Kendoll: Drug cartels pose a huge threat

Letter date: 
Friday, January 25, 2013
Letter publisher: 
Letter author: 
Cynthia Kendoll
Letter body: 

How many Oregonians know that Mexican drug cartels seek to addict U.S. grade-school children to cheap, potent new drugs?

How many know cartels’ technology is 10 years more advanced than the U.S. Border Patrol’s and that cartels even track border patrol movements by satellite?

And how many know that cartels are entrenched in Oregon, distributing heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine through major hubs in Portland, Salem and Eugene?

Late last year, I learned this and more from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Joe Arabit, former FBI agent Richard Valdemar and other experts at the National Sheriffs Border School in El Paso.

Here’s what we face:

Mexican cartels have infiltrated America’s cities and may control 90 percent of drugs entering our country. In Oregon, the state Department of Justice reported recently, “Mexican-based drug-trafficking organizations ... dominate the illicit drug market,” with 66 such organizations active in our state. And they fuel an epidemic: “The latest federal reporting shows that Oregon ranked fourth in the U.S. for reported rates of past-month illicit drug use by people ages 12 or older,” maintains DOJ.

One of the biggest threats, heroin, killed 143 Oregonians in 2011 — a 60 percent increase over 2010. Its source?

“West Coast heroin arrives almost exclusively from Mexico along the Interstate 5 corridor,” reported the Portland Tribune last year.

Cartels invade our public lands, too. In Oregon forests, The Oregonian reported, “Mexican-backed drug-trafficking organizations ... have been a public menace for a number of years, primarily by illegally growing and defending patches of marijuana.” In 2010, one marijuana operation, containing 900 plants, was busted by sheriff’s deputies in Linn County.

And in Salem? Many local residents will remember now-imprisoned drug lord Jorge Ortiz-Oliva, “whose principal operation,” The Oregonian reported, “was in Salem.” Ortiz-Oliva “presided over one of the biggest drug operations ever uncovered in Oregon. He ran a small, armed empire of distributors with connections to the Nocupetaro drug cartel in Mexico” and “had established more than 20 meth superlabs in Marion County,” the paper reported.

As noted by the Encyclopedia of Immigration, among cartel operatives are “thousands of undocumented immigrants” who “work as couriers, smuggling narcotics and other banned drugs into the U.S.” Recently, drug-dealing illegal immigrants have been apprehended in Portland, Milwaukee, Independence and Medford. Even remote Sherman County is not immune.

One way to ease cartels’ grip on Oregon would be to induce illegal immigrants here now, to leave, and to deter those elsewhere from coming. Unfortunately, however, one of Gov. John Kitzhaber’s new initiatives — to restore illegal immigrants’ access to Oregon driver’s licenses — would encourage just the opposite.

Before the 2013 session of the Legislature resumes on Feb. 4, Salem residents should urge their senators and representatives to oppose this action. Every day, Mexican drug cartels endanger Oregonians. But knowledge and action beget power. By educating ourselves — and pressuring elected officials to fight the cartels’ invasion — we can help chase this scourge from our state.

Cynthia Kendoll of Salem is president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform. She can be reached at

Cynthia Kendoll, president of Oregonians For Immigration Reform, toured the Arizona-Mexico border Feb. 19-25, 2012 through a program hosted by the Center for Immigration Studies. / CAPI LYNN | Statesman Journal

Film showing

Rusty Fleming, who embedded himself with a Mexican drug cartel to film and produce the documentary “Drug Wars: Silver or Lead,” will screen the film at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Loucks Auditorium at the Salem Public Library.
The public is invited and admission is free.