Drug cartels in Mexico are recruiting US soldiers as hitmen, illustrating both the all too common overlap between organized crime and security forces, and the ongoing militarization of the drug trade.
A new report by Fox News looks at three recent cases of US military personnel offering their services as contract killers and military trainers to Mexican cartels.
On July 25th, 22-year-old army private Michael Apodaca received a life sentence in an El Paso court after he was found guilty of assassinating a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency informant in 2009 on behalf of the Juarez Cartel.
The case follows the arrest of two other soldiers last year as part of a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sting operation. Kevin Corley and Samuel Walker offered DEA agents posing as members of the Zetas military training and arms stolen from the US army, and entered into negotiations to carry out assassinations and steal drug shipments.
Late last year, Corley admitted to a range of charges, while Walker was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire.
The report also notes that the recent hit on a former Gulf Cartel lawyer in Southlake, Texas, raises suspicions of military involvement because of the professional military-style tactics used.
InSight Crime Analysis
Gang activity within the US military has been an issue for some time, although it is more frequently linked to US-based gangs, which have even reportedly enlisted members in the military specifically so they can receive, and later share, military training.
The trend is reflected regionally, with the most famous example being Mexico’s Zetas, whose founding members were from a Mexican Special Forces unit.
The overlap between crime and security forces is not just limited to the military. In countries such as Honduras and Brazil, police are often contracted as hitmen by criminal groups looking to exploit their military training, or even operate as criminal gangs themselves.
It is not a new phenomenon either. In Colombia, connections between security forces and organized crime groups have long been common, especially in the paramilitary movement and in the now defunct Norte Del Valle Cartel, whose original leadership was made up almost entirely of former security forces personnel.