U.S. Feds Target Mexican Cartels Inside Mexico in Operation Plaza Spike

NOGALES – (WBAP/KLIF) – It’s not an American military invasion of Mexico, but U.S.Customs and Border Protection is taking a new direction against fentanyl smuggled by cartels into the U.S. CBP is now naming and seeking cartel bosses in Mexico it alleges are in charge of smuggling drugs from Mexico into America.

The first one named in a news conference in Nogales is blamed for moving 44% of the fentanyl smuggled into the States. CBP names Sergio Valenzuela Valenzuela, also known as “El Gigio”, with responsibility for smooth smuggling efforts of fentanyl into the U.S. for both factions of the Sinaloa Cartel, targeted by the feds as producing and smuggling the deadly drug. Valenzuela Valenzuela was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2018 for his role as a Sinaloa Cartel Plaza Boss. It’s hoped “Operation Plaza Spike” will tighten pressure on senior ranking cartel members, or “plaza bosses”, with the prior naming of those sought mostly focusing on cartel’s highest heads.

In the first announced effort deepening the push targeting support of cartel bosses in smuggling, CBP hopes to pressure Mexican law enforcement with the task of investigating and arresting those responsible for bringing deadly fentanyl and other drugs into the U.S., and provide Mexican citizens in the region with several ways to alert American authorities to otherwise sensitive information they may not otherwise feel safe passing on to Mexican officials.

CBP alleges Sergio Valenzuela Valenzuela heads the “plaza”, or territory, responsible for the most fentanyl heading to the U.S. in Nogales, Mexico. CBP reports Nogales, Arizona has become, in 2023, the area of the most fentanyl seizures, surpassing the San Diego sector in years earlier.

From CBP: “CBP will also focus on the outbound illegal exportation of weapons and currency from the U.S. to the cartels in Mexico, severely hampering their ability to wage violence in furtherance of their drug and human trafficking empire. CBP will use a variety of actions and authorities, including revoking visas from known associates, scrutinizing related cross-border business entities and cross-border trade, seizing illicit proceeds, and more.

From the beginning of fiscal year 2024 to the end of February 2024, CBP has seized 222,000 pounds of drugs, including more than 8,000 pounds of fentanyl. Within this same time period, CBP also seized more than 1,600 weapons and nearly 200,000 rounds of ammunition. The total estimated street value of the narcotics was more than $20 million.

The U.S. is plagued with an unprecedented number of overdose deaths, reaching every corner of this country. At the heart of this epidemic is illicit fentanyl – a lethal dose is as small as just 2 milligrams, the size of just a few grains of sand. The drug trade through Mexican “plazas” has accelerated the abuse of synthetic drugs, to include opioids such as fentanyl, its analogues, and heroin, as well as xylazine, methamphetamine, and other chemically synthesized designer drugs.”

Further support for “Operation Plaza Spike” will come from “Operation Apollo – Arizona”, expanding from Southern California into Arizona; an intelligence gathering effort, and utilizing state and local partners to interdict fentanyl. “Operation Apollo” began in Southern California in October of 2023. In Arizona, it will seek to create partnerships with additional law enforcement teams and the “resources of other government agencies”.

In 2023, DEA seized a record 79.5 million fentanyl pills and nearly 12,000 pounds of fentanyl powder. In Arizona, the DEA Phoenix Field Division seized more than 42 million fentanyl pills last year.

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