(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
According to the Attorney General’s Office, they are already owners of illegal plantings, and there are 103 Mexican citizens under investigation.
By the Investigative Unit, El Tiempo (Colombia), January 29, 2018
“The Mexican cartels are now starting to acquire coca plantations in Colombia. We have captured agronomists and engineers from that country who are working in laboratories to improve the productivity of the plants, and more and more citizens with Mexican nationality are taking part in criminal activities; more than a hundred.”
That statement was made by Attorney General Néstor Humberto Martínez, who also assured EL TIEMPO that the arrival of the Mexican mafia in Colombia is so serious that it was the main subject of the meeting last December 7 in Cartagena with his counterparts from the United States, Jeff Sessions, and, from Mexico, Alberto Elías Beltrán.
On that day, they analyzed an intelligence report from the Antinarcotics Police stating that Mexican cartels are already present in at least 9 provinces in the country: Antioquia, Cundinamarca, North Santander, Valle del Cauca, Nariño, Cauca, Meta, Guaviare, and Vichada. And last week the Public Defender, Carlos Negret, added Córdoba to the list.
The Mexicans now are not just sending emissaries to negotiate the shipments, as they have done since the ‘90’s. Now they are trying to take control of the business, because Colombia is not reaching its quotas of coca, due to the demobilization of the FARC and the war between the leaders of the Clan del Golfo. [These factors have] triggered a historic record of seizures, like the 12 tons found in Apartadó (Antioquia department).
In addition, in order to take advantage of the new coca bonanza in Colombia – with more than 150,000 hectares planted –, the Zetas, Sinaloa, and Jalisco-Nueva Generación cartels sent people to the areas with the highest concentration of coca plantings: Tumaco, the Paramillo Massif, Catatumbo, Bajo Cauca in Antioquia, and the Orinoco.
Groups of up to ten citizens of that country are established in Antioquia, especially in Urabá, coordinating the drug shipments. Now they are the ones that are fighting over the dealings with the criminal gangs, the ELN, and dissidents of the FARC.
“There are 102 investigations that connect the 103 Mexicans (. . .) One of the cases that prove the magnitude of the problem took place on December 2, 2016 in Sibaté (Cundinamarca department), where they were able to capture five Mexicans and seize two tons of coca camouflaged in mooring buoys for cargo ships,” wrote Attorney General Martínez to high-ranking government officials in the beginning of 2017.
From Nariño to Catatumbo
And authorities in Medellín are trying to find out whether the corpse stuffed in a suitcase, which appeared a few days ago in the trunk of an abandoned car just two blocks from the exclusive Lleras Park, is the body of a Mexican. In that same city Horacio Zuñiga and Irineo Sánchez, both with an Interpol Red Notices, were captured in 2017. In Bogotá Marcela Flórez, a member of the Sinaloa cartel, was captured and [extradited to be] prosecuted in the United States; and in Nariño, Luis Andrés Jilón, the contact with the boss Ismail “el Mayo” Zambada, was arrested.
Another big settlement of Mexicans is at the edge of the Pacific, where 60% of the country’s coca leaves the port. According to the Antinarcotics Police, in Nariño the Mexicans are sponsoring the planting. In addition, they install the infrastructure for processing the coca leaves. That is where they have their own plantations, the ones that Attorney General Martínez mentioned.
Anny Castillo, the City Clerk in Tumaco, the new capital of coca with 23,000 hectares planted, says that in the towns and neighborhoods, many people say they have seen the Mexicans and that they are pushy.
“But the Armed Forces have never addressed the subject”, says that [official], whose municipality was militarized three weeks ago.
The Attorney General’s Office and the Antinarcotics Police have information that indicates that the Mexicans have sent chemical experts to several municipalities in Cauca to verify the quality of the product. As far as they know, there are several contested claims by their partners in the Clan del Golfo, the criminal gang of “La Constru”, and the dissidents of the FARC, because they are coming in with an inferior level of purity, caused by the continual seizures that have hit the “stocks” of the Colombian mafia.
In Cali the Mexican mafia has also been detected. A week ago, El TIEMPO warned of their presence in the area and their attempt to slip into the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) paying huge sums for membership in the FARC, [which] DEA agents are investigating.
“In Cali they are negotiating for the embarkations that are sent out of the port of Buenaventura, and they are acquiring and supervising property they use for money laundering”, states a report by the Antinarcotics Police.
Intelligence officials have also detected the Mexicans in Meta, Guaviare, and Vichada, where they are directly coordinating the production of coca base and of cocaine chloral hydrate, which they later send to storage areas in Cundinamarca.
Their influence even reaches to Catatumbo (Norte de Santander department). In that area, according to the Attorney General’s Office, the Mexicans are sponsoring the installation of infrastructure in order to speed up coca production. They are allied with the criminal gang “Los Pelusos”.
Added to this intelligence report is the early alert sent out by the Public Defender, which reports that the Mexicans are sponsoring criminal gangs such as “los JJ”, operating in Tierralta, the municipality in Córdoba department that concentrates the majority of the 2,668 narco-hectares in that province.
The group is settled in the Paramillo Massif, a corridor where the roads to Urabá, Córdoba and Lower Cauca all cross, all of which used to be the stamping ground of the paramilitaries.
Forty-eight hours ago, the investigator and analyst Fernando Quijano complained of death threats because he had talked about the growing presence of the Mexican mafia in that area and in Medellín.
To counteract the arrival of the Mexicans, the bloodiest and most violent of cartels, the Attorney General’s Office has put together a permanent exchange of information with the governments of Mexico and the United States. In addition, it alerted the Foreign Ministry, so that they could take measures to control the migration of Mexican citizens, into Colombia, which has shot up more than 30 percent in recent years.
Colombia’s Director of Immigration, Christian Kruger, pointed out that there has been an information exchange with Mexico on immigration since 2014, which gives warning, in real time, of the entrance of subjects with active criminal records. In addition, he states that in 2017 he presided over a summit in Mexico with police and immigration authorities in order to adopt measures that could slow the criminal advances that have the United States, Mexico, and Colombia on the alert.
“The Sinaloa Cartel now has six offices in Colombia”
A National Police informant insists that the powerful Sinaloa cartel has already established offices in Tumaco, Cali, Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Cartagena, and Medellín in order to control the plantings and shipments of Colombian coca.
They are tired of having some of the local narcos stealing from them and failing to make shipments already paid for. Besides that, the Mexicans are taking advantage of the power vacuum that exists in the Colombian mafia. Besides the “Envigado Office”, the only big system, the Clan del Golfo, is warring internally, and others are in the process of submitting to them,” the informant told EL TIEMPO.
And he added that Sinaloa coordinates drug shipments through the ports of Santa Marta and Barranquilla from its offices in Medellín and Cartagena. They also take the drugs out on the so-called “black flights” that leave from clandestine airfields and “white flights” that transit from official airports, in private planes and executive charters.
“Up to five people work in each one of the offices, and they communicate with encrypted telephones with the PGP program. One of those emissaries is sent to the laboratories to make sure that the cocaine achieves 99 percent purity and can be converted to HH. Another one takes charge of managing the cash and they pay up to five million dollars per shipment. The rest of them coordinate the logistics and the bribes”, he explained.
And he added that it isn’t difficult to detect their presence: “They go around in armored SUV’s and have parties with electronic music that last for two days in Cartagena, Santa Marta, Barranquilla, and San Andrés. In Medellín they hang out in restaurants, with women. They are very notorious and violent. In that they beat out the Colombian mafiosos.”