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Cartels: More than Drugs & Violence

According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, Mexico is among the top four countries of origin for U.S. petroleum, with 1,174,000 barrels per day YTD through May 2009. It should be noted that Canada and Mexico combined actually provide 44% more than Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. However, what is more disturbing, is the recent trend toward the cartels' involvement in illicit shipments of petroleum products across the U.S.-Mexican border (Los Zetas specifically) either directly or indirectly by providing "protection" for shipments. In April it was reported that Mexican authorities had seized $46 million from the Zetas that they say came from selling stolen oil.

Last week, it was reported that U.S. officials had returned $2.4 million in procedes from contraband oil shipments to Mexican authorities.

Smugglers have managed to slip at least $100 million in stolen oil products in tanker trucks past U.S. border inspectors in South Texas for years, raising questions about how the illicit trade flourished for so long.

Mexican investigators say stolen natural gas condensate, a gasoline-like liquid that forms in pipelines, crosses the border with falsified paperwork that claims it's something else.

U.S. authorities Friday declined to discuss why the discrepancies went undetected, saying it was part of the ongoing investigation into how smuggled petroleum ended up in U.S refineries.

The condensate is a by-product of oil pipeline transmission and production, and is later reintroduced by refineries into the heavy crude to make refining easier. While the Mexican petroleum company, PEMEX seems to have been victimized in this, a number of U.S. companies have been implicated in this smuggling operation.

It isn't too hard to understand that as security forces on both sides of the border attempt to quell the narco-violence and cross-border shipment of narcotics, that the cartels might turn to other sources of revenue. Of course, one final question should be asked. Will terrorists exploit these transportation channels?