Joseph Arabit, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in El Paso, said the violence stems from “fracturing within the Sinaloa cartel and continued fighting between the cartels.”
Army Col. Marisa Tanner, intelligence director for Joint Task Force North at Fort Bliss, said rogue elements of cartels that break away from the main groups contribute to violence.
Arabit and Tanner were among panelists Wednesday at the International Association for Intelligence Education hosted this week by the University of Texas at El Paso. The conference brings together intelligence educators and trainers from around the world.
They were joined for a discussion on border security by Ian Brownlee, U.S. consul in Juárez; Mark Morgan, FBI special agent in charge in El Paso; and Edward Regula, chief of the Border Intelligence Fusion Section at the El Paso Intelligence Center.
Although elements of both drug cartels operate in the Juárez region, the experts said, intelligence indicates that Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman’s organization, of Sinaloa, is the dominant group.
“Chapo Guzman is expanding every day. He’s a genius,” Tanner said. He added that Guzman sees the U.S. as a stagnant market and is also franchising cartel operations to Europe, using Africa as a route.
Tanner, who believes hitting the cartels in their wallets is the most effective way to dismantle them, also said the cartels probably conduct their own conferences to review such topics as transfers of technology and skill sets.
“Border violence has been a challenge for us over the past five to six years,” said Arabit, who noted that annual violence peaked in Juárez with 3,600 homicides in 2010, compared with 180 to date this year. “Our number one priority is keeping the community safe and ensuring the horrific violence (south of the border) does not spill over.”
Last month at Juárez City Hall, El Paso Mayor John Cook encouraged El Pasoans to visit the city.
Since then, Juárez experienced several high-impact homicides, including a massacre that killed four people at the Montana eatery on Avenida Gomez Morin.