Coal Baron With Suspected Narco Ties Killed in Mexico

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The assassination of a business leader in Mexico’s coal mining industry — who had been accused of ties to the Zetas criminal group — is a reminder of the links between mining and organized crime in Latin America.

On October 31, Jose Reynold Bermea Castilla, the owner of a coal mining company in the border state of Coahuila, was killed by a lone assassin near his home, reported El Financiero.

Bermea Castilla was suspected by the authorities of using his mining business to launder money for the former head of the Zetas, Miguel Treviño, alias “Z-40.” The mine owner was arrested in 2012 on charges of illegally possessing military-grade weapons, but was freed months later.

Little information has been released regarding the circumstances of the killing. However, authorities said that it was an isolated case and that they would not increase security measures in the area, according to Zocalo.

InSight Crime Analysis

Bermea Castilla’s murder points to the relationship between the mining industry and organized crime in Mexico. The country’s mining industry is attractive for drug trafficking groups, in part because it is generally under lax state regulation and is considered an easy way to launder money.

This dynamic has been seen for some time in Mexico. In 2012, former Coahuila Governor Humberto Moreira claimed that Zetas leader Heriberto “Z-3” Lazcano had run mining operations in the state. In early 2013, the federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) froze the accounts of 12 mining companies as authorities investigated them for ties to drug trafficking groups.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Mining

The intersection between mining and organized crime is not unique to Mexico. The amount of money laundered through illegal gold mining in Peru reportedly rose by 50 percent from mid-2012 to early 2014. In Colombia, the lucrative emerald industry — including the sector’s now-dead top tycoon, Victor Carranza — has long been linked to drug trafficking groups.

While some of those in the mining sector may collaborate in laundering the profits of drug traffickers, criminal groups in Mexico have also turned to robbing mining companies as a way to supplement their income. In early 2014, a mining industry representative said that some mining companies had begun transporting products and personnel by air due to a growing number of robberies by criminal groups. 

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