Increasing presence of Mexican drug cartels in Colombia

Colombia warns of an increase of Mexican immigrants conducting drug-related criminal activities

Increasing presence of Mexican drug cartels in Colombia
The criminal network operated along Colombia’s Pacific coast in the provinces of Chocó, Nariño, and Valle de Cauca, shipping drugs in sailboats, fishing boats, and speedboats - Photo: Mauricio Dueñas Castañeda/EFE
English 10/10/2018 14:17 José Meléndez / corresponsal Mexico City Actualizada 14:18

Colombia has just issued a warning due to the increasing presence of Mexican drug cartels in the country since the year 2014, notably the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation (CJNG) cartels. Members of criminal groups have flown to Colombia to negotiate the purchase of cocaine shipments, which is why the Latin country’s anti-drug and migration authorities have decided to activate police alerts each time a Mexican citizen enters the country, according to governmental and legal sources.

The criminal incursion alert for Mexican drug dealers in Colombian soil, mostly from two of the most dangerous cartels in Mexico, was registered on January 2017 in a memo issued by the former Foreign Affairs Secretary of Colombia, María Ángela Holguín, after several members of criminal groups were spotted entering the country disguised as tourists, businessmen, workers, or students.

In a note written to Holguín, Colombia’s Attorney General Néstor Humberto Martínez warned that there had been “important changes in the country’s migration flow, notably the recurrence of criminal activity involving foreign citizens, particularly nationals of Mexico.”

Martínez mentioned that 103 Mexicans had been linked to 102 investigations from 2014 to 2016 regarding “40 matters” of a criminal nature in the provinces of Valle del Cauca, Santander, Antioquia, Cundinamarca, and the city of Bogota, in central Colombia.

One of the cases that shows the true magnitude of this issue was registered on December 2016 in Cundinamarca, where five Mexicans were arrested and around two tons of cocaine that had been hidden in marker buoys for loading ships were seized by Colombian authorities, told the Attorney General.

He also referred to the links between the Sinaloa Cartel and the Gulf Clan, one of Colombia’s most dangerous criminal groups, operating since 2014 in the Nariño province, near the Pacific Ocean.

“Ever since, it is known that negotiators from Mexico’s drug trade have been entering the country for business, specially members of the Sinaloa Cartel,” told Martínez.

“Upon analyzing the migration flow of Mexican citizens, based on statistics from Colombia’s Migration Control, the Attorney’s Office was surprised to notice an annual increase in the inflow of Mexicans into the national territory,” stated the Attorney.

From January 2014 to December 2016, the number of Mexican immigrants increased by 48,882 (29.8%). The numbers went from 114,804 Mexican visitors in 2014, to 152,123 in 2015, and 163,686 in 2016, according to official sources.

Colombia’s Migration Control also confirmed that the number increased even more in 2017, closing with 175,997 and a daily average of 482.18.

From January 1 to August 31 of the present year, 122,713 Mexicans entered the country, which represented a daily average of 504.99, while a total of 123,098 Mexicans came out of Colombia during the same period, according to the government body.

The Attorney General stressed that this constant flow “reaffirms the need to pay special attention to this phenomenon so that we may identify its causes and implications, which will allow us to take the actions needed to fight it.” Martínez also warned the Colombian Chancellery of “the increasing number of Mexican immigrants participating in drug-trafficking activities."

At the beginning of the year, the governments of Colombia and Ecuador warned that Mexican cartels had increased their presence at maritime and onshore locations in the border areas of both countries for the transport of large amounts of cocaine through maritime corridors of the Pacific Ocean to Central America, Mexico, and the United States.

As part of the investigation regarding the link between Mexican and Colombian criminal groups, the Anti-Narcotics Division of Colombia’s National Police discovered a connection between Mexican drug dealer Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, also known as “El Mencho,” the leader of CJNG, with the Colombian communist guerrilla National Liberation Army (ELN) for the smuggling of cocaine into Central America, Mexico, and the United States.

The Directorate of the division informed EL UNIVERSAL that rebels from the ELN, Colombia’s last insurgency, active since 1964, charged a fee to guarantee the exit of cocaine shipments from Colombia and into the Mexican port of Manzanillo, on the coastal area adjacent to the Pacific Ocean. ELN charged around 70 dollars for each kilo of cocaine.

The criminal network operated along Colombia’s Pacific coast in the provinces of Chocó, Nariño, and Valle de Cauca, shipping drugs in sailboats, fishing boats, and speedboats, according to the official report.

El Mencho, aged 52, is considered by Mexican authorities to be the utmost leader of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel. He is now on the most wanted lists of both Mexico and the United States for his ties with organized crime.

According to Krüger, Mexican immigrants who incur in criminal activities not only smuggle drugs out of Colombia, but also contribute to foreign currency incomes (U.S. dollars), most likely arising from money laundering activities related to drug trafficking.

“Mexican immigrants are mostly present in certain parts of Colombia that are ideal for the cultivation of illicit drugs,” he stated, adding that they mostly came to negotiate the purchase of cocaine shipments.

Some of the cocaine production areas where Mexicans were discovered incurring in drug trade include the regions of Putumayo and Nariño, which are next to the border of Ecuador, and North of Santander, near Venezuela.