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Violent cartel kingpin’s arrest doesn’t mean drug war is over on Seattle streets


A prominent leader of one of Mexico’s most infamous drug cartels has been arrested. But the war on drugs, along the border and in the Northwest, is hardly over.

Mexican drug lord Miguel Angel Trevino Morales was captured Monday when a military helicopter swooped down over his pickup truck. Just like that, the last of the old guard leaders of Los Zetas, Mexico’s most violent drug cartel, was finally under arrest.

Sylvia Longmire, a former Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations focusing on Mexican drug traffickers, tells KIRO Radio the only way to end the “war on drugs” is to end the need for trafficking.

“You have one of two options: either you can make all drugs completely legal from the ground up,” Longmire says. “Or you can completely reduce, or completely eliminate the demand for illegal drugs in the United States. The likelihood of either one of these things happening is extremely low.”

And don’t think that Washington’s legalization of marijuana will help much. If there are illegal drugs on the streets of Seattle, they are likely coming from south of the border, according to Longmire.

“The cartels definitely have a big presence in the United States,” she says. “The biggest money-maker for the cartels is cocaine, and also they’re making an increasing amount from black tar heroin and also from methamphetamines.”

There has been at least one sign that Los Zetas operated in Seattle. Graffiti appeared in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood in 2012, claiming the Zetas were on their way. But experts seemed dubious of its validity.

While the presence of drug cartels in Seattle can be questioned, there’s no doubt they have been tied to Washington state in the past. Martin Omar Estrada Luna, a cartel member who authorities believed was responsible for the deaths of up to 200 people, grew up in the Tieton area of Yakima County where he had plenty of run-ins with police. Estrada was deported in 2009 and arrested in 2011 in Nuevo Laredo.

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