Four butchers were killed at this market in 2016

Criminal groups are coercing butchers at a food market in western Mexico to buy meat from them at elevated prices and are killing those who do not comply, a new report finds, illustrating one of the many ways predatory crime hinders economic activity in Latin America. 

Criminal groups supply most of the 60,000 kilos of meat sold every week at a market in the city of Chilpancingo, Guerrero, according to a report by El Universal. The criminal groups buy the meat at 50 Mexican pesos per kilogram and sell it to the market's butchers for 60 pesos per kilogram, for earnings of 600,000 pesos (roughly $32,000) each week. 

One of the butchers told El Universal that competitors offer lower prices than the criminal groups, but that buying from a competitor carries the risk of violent reprisals. Four butchers were killed in the past year alone, according to El Universal. Two vendors who worked at the market were also killed last year. 

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

Most vendors close their shops by 4 p.m., before it gets dark. They would normally stay open until 8 p.m., according to El Universal, but they fear more attacks, and few customers are willing to shop at the market during the evening. 

InSight Crime Analysis

This disruption of the marketplace is common across much of the region. In 2013, Mexico's then-Secretary of Health, Mercedes Juan López, said crime costs the country up to 15 percent of its annual GDP; in Honduras, that number was estimated to be 10 percent in 2012. The World Bank has identified high levels of violence as one of the major risks to economic growth in the region. 

Of course, organized criminal activity can also spur growth. Several billions of dollars in drug profits are laundered through legitimate businesses in Mexico every year, sparking investment and economic activity. Panama has also benefited economically from lax banking regulations that for years enabled Colombian drug traffickers to stash their illicit profits in secrecy. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Extortion

But predatory criminal activity undermines economies, and extortion is chief among them. A business association in El Salvador estimated that an average of two small businesses close per week because of extortion, which the International Crisis Group recently called the "lifeblood" of the country's street gangs. A 2015 report by Honduran newspaper La Prensa found that Central America's Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala pay over $660 million every year in extortion fees.

But the use and threat of violence is not a prerequisite for having a damaging effect on the economy. Contraband smuggling is a multi-billion dollar a year industry in countries ranging from Guatemala to Paraguay. And earlier this year, watchdog groups in Brazil said contraband cost the country an astounding $41 billion in lost tax revenue and private sector losses in 2016. 

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...