzman is the new Al Capone or Scarface to Chicago. His ability to corrupt, his ability to enforce his sanctions and to really do with an endless supply of revenue is in my opinion far greater than older Italian organized crime.”

….The drug trafficking organizations are based in Mexico but, he explained, they have operatives in various cities across the nation. In Chicago, local gangs are used by cartels as a means to get their products onto the streets without putting their operations at risk, all the while raking in massive profits from drug sales. Cartels move every drug you can think of, including cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamines.

Overall, police records indicate Chicago’s murder rate is up 31 percent from 2011. Further, Mayor Rahm Emanuel in August requested federal assistance to combat violence and drugs. The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Aug. 31 that at least 82 people were injured or killed in shootings within a one week period, 10 in one night alone. Additionally, as of Aug. 23, there had been 351 shooting deaths so far in 2012….

Read the rest here.

The vast profit margin in illegal drug sales and the formidable manpower of Chicago street gangs have led the Mexican cartels to make a strategic choice to stay in the background, as hegemonic partners with local gangbanger street crews and not make the kind of flamboyantly ghoulish “narcocultas” attacks or DIY militarization typical of the Mexican criminal insurgency.  Sharing profits and letting locals run the major risks with law enforcement is a cartel strategy to avoid antagonizing the Federal government into treating their drug operations as ” international terrorism” with the draconian response that would imply, here, inside Mexico and further abroad. The same reason the cartels do not try to kill large numbers of American tourists or assassinate prominent Americans in Mexico, which they could easily do.

However, the cartels could shift from transnational organized crime activities to exporting narco-insurgency to America under a number of scenarios:

  •  Cartel vs. Cartel – a cartel losing to rivals in Mexico breaks the informal rule against high profile attacks inside the US by striking it’s enemies here, inviting a cycle of severe retaliation and drawing in local allies – Mexican Mafia, MS-13 etc.
  • Federal Squeeze – law enforcement gets really serious about systemically destroying a particular cartel, rooting out it’s illicit money stashed in the US banking system and legal investments and jailing everyone in sight under RICO and extraditing everyone else from Mexico. The narcos will employ “silver or lead” tactics to intimidate and co-opt local officials and whole communities and then escalate into symbolic terrorism.
  • US Intervention – American assistance to the government of Mexico against the cartels tips the balance in Mexico’s civil war to what the cartels see as an existential threat ( i.e. drone targeted killings) and the narcos respond with furious attacks against American soft targets intending to create high body count events.

There is nothing magical about the US-Mexican border that prevents the ghastly violence in Mexico from occurring here – it is a rational calculation by cartel leaders that such behavior is not worth the risk of a stand-up fight with the US military and intelligence agencies – the cartels are only just holding their own against the lesser capabilities of the government of Mexico However, if cornered and desperate, the cartels are capable of rapidly escalating the violence in specific American communities to 2006 -2007 Iraq insurgency levels – in places like Chicago. It could happen faster than anyone believes possible.

The political effect of this will be a riptide – and none of it to the good.

6 Responses to “An Insurgency Coming to a Place Near You?”

  1. Fred Leland Says:

    Zen an outstanding post here. These threats have largely been ignored as folks like H. John Poole have attempted to get this message out. In his 2008 book Tequila Junction, Poole made the case for attention and action towards threats south of the border and showed that the trade routes out of Mexico (and south) and across the United States were already being utilized by dope dealers and gangs to infiltrate our country. The book and its warnings went mostly ignored. Sadly this type of situation in Chicago will play out in not only major cities but in the suburban areas as well. Unless of course our justice system (law enforcement, courts, prisons and THE PEOPLE of the U.S.) starts to see this evolving threat for what it is, an insurgency waiting to happen and prepares for it, ugliness of violence will show itself. They are here utilizing the open roads and borders waiting for the spark to ignite the flames of violence, we are not prepared for strategically or tactically. 

  2. Isaac Says:

    Great post, man, albeit frightening in implication.  Chicago:  becoming a TAZ a la John Robb.  It’s morning in America, and there’s 4GW on the doorstep.  There’s really only one answer to the problem:  DE-escalation.


    That’s one of the clearest, most concise pieces on the subject I’ve found over the years.
    And, it’s written by people who know what they’re talking about – and who aren’t hamstrung by misguided Puritan ideology.

    Also, saw your post about The Republic.  Good stuff! 

  3. zen Says:

    Hi Fred,
    You are so right. What took years to evolve in Mexico can be imported in it’s current form and intensity right now, but with greater effect because unlike Mexicans, who expect the worst, the public and local authorities not in border counties are largely oblivious. 
    The NYPD has a robust CI/CT operation aimed more at Islamist terrorism but may be attuned to common denominators between terrorists and narco-cartels to catch incipient large operations. Maybe SOUTHCOM monitors chatter of interest, but does it get passed on?
    Hey Isaac,
    Gracias! I agree. Read the summary, the facts are pretty much inarguable and we’d de-fund tons of bad ppl on a global scale by decriminalizing 

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