MS-13 was just one of the five groups which Sessions designated as a priority for a new department named “Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.”
Subcommittees within the new agency will focus on five groups, continuing a crackdown on crime which Sessions claims has been a Trump “administration priority since Day 1.”
“The day I was sworn in, President Trump ordered the disruption and dismantling of these groups,” Sessions said recently in remarks in Washington DC.
The groups Sessions targeted Monday are responsible for violence and crime in America, but experts differ with the current administration’s assessment.
Ex-Justice Department officials spoke with Business Insider and said Sessions is overstating the influence, and threat, of MS-13.
True, the gang has committed heinous acts in America, but their target is mostly immigrants. The American branch of the group has contact with leaders in Central America. The gang itself is decentralized and mainly linked to crimes like extortion, drug possession and murder. It isn’t even strong enough, or organized enough, for international drug trafficking.
Operationally, Mexican cartels are similar and have a presence in America. But what they do on American soil is different from what they do on Mexican soil.
“The cartels use gang members which are living in America to handle the distribution and logistics here in the U.S.,” said Arkady Bukh, a noted criminal defense attorney.
Even while violence in Mexico’s cities along the US/Mexican border has risen over the past ten-years, violence in adjacent American cities has been far below average. Incidents of cartel-related violence in America has been limited, mainly, to people with connections to the cartels. There have been, however, cases of mistaken identity.
American intelligence authorities have discounted assertions by American politicians that the Venezuelan government is collaborating with Hezbollah.
“The whole Hezbollah line is distorted by the more extreme parts of America’s right wing,” said Nicholas Wooldridge, a Nevada criminal defense lawyer. “Politicizing is the reason for the distortions.”
The five groups targeted by Sessions include:
Following Trump’s lead, the Justice Department has strengthened efforts against MS-13. The gang started in America, but is now based in Central America.
The gang began among Central American immigrants fleeing wars in the 1970s and 1980s. Many ended up in Southern California. Without family connections, they gravitated to gangs.
Deportations sent many members home in the 1990s and early 2000s. There the gang grew in the post-conflict era.
Since then, the gang’s growing influence has been felt throughout the region. In America, gang members often carry out extortion, robberies and other crimes in regions with large migrant communities. The Washington DC suburbs and Suffolk County on Long Island have particularly felt the brunt of the gang.
The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG)
CJNG is the youngest group on Sessions’ list. It sprang from another group on the list, the Sinaloa cartel, around 2010.
The CJNG has grown quick from its home based in Mexico’s southwestern home state of Jalisco. The group historically forced out competitors and has managed to corrupt numerous law enforcement members.
Focusing on synthetic drugs such as crystal meth, the gang has heaved up murder rates along Mexico’s Pacific coast as it fights for port control. The CJNG has moved into other criminal activities as it fights for a piece of the oil-theft trade.
The Sinaloa Cartel
Formed in the western Mexico state with the same name, the cartel entered the 1990s following the breakup of the Guadalajara cartel. Led by “El Chapo,” the Sinaloa cartel shoved rivals away from valuable regions — including cities along the America/Mexican border.
The cartel stoked mind-numbing bloodshed in Mexico. Its cities became some of the most violent on the planet.
Since “El Chapo’s” — Joaquin Guzman — arrest in 2016, the future for the cartel has been murky. Guzman was re-arrested six months after breaking out of prison — for the second time. Rumors about a third breakout swirled before being snuffed in 2017 when Mexican authorities turned him over to the U.S.
The Gulf Clan
Led by Osiel Cardenas-Guillen, the Gulf Clan was one of Mexico’s most powerful criminal groups for decades. The group began by shipping cocaine from South America to the United States while handing out murders and violence as it went.
The group’s formation is tracked to the mid-80s in northeastern Mexico. Criminal elements and government authorities have long been intertwined in the region. The cartel began making deals with Colombian traffickers and moved from a small-time marijuana business to a billion-dollar a year cocaine smuggling operation.
The “Party of God,” is the sole group on the Justice Department’s list with origins outside of the Western Hemisphere.
The Lebanese Hezbollah emerged following Israel’s 1982 invasion of southern Lebanon.
Hezbollah receives significant support from Iran and has sided with that nation in the Syrian war to support Syrian President Bashar Assad.
As Hezbollah’s role in Lebanon grows and expands its military capability, experts are warning of a coming war between it and Israel.
The group has been active in America and the Western Hemisphere for years. Focused on money laundering, the group was part of the AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994.
The groups named are responsible for violence and criminal activity in America. Experts differ with the Trump administration’s assessment. Former Justice Department authorities have told Business Insider that Sessions overstates the influence of the threat posed by MS-13 for example.