AS the politicians ramp up their rhetoric, establish their platforms, and make their many campaign promises, the real problems that we face in our world continue and in many cases even grow. One constant fight has been our battle in the Southwest against the Mexican cartels.

The battle for control of U.S. soil blazes on, and there is increasingly more at risk. The threat of these cartels partnering with or assisting terrorist organizations that are conducting hitand- run attacks on soft targets around the world has become more of a reality than ever before.

The cat-and-mouse games going on in the wide-open deserts and border towns of the Southwest have evolved and continue to plague this region of the United States. The Mexican cartels continue to fight for land and “plazas” on the Mexico side of the international border, while these same cartels work harder than ever to strengthen their networks on the U.S. side of the border.

Not much has changed in the way of U.S. law enforcement, as we battle these sophisticated criminals with the same determination we always have. However, many agencies face ever-decreasing budgets in the face of criminal organizations who are gaining strength.

This problem is amplified by the false narrative being pushed by a vocal minority of citizens in our country claiming persecution by peace officers because these officers are enforcing the laws of the land.

All these factors seem to be the makings of a perfect storm for those thugs whose modus operandi is much like a shark circling the waters waiting for that prime opportunity to strike. We have seen the Mexican cartels learn from their mistakes, advance in their technology, and progress in their violence.

Cartel lookout caught on trail camera checking his area. Note use of “sneaky feet” or “carpet shoes” designed to eliminate shoe prints.

If you look back just five years, when law enforcement would take an enforcement action against one of these groups, it would not change their methods or operating procedures. These cartel groups would not make any changes until several law enforcement actions caused them losses or took their people into custody.

But today, the response from the cartels is almost immediate. Law enforcement takes action on a group or individuals involved in a cartel, and within hours these bad guys are putting out orders to their people to change the methods and routes used. How is this possible? The answer is that there are more members of these Mexican cartels, or people employed or utilized by them, than ever before.

Federal government signs located approximately 70 miles north of U.S.-Mexico border.

This increase in personnel and operatives is most evident in the scouts or lookouts located from the international border all the way to the outskirts of major cities such as Phoenix—the sixth largest city in the nation. In Arizona, approximately 100 miles of terrain is monitored and essentially controlled by Mexican cartels. This includes routes leading from the U.S.-Mexico border all the way to just outside the Phoenix city limits.

The landscape along these routes is filled with scouts, who use everything from rudimentary systems to high-end encrypted radio systems to perform their duties, with complete logistical support that includes food drops (as they spend weeks in position) and solar panel and battery setups to operate their radio systems.

The cartels have also learned how to better insulate themselves against prosecutions. They employ teams of lawyers to obtain the police reports, fight the legal battles, and instruct their clients on exactly how they may have been caught. This allows the cartels to refine their methods and tactics to make capture more difficult.

Along these same lines, the cartels ensure that people they employ follow stricter guidelines and use more violent methods, including actions that used to be taboo, such as the execution of women and children.

Essentially, the Mexican cartels are more powerful and violent than ever and are no more contained by law enforcement. In fact they now have a worldwide presence and network, and are arguably one of the world’s richest and most powerful organizations. They have established networks in Europe, Canada, Africa, and many other locations. They not only deploy their own personnel to these areas, but also partner with local criminal organizations.

Despite what political “experts” may spew as fact, our Southwest borders continue to be porous and are indeed the “soft belly” of the United States. While the Mexican cartels may not have an interest in attacking our country or citizens, there are radical terrorist organizations that have only that goal in mind. These terrorist organizations have long been connected to the Latin American world and thus connected to the Mexican cartels that have almost free rein on our southern borders.

While many choose to assume the risk to our nation is being overstated, I am telling you from the front lines of this fight, from my personal experience, that the threat is real and the fight is real.

We should all demand answers and solutions to these problems, and hold responsible those politicians we choose to support. The only ways our country will remain intact are to be informed and stay vigilant.

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