U.S. officials had hoped that charging Mexican drug traffickers under tough U.S. drug laws would have a deterrent effect, but so far the cartels don't seem to be troubled by the loss of some leaders to the U.S. justice system, the Los Angeles Times reported April 25.
Ten Mexican cartel leaders have been locked up in U.S. prisons over the last two years, and others are under indictment. Some Mexican drug lords admitted to worrying about being extradited to the U.S., but the cartels seemingly have had little problem replacing leaders who are caught. Moreover, drug violence along the U.S.-Mexico border has continued unabated.
“In Mexico, there are hundreds of thousands of young men who are in organized crime and are … ready to step up when a leader at any level is captured and taken prisoner,” said Tony Payan, a drug-violence expert at the University of Texas-El Paso. “While it is good to catch one of these guys, in the end it's a little like winning a battle even if you're losing the war. To me it's a little bit like tilting at windmills.”
Added U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske: “I don't think there's any doubt there are people who will replace those folks. But it is the disruption of the cartels that is helpful, and the chilling effect it causes.”