NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico - The "police" for the Zetas paramilitary cartel are so numerous here - upward of 3,000, according to one estimate - that they far outnumber the official force, and their appearance further sets them apart. Most are teens sporting crew cuts, gold chains and earrings, with shorts worn well below the waist and cellphones pressed to their ears. These "spotters" seem to be everywhere, including elementary schools, keeping tabs on everything and everyone for the area's most dominant drug cartel. "Get the (expletive) away from my child!" Thelma Pena, a young mother, yelled at a Zetas spotter as she took her son to school. "Am I afraid of being killed?" she later said of her outburst. "We're already dying, little by little, day by day." The omnipresent cartel spotters are one aspect of what experts describe as the emergence of virtual parallel governments in places like Nuevo Laredo and Ciudad Juarez - criminal groups that levy taxes, gather intelligence, muzzle the media, run businesses and impose a version of order that serves their criminal goals. "President (Felipe) Calderón's war on drug cartels has been such an abysmal failure that entire regions of Mexico are effectively controlled by nonstate actors, i.e., multipurpose criminal organizations," said Howard Campbell, an anthropologist and expert on drug cartels at the University of Texas at El Paso. "These criminal groups have morphed from being strictly drug cartels into a kind of alternative society and economy," Campbell said. "They are the dominant forces of coercion, tax the population, steal from or control utilities such as gasoline, sell their own products and are the ultimate decision-makers in the territories they control." Read more: Mexican drug gangs assuming government roles --------------------------------------------------------------- Can these things happen in the US? The stench of corruption keeps coming over the border as the US federal, state, and local governments seems too timid to hold Latin America accountable for their own people. The United States must go on the offensive and make it as unprofitable as possible for countries that sneak their invaders into the US to alter the future of the American people.