Revelations of links between Mennonite communities and cartels from Mexico have garnered international attention recently. Yet while the ties are nothing new, details of the connection point to an evolving relationship.
The latest development came on April 25 when Jacob Fehr, a member of Mexico’s Mennonite community who had relocated to Canada, was sentenced to seven years in prison for trafficking cocaine, reported CBC News. Fehr was reportedly making his third trip from Chihuahua, Mexico, to Alberta, Canada for a cartel when he was caught with two kilos of the drug in his car.
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Canadian authorities have expressed concern over the links, while a Drugs Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent warned of the danger of cartel violence spreading to Canada as a result.
InSight Crime Analysis
Reports of Mennonites — a pacifist Christian group that began relocating from the United States and Canada to Mexico in the early 1900s — working with Mexican cartels date back to the 1980s, when members of Mexico’s Mennonite community began trafficking marijuana inside cheese, furniture and the tires of vehicles headed to Canada. Over the next six years, US and Canadian officials arrested dozens of Mennonites for their involvement in drug trafficking and in the mid-1990s marijuana farms were discovered on Mennonite territory in Mexico.
In 2013, six Mennonites with ties to the Juarez Cartel were charged with drug trafficking for attempting to bring marijuana to the United States and cocaine to Canada. They were reportedly part of a larger operation that included three Mennonites arrested in 2012 for similar charges. Mennonite communities in Belize have also been accused of building clandestine airstrips for cartels in this country.
Whereas most of the reports of Mennonites trafficking drugs in the 1990s involved marijuana, recent cases suggest a shift towards transporting cocaine. Due to the geographic distance and number of border crossings between Mexico and Canada, a kilo of cocaine fetches at least twice as much in Canada as it does in the United States.
Fears of cartel violence overspill stem from a 2010 drug dispute in Alberta that resulted in a fatal shooting. Although both the shooter and the victim were Mexican nationals, the crime occurred on Canadian soil and was tied to a Mennonite group in southern Alberta. While Isolated incidents of cartel violence in the United States and Canada are not unheard of, widespread bloodletting remains extremely unlikely.