WASHINGTON – Federal authorities Thursday announced that more than 2,200 people in 19 states were arrested on narcotics-related charges in the largest in a series of operations targeting violent Mexican drug cartels.

The 2,266 arrests over the past 22 months were part of “Project Deliverance,” a joint effort with Mexican authorities that the Justice Department did not disclose until Thursday. Investigators from more than 300 federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies seized 74 tons of drugs, 501 weapons and $154 million in cash, Attorney General Eric Holder announced.

The crackdown, which included more than 400 arrests Wednesday, targeted the transportation networks of Mexican drug organizations in the United States, especially along the Southwest border. Among those arrested was Carlos Ramon Castro-Rocha, described as a major heroin trafficker, who was detained by Mexican authorities May 30 and has been charged in federal courts in Arizona and North Carolina.

The law enforcement sweep comes amid rising drug-related violence along the border with Mexico, where more than 22,000 people have died since the government declared war on cartels in 2006. Although U.S. officials say there has been little spillover violence, Arizona has seen a rise of extortion-related kidnappings, and curbing the flow of illegal drugs and weapons to U.S. cities is a growing Justice Department priority.

“Has drug trafficking come to an end? Of course not,” said John Morton, assistant secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “But it just got harder, and there are a lot of people this morning who wish they had made a better career choice.”


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