Letter Re: Are Mexican Drug Cartels a Threat in the U.S.?

Hi James et al.,  
I’ve slowly got around to reading most survivalist novels and blogs, but one thing I see never being considered (at least not to a great extent) is the threat from Mexican drug cartels. While threats from foreign governments and biker gangs would surely exist a post-collapse world, I worry about the discipline, ruthlessness, and resourcefulness of the cartels (see article about seized cartel tank). I could be wrong here, but it seems they already operate quite capably in a post-collapse scenario of sorts, so it would be nothing to them to transition to operating in a post-collapse United States. Maybe they’re not as dangerous as they are portrayed to be by the media, but I can’t help but wonder what survivalist group or town could withstand such a well-equipped army with ruthless determination? They seem to already be more prepared and organized than any group could hope to be. Am I overreacting to the idea of a threat from such cartels? Am I underestimating the ability of the people to band together and form a defensive militia? – Peregrin Took

JWR Replies: Rather than “cross border”, I believe that the greater and more immediate gang-related threats are domestic. These include:

Meth cooking and distribution gangs.
Because of law enforcement crackdowns, many methamphetamine (“meth”, “speed”, “crank”, “crystal”, …) distribution gangs have moved their cooking operations in very out-of-the way rural locations. Although the chances are small, you might have the very bad luck to live quite near one. Learn the telltale signs of meth labs and meth users.

Many people don’t realize that the international and ostensibly “El Salvadoran” MS-13 gang got it start within the United States. It was founded by a pair of misfit El Salvadoran immigrants who were living in the U.S. It was not until so many of the expanding gang got deported to El Salvador (to serve time in prison there), that the gang became international. It is an utterly ruthless gang that is still growing.

Assorted street gangs.
These gangs, many of them ethnic, are growing geographically and growing in sophistication. In many states they’ve moved to the suburbs and even to the boonies. Don’t be surprised if these gangs have contingency plans to start raiding in lightly-populated regions, in the event of a societal collapse.

“One Percenter” biker gangs.

Yes, its that outlaw 1% that give law-abiding bikers a bad name. Many of the outlaw biker gangs are involved in drug distribution. It is well known that many outlaw biker gangs have long-standing plans to raid lightly-populated regions, in the event of a societal collapse. Some gangs have even established rural caches, to facilitate this.

The good news is that all of these gangs will be lopsidedly out-numbered by the righteous citizenry, out in the boonies. The gangs will do some damage, however, before they are thinned out. So pick retreat properties that are off of the highways, and be mindful of OPSEC. (You don’t want to end up on an outlaw biker gangs TEOTWAWKI hit list.)