Victor Avila is a retired Supervisory Special Agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a role that provided him extensive experience working in Mexico and along the southern border and witnessing the drug trade firsthand. Avila survived multiple gunshot wounds suffered in an ambush by the Mexican "Los Zetas" drug cartel in 2011. In that same ambush, Special Agent Jaime Zapata tragically lost his life.
A decade after the incident, the Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officers and Employees Protection Act was signed into law, establishing extraterritorial jurisdiction over several criminal offenses against federal officers and employees.
Now seeking the Republican nomination to represent Texas' 23rd Congressional District, Avila tells American Family News that lowering the number of deaths attributed to drugs from Mexico is one of his top priorities, in or out of office. Avila also wants to take the fight against cartels straight to the cartels. [Editor's note: Avila is currently running unopposed.]
Hit 'em where it hurts
In previous reports by AFN, Derek Maltz and Ben Varlese argued that Mexican drug cartels need to be designated as foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs). Avila agrees with both. "Cartels are not gangs, nor should they be called drug cartels anymore," he states. Instead, Avila advocates for the FTO designation.
While some people might think this requires military intervention, Avila gives another plausible strategy. "If they're declared an FTO, it would give power to the U.S. government to seize all their assets, their moneys, their properties – all over the world," he explains.
The retired federal agent points out that cartels' financial activities are not limited to the sale of illegal drugs.
"They're involved in human trafficking, the trade of goods [such as] avocados, the theft of petroleum in Mexico [and more]," he notes. "These criminals are also running a parallel government and are controlling Mexico."
All of which, he adds, adds to the cartels' ability to send more drugs across the border into America.
According to Avila, a byproduct of the drug addictions in America are incidents of criminal activity, including but not limited to property crimes, burglaries, muggings, and more. "Addicts are willing do nearly anything to get their fix," he says. "And then on top of that – point blank – the flow of fentanyl into the country is just killing us."
What's being done isn't working
The Biden administration often credits itself with being "effective" in the war on drugs – but according to Avila, that is "100% incorrect." Instead, he contends the higher number of seizures indicates an "out of control" border.
While he commends federal agents and law enforcement for those seizures, he warns it also points to something else.
"For several months, there have been record numbers of fentanyl seizures, not only at the ports of entry and in between the ports of entry, but also in Portland, Phoenix, and other places," he tells AFN. "[But] when seizures are going up, the country is getting swamped with drugs.
"As a former narcotics agent, I'm guessing we might be seizing 10% to 15% of the actual drugs coming in." As a result, he says, the country is being "inundated" with drugs.
Fentanyl is the deadliest drug in the U.S. today. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 71,000 people died from overdosing on synthetic opioids such as fentanyl in 2021, up from almost 58,000 in 2020.
"At this point in time, it's a dire necessity to find a better way to suppress and take down the illegitimate trade of drugs in our country," Avila says.
But he admits struggling to remain hopeful with the policies he sees coming from the Biden administration: "Something has to change, or people will just keep dying."
Editor's note: Victor Avila is author of "Agent Under Fire: A Murder and a Manifesto," which recounts the story of the 2011 ambush by the Mexican cartel Los Zetas.