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Realtor Walter Campbell, left, with U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins on Tuesday at a Broussard Chamber of Commerce meeting.

U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, a stalwart supporter for southern border protection, said Mexico’s organized crime cartels control “100 percent” of commerce along the northern reaches of Mexico and are in full-pitch warfare with brave Mexican police trying to stem their influence.

Speaking to the Broussard Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, the second-term congressman said the cartels profit from massive amounts of sex trafficking, forced labor and illegal drug sales into the U.S., ostensibly due to weak border controls.

He said the cartels have developed a sophisticated “business plan” over the past 40 years, funded in part by large influxes of U.S. cash. He compared Mexico’s organized crime to that of the mafia in the 20th century and said leaders are educated in U.S. universities and are well schooled in U.S. law.

When he was in his first term in Congress, Higgins traveled the length of the U.S. southern border from San Diego through Texas as part of a congressional mission. He has supported protecting the border by a combination of a border wall, geographic barriers and technology.

He told his audience — in part through his prepared remarks and in part in response to questions — that the political situation in Venezuela continues to deteriorate, as the Nicolas Maduro regime clings to political power.

“Venezuela is going to crumble,” he said. “There are no pets left in Caracas. They’ve been eaten.”

He warned that the U.S. fate would approach Venezuela’s if people here embrace socialism, as that Latin American country did during the Hugo Chavez regime. He said the oil and gas industry there, “the cornerstone of its economy,” had crumbled under state ownership and that Venezuela might lose Citgo, its most prosperous oil and gas industry, to Russia, which has lent Venezuela money it cannot repay.

He said the “Citgo 6,” a half-dozen Citgo executives held hostage in Venezuela, don’t appear to be any closer to freedom than they were in November 2017, when the government lured the executives there under the guise of a meeting. Five of the six imprisoned men are American citizens, some with Louisiana ties.

Higgins said there was no “conventional solution” for the hostages; he said the most likely outcomes would be for ransom or a military action “extraction.”

Despite a continuing partisan political gulf in the U.S., he said he holds hope that Democrats and Republicans will learn to work together.

“It’s OK to have different ideologies and parties,” he said. If all Americans thought alike, he said, “what a boring world it would be.”

He encouraged bipartisanship and said the current political bickering in Washington is “not reflective of who we are.”

Still, he said, as a constitutionalist he opposes positions that have been promoted across the aisle. Among those, he said, was former Democratic Congressman Robert “Beto” O’Rourke’s suggestion that he would confiscate some Americans’ guns.

“Please be alarmed,” he told his audience, suggesting that “we could lose America in 2020. It could become unrecognizable very, very fast,” he said.

“If they came to take my weapons, they'd better take a team that knows what they are doing,” he said.

Email Ken Stickney at kstickney@theadvocate.com.