U.S. authorities have announced new charges against members of a Mexican drug cartel accused of smuggling vast quantities of cocaine and other narcotics into the United States.

The Justice Department unveiled indictments against 43 leaders, members and associates of the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel, which is blamed for much of the drug-related violence that has claimed thousands of lives along the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years.

"We allege that these defendants shipped multi-ton quantities of narcotics into the United States through various established smuggling corridors and then through a network of affiliated distributors, [and] disbursed these drugs into cities and neighborhoods around the country," said US Attorney General Eric Holder.

Holder said the alleged smuggling spans nearly two decades, and has brought real harm and suffering to both the United States and Mexico.

"These cartels are not abstract organizations operating in far-off places," he said. "They are multi-billion dollar networks funneling drugs onto our streets. What invariably follows these drugs is more crimes and more violence in our communities."

The attorney general paid tribute to Mexico's efforts to battle drug cartels and said the United States must do its part.

"Our friends and partners in Mexico are waging an historic and heroic battle with the cartels as we speak," said the U.S. attorney general. "This is not a fight that we in the United States can afford to watch from the sidelines. The stakes are too high and the consequences are too real for us."

President Barack Obama has met twice in recent months with his Mexican counterpart, Felipe Calderon. On both occasions, lawlessness and bloodshed along the 3,000-kilometer U.S.-Mexico border emerged as a topic of discussion. While both countries continue to devote significant resources to law enforcement efforts to battle drug trafficking, many experts say smuggling will persist so long as demand for illegal narcotics remains high in the United States and other nations.