Mexican cartels strengthen in Colombia even with the coronavirus

15/06/2020

The Mexican drug cartels have become stronger in Colombia, occupying spaces left by the FARC, a dominance that tends to worsen with the coronavirus pandemic, taken advantage of by these criminal organizations to increase their social control.

Mexican cartels. Photo: Agencies
Mexican cartels. Photo: Agencies

The warning was issued by León Valencia, director of the Fundación Paz y Reconciliación (Pares), when he presented "X-Ray of the Ominous Presence of the Mexican Cartels", a report on the growing power of the Mexican mafias in Colombia, the world's largest cocaine producer.

"We are very afraid of the post-pandemic period," he told EFE, explaining that in the country, as in Mexico, drug traffickers use the power of money in times of crisis like the present to spread their tentacles among society.

According to Valencia, with an economic crisis like the one already underway because of the pandemic, those who have money in their hands are going to have a lot of possibilities, no matter that this capital is of illegal origin.

"So we put this alert out because we see that the post-pandemic for illegal groups that have the possibility of having amounts of money, if they manage to contact Colombian organizations, can greatly increase their social control, can greatly increase their power," said Valencia, one of the greatest experts on the conflict and violence in Colombia.

In recent years, Mexican cartels have begun to invest in drug production in the Andean country, and are dominating the entire drug trafficking chain.

According to the Pares Foundation report, although the relationship between organized crime in Colombia and Mexico dates back decades, it has now become more dynamic due to the significant flow of capital and weapons brought in from the United States.

The Mexican cartels, which since the 1980s have been partners with the Colombians in the introduction and distribution of cocaine in the United States, have expanded their business and in recent years have begun to invest in drug production in the Andean country, and are thus dominating the entire drug trafficking chain.

"What they (the Mexicans) decided was to start participating directly in the production of cocaine in Colombia, and what is main, to invest, not only to buy, but to invest in the production through organizations in a direct way," said the expert.

To increase their penetration in the country, organizations like the Sinaloa cartel and the New Generation Jalisco cartel took advantage of the signing of the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC in November 2016 to occupy with local allied gangs "those places where the guerrillas exercised full control ... of illegal activities, including drug trafficking.

This led to the strengthening of Colombian armed groups such as the Gulf Clan, the Caparrapos, the Pachenca, the People's Liberation Army (EPL) - also called the Pelusos - and the Postfarc Armed Groups (dissidents), some of which had internal problems, the study adds.

"The Mexican cartels were somehow subordinated to the Colombian cartels, but that relationship has already been reversed; in reality, the kings, the capos de capos, are the Mexicans," said Valencia, explaining that nevertheless, Colombia continues to be the origin of cocaine production because of the quality of the coca leaves and the experience of these groups in the refining process.

The Pares Foundation has identified 97 illegal groups throughout the country "and an important part of them have alliances with the Mexicans," according to Valencia, and he explained that 27 of them are on the border with Venezuela. "Of those, 13 groups are foreigners, they are transnationals," he added.

"That is a very special place for illegal groups, the border with Venezuela (?) and those (groups) control part of the business, not only of cocaine but of smuggling and (the illegal exploitation of) minerals," he said.

According to the study, the expansion of the Mexican cartels is characterized by their direct influence on the Colombian armed groups through financing or coordination.

With this x-ray, the investigation concludes: "The presence of Mexican cartels in the country coincides with the places of the highest intensity of coca cultivation or with strategic corridors for drug trafficking," and points to regions such as the Pacific coast in the department of Nariño and the northern part of the Cauca, both in the southwest; the Catatumbo (border with Venezuela), the Lower Cauca (northwest), and the Middle Magdalena (center).

In some of these regions, the guerrilla group of the National Liberation Army (ELN) also operates, which has made temporary alliances with drug groups in regions such as northeast Antioquia, while in others, such as the coast of Nariño, it is involved in disputes over the monopoly of some areas where coca cultivation has been increasing.

According to the study, the expansion of the Mexican cartels is characterized by the fact that they have a direct influence on the Colombian armed groups through financing or articulation, although they do not have large armies of 'Mexicans', as this goes beyond the logic of regulation and territorial control.

