The Mexican drug cartels have established distribution networks and supply lines in at least 230 American cities, and their violence has been brutally incessant in Phoenix, Atlanta and Houston. Now police in Laredo, TX are reporting that Los Zetas, a paramilitary organization that provides enforcement muscle for the Gulf Cartel, has recruited U.S. teenagers as young as 13 years old to carry out its enforcement hits on the north side of the border:
Rosalio Reta sits at a table inside a Laredo Police Department interrogation room. A detective, sitting across the table, asks him how it all started. Reta, in Spanish street slang, describes his initiation as an assassin, at the age of 13, for the Mexican Gulf Cartel, one of the country's two major drug gangs. "I thought I was Superman. I loved doing it, killing that first person," Reta says on the videotape obtained by CNN. "They tried to take the gun away, but it was like taking candy from kid." Rosalio Reta and his friend, Gabriel Cardona, were members of a three-person cell of American teenagers working as cartel hit men in the United States, according to prosecutors. The third was arrested by Mexican authorities and stabbed to death in prison there three days later. * * * Both teenagers received six-month military-style training on a Mexican ranch. Investigators say Cardona and Reta were paid $500 a week each as a retainer, to sit and wait for the call to kill. Then they were paid up to $50,000 and 2 kilos of cocaine for carrying out a hit. The teenagers lived in several safe houses around Laredo and drove around town in a $70,000 Mercedes-Benz.
The arrests of Cardona and Reta, both of whom were subsequently convicted for several murders and now are serving lengthy prison sentences, obviously is a concern to law enforcement already overwhelmed by Mexican drug cartel violence that has spread throughout Texas and other states:
"There are sleeper cells in the U.S.," said Detective Robert Garcia [from the Laredo Police Department]. "They're here, they're here in the United States." * * * In Cardona's interrogation tape, there are clues that "Los Zetas" are reaching deeper and deeper into the United States. Cardona is asked, "Where else are the Zetas?" And Cardona responds, "I've heard in Dallas and Houston."
The use of teenagers as killers by the drug cartels is common in Mexico, and the kids are known as "narco juniors."
The Mexican drug cartels also use young teenagers as so-called mules to smuggle drugs over the border, and just this week police arrested several kids crossing into El Paso, TX from Juarez, Mexico with drugs strapped to their bodies:
Four 15-year-old pedestrians were caught with marijuana strapped to their bodies in separate smuggling attempts this week at the Zaragoza Bridge. he arrests took place as authorities caution that drug cartels may be trying to recruit teens at schools in El Paso and Juárez to move illegal drugs into the U.S. "It's a serious matter for kids to be involved in drug trafficking," said County Attorney José Rodríguez, whose office prosecutes crimes committed by juveniles. "It cannot only endanger themselves but their family as well." On Tuesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers caught two boys with 7 and 8 pounds of marijuana each strapped to their backs. Wednesday night, officers busted two other teens with a total of 10 pounds of marijuana strapped to their bodies. Two of the teens are Juárez residents while the other two are U.S. citizens, CBP officials said. It was not revealed where they attend school.