Mexican Cartels Broaden Portfolios: First The Cocaine, Then The Tortillas


Mexican drug cartels continue to dominate the trafficking of narcotics both south of the U.S. border and throughout the United States, but the powerful and dangerous criminal organizations are now impacting other businesses in their home country, including those producing a culinary staple.

The cartels have gained more political clout by extorting money from a variety of locally owned businesses, including about 15% of the country’s tortillerías, the National Tortilla Council confirmed to The Washington Post.

The shakedown of about 20,000 neighborhood storefront tortilla businesses is part of an operation by the cartels that are also taking cash from local fishermen, chicken vendors, trucking companies, lumber operations and other businesses, the Post reported.

What has resulted is large, organized crime groups traditionally known for trafficking heroin, cocaine and other synthetic drugs like fentanyl taking control of how these companies operate. Among those hardest hit are those making tortillas by hand to feed the demand for the product throughout Mexico.

“We’re practically at the point where criminals set the price of tortillas,” Homero López, who runs the National Tortilla Council, told the Post.

The National Tortilla Council reported this month that the price of tortillas has surged nearly 61% in Mexico due to rising costs, inflation and widespread insecurity.

The cartel extortion operation comes at a time when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency recently announced Mexican drug cartels are not only present in all 50 U.S. states but have done away with their drug trafficking competition.

But across Mexico, the cartels are setting the price of goods for local businesses, including many of the tortilla shops, the newspaper reported. Officials told the Post that tortilla shops that refuse to pay the money cartels demand from them are either set on fire or shot at.

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