Other characteristics are the presence (in Colombia) of nationals from Mexico, but also from Central American countries - especially Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador - and participation in the regulation of the drug trafficking market to guarantee the supply of drugs to the United States.

Regarding the impact that the growing presence of Mexican cartels can have on the increase in the murder of social leaders, since the two situations coincide in time, Valencia considers that they may be related.

"The perverse thing about organized crime is that it needs anomie, it needs to break social cohesion, it needs there to be no order, so it razes anything" because in this way it removes obstacles to its business.

The expert adds that, in this sense, "social leaders are a target for them" and it is likely that this will happen in regions such as Cauca and the Pacific coast, in Nariño, where there is a great territorial dispute between gangs.

"The black communities and the indigenous communities have resisted all the actors and are resisting these and so many black and indigenous leaders are being sacrificed in this arrival of the Mexicans," he added.

What does it mean when the U.S. singles out Mexican cartels as terrorists?

Donald Trump fakes Mexico once again, this time it's not on the economic side but on the security side after he threatened to designate the Mexican cartels as terrorists, but what does this judicial figure imply for Mexico and what are its consequences?

The U.S. can provide training and equipment to security agencies and even the deployment of an emergency team abroad. Image: courtesy by ICE
The U.S. can provide training and equipment to security agencies and even the deployment of an emergency team abroad. Image: courtesy by ICE

The Office of Counterterrorism and the Fight Against Violent Extremism is an office of the U.S. Department of State whose mission is to safeguard your national security through the development of strategies and cooperation with international allies.

This body has nine programs and initiatives to develop the capabilities of foreign governments to combat terrorism and radicalism.

Through these programs, the United States can provide training and equipment to national security agencies; deal with the financing of terrorism; secure borders; and even deploy an emergency team abroad.

Under the Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST) program, the United States can deploy to another nation to assess, assist, assess, and coordinate crisis situations such as hostage-taking, bomb threats, and actions that could affect U.S. citizens in this context.

The U.S. Blacklist

Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) is a concept used by the Office of Counterterrorism to identify groups that pose a threat to the US.

Hamas, the Colombian Liberation Army (ELN), the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Islamic State (ISIS) and recently the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), are some of the members that make up the blacklist of this antiterrorist office.

How is a group designated as a terrorist?

There are two types of terrorist designations for groups and individuals. Groups can be designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs).

Under Executive Order 13224, it is possible to designate as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT) a broader spectrum of entities, including terrorist groups, persons acting as part of a terrorist organization, and other entities, such as financiers and shell companies.

The Department of State is authorized to designate the FTO and SDGT, while the Department of the Treasury is empowered to designate only the SDGT. Both departments determine these designations in collaboration with the Department of Justice.

In the case of FTOs, once an organization is identified, an administrative record is prepared consisting of a collection of data, including both classified and open information demonstrating that the legal criteria for designation have been met.

If the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury, decides to make the designation, Congress is notified of the intent seven days before it is published in the Federal Register, as required by Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Upon expiration of the seven-day waiting period, and if Congress fails to take action to oppose the designation, a notice of the designation is published in the Federal Register, which takes effect thereafter.

Criteria

The organization must be foreign

The organization carries out terrorist activities or terrorism or retains the ability and willingness to carry out terrorist activities or terrorism

The terrorist activity or terrorism perpetrated by this organization threatens the security of U.S. citizens or the national security of the United States.

Implications

It is an offense for a person in the U.S. or subject to U.S. jurisdiction to knowingly provide "substantial support or resources" to a designated FTO or to receive military-style training by or on behalf of a designated FTO.

Representatives and members of a designated FTO, if foreign, will not be admitted to the U.S. and, in some circumstances, may be expelled from the country.

Except as authorized by the Secretary of the Treasury, any U.S. financial institution that becomes aware that it holds or controls funds in which an FTO or its representative has an interest shall retain such power or control and report this circumstance to the Treasury.

Other effects

It supports U.S. efforts to curb terrorist financing and encourage other nations to do the same.

Stigmatizes and isolates internationally designated terrorist organizations.

Discourages donations or contributions and financial transactions with named organizations.

Increases public awareness and knowledge of terrorist organizations.

Draws the attention of other governments to U.S. concern for the named organizations.

The complete procedure can be consulted on the Department of Defense website.