The food cartel that feeds millions of Mexicans

The food company Cosmopolitana was promoted by the Fox government, the Calderón government encumbered it and the Peña Nieto company consecrated it.

What do IMSS patients, nursery children, Pemex workers and prisoners have in common? All are fed by Corporate Kosmos, a company that has become, stealthily, a monopoly of the catering service for a huge number of Mexican captives.

A more than one year investigation conducted by VICE and Fifth Element Labrevealed, after reviewing 704 contracts, that this supplier had business with the government for at least 6 million pesos in 2002. For 2009, the figure increased to 343 million, but by 2018 the sum had catapulted to more than 5 billion.

Corporativo Kosmos, of the Landsmanas family, has such strength that it has obtained contracts for at least 29 thousand 76 million pesos between 2002 and 2019 -one third of them without bidding. This, without counting the ones that he signed with Pemex and its subsidiaries, and that the parastatal has refused to be transparent.

Kosmos companies feed the sick who sleep in the IMSS, children in DIF nurseries, high performance athletes and workers who spend weeks on the Pemex offshore platforms, victims and police. They also feed the administrative staff, custodians and inmates of 14 federal prisons, prisoners of the 15 prisons in Mexico City and prisons in other states; to officials in state ministries and even to those who went to El Torito in a night of excess.

On February 19, in an interview with the Panorama Informativo newscast of Grupo ACIR, the new director of Federal Penitentiary Centers, Francisco Garduño, referred to La Cosmopolitana, without calling her by name. There is a company “that is everywhere,” he said, and said that the contracts he has with federal prisons are “leonine.”

The next day, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced at a press conference that he will present a report on the monopolies of food and medicine sales to the government, and talked about reviewing the contracts.

The investigation indicates that Julio Scherer Ibarra, current legal advisor of the Presidency and a person close to López Obrador, was a lawyer for La Cosmopolitana and Productos Serel, another of the companies of the Landsmanas family. This information was confirmed by Ulises Castellanos, counselor in communication and media of the lawyer.

Castellanos explained that these companies were clients of the Scherer y Asociados office for about five years and that the employment relationship ended in October 2018. “He had affairs for many businessmen and politicians.”

The lawyer who played on the side of this great corporate is now part of a government that, according to the prison manager, is not entirely satisfied with the contracts (which will certainly expire in August).

According to the information collected by VICE and Fifth Element Lab, the largest client of CK in the government are federal prisons. Between 2012 and 2016, the government assigned two contracts of four years each for a total of 12 thousand 223 mp. Since then, La Cosmopolitana is not only dedicated to serving food, but was hired to provide 12 more services, such as laundry, gardening, painting and maintenance, among others.

The second most important client of the Landsmanas is the Mexican Social Security Institute, which has hired them every year since 2003 for their hospital network. In third place is the government of Mexico City for its prisons, firefighters, the Metro and the DIF.

Corporate Kosmos executives declined to persistent interview requests in the six weeks prior to publication. “The group has signed different contracts with confidentiality clauses, which prevents us from answering the questions they ask us,” they answered.

One of the main problems posed by journalistic work is that this company, according to a series of documents obtained, has been involved in several crisis chapters related to criminal matters. One of them was the riot registered in Islas Marías prison, in February 2013, and another was mass poisoning that affected more than 600 prisoners in the Puente Grande state prison in May 2014.

To this is added a report that in 2017 sent the then National Security Commissioner, Renato Sales. The research carried out by academics from the Center for Research and Higher Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS) and the Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE), indicates that the custodians and employees of four federal prisons complained of receiving food in poor condition ; some said they found threads, larvae, worms and cockroaches in their food.

The family

The report says that the Landsmanas family has a quality that has allowed it to go unnoticed by many: discretion. “Neither she nor her companies appear in rankings or in social magazines. Nor in those that are dedicated to sniffing entrepreneurs successfully. “

The founder is Pablo Landsmanas (now deceased) who arrived in Mexico in 1959, accompanied by his wife Chaja Dymensztejn and his son Elías. All three were natives of cities that today belong to the republics of Latvia and Lithuania.

Elías (Ilja) Landsmanas, became the engine of this business group over the years, along with his brother Jorge who was born 16 years later. Today he also shares the reins of the corporate Jack Landsmanas, and the third generation of the family.

The report by Laura Sánchez Ley and Karla Casillas was one of four selected in the first Call of Fifth Element Lab, an incubator of research projects. Laura and Karla were VICE News reporters at the time of the investigation. Laura now works with Mexicanos Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad and Karla with mexico.com .

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