An FBI crackdown on a West Texas prison gang with strong cartel ties reveals the terrifying extent to which Mexico’s violent drug war has permeated the border.The U.S. Department of Justice indicted 35 members of the Barrio Azteca gang last week, including 10 men accused of killing a U.S. consulate employee, her husband and an El Paso County sheriff’s officer in Juarez last year.
The indictment describes how Barrio Azteca morphed from a gang of Texas inmates into a violent transnational criminal organisation.
Barrio Azteca was formed in the late 1980s as local street gang members joined in prison and remained in the organisation upon their release. The gang has a militaristic command structure and demands absolute loyalty from its members.
Barrio Azteca is now based in El Paso, Midland, and Odessa in Texas, as well as Juarez and Chihuahua City in Mexico, according to the indictment.
The indictment alleges that Barrio Azteca now operates as the enforcement arm of Mexico’s brutal Juarez Cartel, which is engaged in a brutal turf war with the Sinaloa Cartel over lucrative smuggling routes across the Texas border. In return, the cartel provides discounted drugs for importation to the U.S.
Barrio Azteca also allegedly charges a “street tax” on businesses and criminals in their turf. The profits are used to support members in federal and state prisons in the U.S. and Mexico.
Federal crackdowns have so far had minimal effect on Barrio Azteca, the El Paso Times reports. RICO cases in 2001 and 2008 led to the arrests of major Barrio Azteca bosses but did little to diminish the gang’s power.
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