Drug cartels based in Mexico, with its long history of corruption, increasingly rely on well-placed operatives such as now-convicted U.S. border agent Martha Garnica to reach their huge customer base in the U.S., the Washington Post reports. Mexican officials argue that all the attention paid to corruption in their country has obscured a similar, growing problem on the U.S. side of the border. The cartels have grown so sophisticated that they are said to use Cold War-era spy tactics to recruit and corrupt U.S. officials.
“In order to stay in business, the drug trafficking organizations have to look at different methods for moving product,” said Thomas Frost of the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general’s office. “The surest method is by corrupting a border official. The amount of money available to corrupt employees is staggering.” Last month, Garnica’s double life ended; she was sentenced to 20 years in prison on guilty pleas to six counts of drug smuggling, human trafficking, and bribery. She was, in the words of prosecutors, a “valued asset” of the crime syndicate La Linea, directing the movements of at least five men, four of whom are in prison or dead. The Post tells Garnica’s story, based on court records and interviews with border officials, investigators, undercover agents and members of the judiciary. The tale, says the newspaper, “underscores the enormous challenge facing the United States as it tries to curtail the $25 billion-a-year business of illegal drug trafficking.”