Colombian Loan Sharks in Mexico Enjoy Major Cartel Protection

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A new report says that some of Mexico’s most powerful criminal organizations are overseeing loan sharking schemes headed by Colombian nationals throughout the country, providing further evidence that such groups are seeking new revenue streams outside of their traditional strongholds.

Investigations carried out by authorities in Mexico City determined that eight criminal groups act as the main protectors of more than 1,500 Colombians who overstayed their visas to operate loan sharking networks in the capital and across more than 20 of Mexico’s 31 states since 2015, Excelsior reported.

The Unión de Tepito, Familia Michoacana and the Fuerza Anti-Unión are among the local groups providing protection, while larger organizations like the Zetas and Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG) also oversee these operations, according to Excelsior.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Extortion

The loan sharks utilize the so-called “gota a gota,” or “drop by drop” method, where they offer loans at high interest rates to small business owners and street vendors, and then extort those who cannot pay, according to Claudia Sheinbaum, the head of government in Mexico City.

First, these organizations verbally offer a 20 percent interest rate. However, that interest rate goes up to 50 percent four weeks later. The victims are threatened, robbed and sometimes even attacked if they cannot pay. In some cases, active police officers have also been identified as participating in these schemes.

In one specific sector of Mexico City behind the National Palace, street vendors are often victimized and forced to pay between 1,000 and 2,000 Mexican pesos per day (between around $50 and $100), according to Excelsior.

InSight Crime Analysis

The latest revelations about the dynamics of loan sharking networks operating in Mexico provide further evidence that some of the country’s most powerful criminal organizations are diversifying their operations and seeking new revenue streams.

For starters, this is a very low-risk endeavor. Mexico’s criminal groups seem happy to allow Colombians to come in and run these types of schemes so long as they receive a cut of the profits. If authorities intervene, their hands are clean because they haven’t personally extorted anyone on the street.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

This isn’t the only indication that Mexico’s dominant criminal actors are seeking new revenue streams as traditional income sources like the marijuana and heroin trades have been greatly diminished by legalization and synthetic opioids recently.

Indeed, outside of loan sharking, the CJNG is also reportedly supporting the Tobacco Cartel (Cártel del Tabaco), a new group formed in late 2017 that strong-arms vendors into selling homegrown cigarette brands across at least eight Mexican states. The country’s most dominant criminal group is also in charge of overseeing a number of smaller groups involved in the lucrative oil theft business, a billion dollar industry that has sparked brutal battles between competing organizations.

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