In Mexico, cartels are finding ways to capitalize on the virus


These tactics include fighting over drug sales and coveted routes as police and military are having to turn their focus from traffickers to civil unrest as a result of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 13,000 people in Mexico.

“That obviously distracts law enforcement from controlling many highways and many drug distribution points, and that could promote the trafficking or domestic sale of drugs,” said Eduardo Guerrero Gutiérrez, a public safety consultant and political analyst based in Mexico City.

The cartel turf wars have contributed to a spike in homicides, which topped 11,535 by the end of April, according to the report from country’s security ministry. At that pace, the country is expected to suffer one of its deadliest years since record keeping began in 1997.

All the while, during the pandemic, cartels are delivering food and essential household items to impoverished residents in Mexico to garner local support and mark their turf.

Cartel members are boasting about their supposed good deeds on social media, posting videos and photos of boxes of supplies branded with their cartel name, such as CJNG, for the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generción or its leader “El Mencho.” 

But, the cartels are stealing the food they hand out from markets in Mexico in an attempt to bolster their image and profit off the pandemic, Merkel said. 

“It’s disgusting.”

The food handouts are a common propaganda campaign for cartels, said Javier Oliva, political and social sciences professor and researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

“The truth is that they just hand out 30 or 40 boxes,” not enough to lessen the poverty, Oliva said.

“They only want to show the message, ‘Here we are,'” especially to rival cartels.

In contrast, the cartel also frequently uses social media to spread fear by posting photos and videos of kidnappings, torture, and killings of rivals, which was detailed in a November Courier-Journal special report on the cartel and El Mencho.

Will virus have lasting impact on drug war?

Drug agents expect cartels to resume traditional money laundering and drug smuggling methods once flights and traffic at the border increase. They don’t know if cartels have found new ways to get drugs from Mexico into the U.S. amid travel restrictions that they could continue to use.

El Mencho, el Mayo y los chapitos (Fotoarte: Steve Allen)

“It’s far too soon to know exactly how COVID-19 is affecting the cartels,” Scott said during an interview in Louisville. “We just don’t have enough data.”

In Los Angeles, Bodner agreed, but added: “The drug business is a pretty efficient market.

“They’re always looking for new opportunities.”

Merkel said agents will investigate how cartels adjusted during the pandemic to find new ways to attack them.

“We’ve seen what can happen when cartels are disrupted on a global scale,” he said. “We’re going to attempt to exploit that as much as we can.”


The Mazatlan Post