Blog Update: Former US Soldiers Hired by Mexican Cartels

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Nine  months ago I published an article for CTM called The Shadow War, a behind the scenes look at some of the darker consequences of the War on Drugs. In that story I mentioned that the US media has greatly downplayed the country’s involvement in Mexico’s struggle against organized crime, and specifically the recruitment of soldiers by the cartels. Since that piece was published, there has been new evidence suggesting that an end to the war is nowhere in sight, and America is being pulled slowly deeper and deeper into the weeds.


At the time the article was posted, information was still coming to light concerning Michael Apodaca, a U.S. Army private who was hired as an assassin by the Juarez cartel. Since that time, Apodaca has been convicted of his involvement in the killing, and is now serving a life sentence for the hit. The young American soldier was the public face of a push by the cartels  to recruit skilled soldiers.


A confidential FBI memo concerning criminal recruitment from beyond the border has recently been released, and indicates that the bureau has been tracking the recruitment of veterans as early on as 2010. But like all great criminal organizations, the cartels have begun changing their business model in response to law enforcement. Right now the primary concern is not that the cartels are continuing to employ former US soldiers, though that may still be happening, it is that they are now pursuing new criminal alliances. The FBI report notes that the Zetas, one of the most feared and powerful of the cartels, is now looking to partner with American gangs instead of skilled soldiers for their muscle within the US.The change in tactics has been described as such:

“In the past, accurate FBI reporting indicated Los Zetas previously focused its recruitment on members with prior specialized training… However, current FBI reporting indicates that Los Zetas is recruiting and relying on non-traditional, non-military trained associates.” (1)
The important thing to point out about this push is that the cartels really have no standard way of getting their dirty work done, they do whatever is necessary.  If the DEA picks up on one method of trafficking, then a change will be made overnight to get drugs over the border.  A recent hit orchestrated by the Cartel seems to support claims that change towards street violence in the US has already happened.  Just this May, in the quiet town of Southlake Texas, Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa (a known lawyer for the cartels) was shot dead in his Range Rover during the middle of the day. The report suggests a kill that anyone familiar with gang violence would recognize. A car pulled up, and someone with a black mask fired a pistol through the driver-side window. The case remains unsolved, and  it doesn’t take a seasoned detective to make the connection between Mexican organized crime and American muscle.



-J.A. Young




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