By Lisa Ferdinando for VOA News – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday that 2,266 people have been arrested in the United States as part of a 22-month investigation targeting Mexican drug traffickers. The announcement of what he called the most extensive and successful law enforcement effort to date targeting the cartels comes as Mexico voices concern about immigration-related issues with the United States.
Flanked by top officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Holder announced the success of the inter-agency cross-border investigation, called Project Deliverance.
In addition to the many arrests, Holder said the probe resulted in the seizure of more than $150 million in U.S. currency. He said large amounts of drugs – 2.5 tons of cocaine, 69 tons of marijuana, and more than a ton of methamphetamine and heroin – were seized, along with hundreds of weapons and vehicles.
Holder said the operation will impede the drug cartels as well as the ability of traffickers to move drugs into the United States.
“This operation has struck a very significant blow against the cartels,” he said. “But make no mistake, we know that as successful as this operation was, it was just one battle in what is an ongoing war.”
The United States and Mexico have intensified efforts to fight the drug traffickers who have extensive operations in the United States. In Mexico, thousands of people have been killed in recent years in drug-related violence.
But at the same time, Mexico is demanding answers from the United States about the death of a Mexican teenager, who was killed this week when U.S. Border Patrol agents responded to a report that illegal immigrants were being smuggled across the border into Texas.
U.S. officials say that as agents detained two suspected illegal immigrants on the U.S. side of the border, other suspects ran back into Mexico and began hurling stones. The FBI says a Border Patrol agent told them to stop, but they continued. It says a border agent fired his weapon several times, killing the teenager.
Mexico condemns the action and is demanding a thorough investigation. Roberto Rodriguez Hernandez, the Mexican Consul General in El Paso, Texas, says it appears that a disproportionate use of lethal force was used in the incident.
The teenager’s death comes as U.S. officials investigate the recent death in San Diego, California of an illegal Mexican immigrant who was in Border Patrol custody and died after he was shot with a stun gun and struck with a baton while resisting the agents who were trying to deport him.