This introductory essay provides a strategic overview of the threat posed by the largest Mexican drug cartels (The Federation, Gulf, Juarez, and Tijuana), and affiliated mercenary groups and street and prison gangs, to the United States. Cartel areas of operation in both Mexico and the United States are highlighted along with linkages to affiliated enforcers and gangs such as Los Zetas, the Mexican Mafia (La Eme), and Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13). The illegal economies of these threat groups - ranging from narcotics trafficking through commodities smuggling and theft, extortion and kidnapping, weapons trafficking, and street taxation - is discussed. The trans-operational environments involving US engagement with the Mexican cartels, mercenaries, and their Surenos affiliates is then characterized. Lastly, individual contributions to this work are summarized. Reprinted by permission of Frank Cass & Co. Ltd.
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