How Colombian extortionists operate in Mexico

21/03/2019
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15:23
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David Fuentes
How Colombian extortionists operate in Mexico
From Mexico City, the criminals have spread to Hidalgo, the State of Mexico, Querétaro, Guanajuato, and even the northern state of Nuevo León - Photo: Francisco Rodríguez/EL UNIVERSAL

How Colombian extortionists operate in Mexico

21/03/2019
15:23
David Fuentes
Mexico City
-A +A
“Drop-by-drop” extortionists are known to operate in the states of Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Puebla, Morelos, and Mexico City

A new extortion method known as “drop-by-drop” now threatens shop owners and salespeople in at least six boroughs of Mexico City. However, the method is growing popular and extortionists are now operating in 13 Mexican states.

Mexico City authorities have detected a group of Colombian criminals who are allegedly behind the crime, which has affected 30% of informal businesses, according to official statistics.

An investigation by both local and federal authorities has indicated that the Colombians are entering the country illegally, posing as businessmen from Cancún, where they put up fake businesses to extort people.

Based on a number of complaints presented before Mexican authorities, “drop-by-drop” extortionists are known to operate in the states of Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Puebla, Morelos, and Mexico City.

From Mexico City, the criminals have spread to Hidalgo, the State of Mexico, Querétaro, Guanajuato, and even the northern state of Nuevo León.

“Though we do not intend to stigmatize any social groups, this extortion method first appeared in the Colombian cities of Bogotá and Medellín. Some Colombians started bringing their system here to take advantage of people’s liquidity,” explained the secretary of Public Safety, Jesús Orta Martínez.

Markets and tianguis: A niche

The Colombian criminals give out loans of up to MXN$500 thousand to small business owners in the markets of the Cuauhtémoc, Venustiano Carranza, Miguel Hidalgo, Benito Juárez, Gustavo A. Madero, and Iztapalapa boroughs, as well as nearby stalls. Unlike banks, they don’t ask for bank references or other guarantees.

They hand out flyers, business cards, or advertise by word of mouth to convince shopkeepers of taking loans as an investment for their business, whichever it may be.

Though they claim that the loans come with an incredibly low interest, the debt eventually becomes unpayable and those who refuse to pay are beaten, threatened, and murdered. Some have even committed suicide after facing extreme pressure from extortionists.

The Prosecutor’s Office in Mexico City (PGJ) has registered several complaints from businessmen who claim that they have had to pay up to four times the amount of their original loan. However, Mexican authorities have done very little to address the problem, arguing that lending money is not against the law.

“During this administration, there have been two suicide cases related to extortionists using this model. A debt can drive you mad, it may lead a person to take his or her own life. Criminal organizations such as La Unión Tepito have found an opportunity here,” stated the police chief.

Under the rule of the Tepito Union

Local authorities have managed to stop 12 “drop-by-drop” criminal cells and, according to some victims’ statements, members of the La Unión Tepito criminal group are charging them a quota (derecho de piso) of between MXN$200 and $500 for working on their territory.

Those who refuse to pay the quota are beaten, kidnapped, and even murdered, as in the case of two Colombians who were shot by the criminal gang last month, outside the Jeweler Center on Madero street.

Mexican police forces are concerned that some Mexicans have started replicating the extortion method throughout the capital, which means that the trend is growing.
 

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