A former Drug Enforcement Administration official who led the manhunt for Mexican cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán said he has “no doubt” that cartels are using the American military.
Jack Riley, a former deputy administrator for the DEA, shared the comments during an interview on NewsNation’s “Cuomo” Monday.
“Why wouldn’t the cartels, who are in virtually every corner of our country, want to access that not only as a market, but to try to recruit people who want to help them?” Riley said, adding that military service members “have weapons training, military training, which is really crucial for the cartels to maintain control.”
The remarks come as a Pentagon report showed that America’s fentanyl crisis is impacting the military. The Department of Defense report revealed that fentanyl was involved in 36 percent of fatal overdoses involving military personnel in 2016. In 2021, the numbers had surged to 88 percent.
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The increase has led to letters to lawmakers from Defense Department officials to address the growing concern. Military leaders argue “drug abuse has a substantial impact on the degradation of Total Force readiness, not to mention the irrevocable impact on Service members and their families.”
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has called for Congress to fund methods to stop fentanyl from crossing the border to cut off the supplies of Mexico’s drug cartels.
“We have the technological capacity to inspect every vehicle now, but we haven’t yet invested at a level that allows us to do that,” Kaine said.
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In addition to Riley’s claims that cartels are using the American military, attorney generals from 21 states are calling on President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations.
“The same cartels who produce and traffic this dangerous chemical (fentanyl) are also assassinating rivals and government officials, ambushing, and killing Americans at the border, and engaging in an armed insurgency against the Mexican government,” the attorney generals’ Feb. 8 letter read.
The letter also notes known connections between Mexican drug cartels and other terrorist groups such as Hezbollah.
“That threat is made greater still by the known links between the Mexican drug cartels and Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) like Hezbollah who already intend to do us harm,” the letter added. “Our national security requires the federal government to disrupt this collaboration between cartels and terrorist groups.”