Your Voice Your Vote 2024

Live results
Last Updated: May 21, 11:58:13PM ET

Holder Vows 'Cartels Will Be Destroyed'

Operation targeted Sinaloa cartel, highlights spread of drug gang violence.

ByABC News
February 25, 2009, 1:48 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2009— -- Attorney General Eric Holder issued a blunt warning today to Mexican drug cartels that he said pose a national security threat: "These cartels will be destroyed."

The warning came as the attorney general and acting Drug Enforcement Administration chief Michele Leonhart announced the completion of the final phase of DEA's "Operation Xcellerator," which targeted the Sinaloa cartel, a major western Mexico drug operation that has been expanding its reach into the United States.

The officials said that as a result of the operation, more than 750 suspected Mexican drug cartel members had been arrested and more than 23 tons of narcotics had been seized during the past 21 months.

The Sinaloa cartel is one of several believed to responsible for kidnappings and murders within the United States in addition to extraordinary carnage in Mexico.

As part of the operation, authorities made arrests in Chicago, Minneapolis, Boise, Atlanta, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, San Antonio and Miami.

But it's not just major metropolitan areas that have been blighted by the cartel's aggression.

In northeastern Ohio, the suburban community of Stow "became a conduit for criminals running cocaine," Leonhart said, citing an example of how large-scale cartel operations trickle down to smaller communities far removed from the U.S.-Mexico border.

"Just underneath the surface of this peaceful city, the Sinaloa cartel had been sending cocaine through this community's local airport, ferrying dozens of kilos of cocaine from California to Stow on a regular basis," she said.

The profits from the sales of illicit drugs allow the cartels to expand "violent enterprises further into our heartland," Leonhart said.

"So consider that the cartels that are making life unbearable in border towns in Mexico are contributing to trafficker violence in the United States," she said.

"International drug trafficking organizations pose a sustained, serious threat to international safety and security. They are a national security threat," Holder said in his first major crime press conference since his confirmation.