Mexico's drug cartels target migrants as they expand into extortion


Marina E. Franco, Noticias Telemundo

via Axios - Oct 5, 2021


Kidnapping families, torturing kids for information on whom to ask for ransom, and dismembering those that don’t pay: This is how cartels and local gangs operate as they have diversified their business from drug trafficking to extortion.


Why it matters: The stories of survivors show the dire straits migrants face in their journey to the U.S., the one place they think can be a safe haven from the violence, climate disasters, political persecution and poverty that made them leave their place of birth.


·         As more people attempt crossings or get stranded from express deportations and quickly rejected asylum claims, the cartels and coyotes are profiting.


How it works: The kidnappings happen both before attempted crossings to the U.S. and after expulsions from the border, according to Noticias Telemundo Investiga interviews with dozens of people who were released.


·         There are “hawks," or cartel spies, in bus and taxi stations and sometimes even in migrant shelters run by NGOs. They ID possible targets.

·         Once people are kidnapped, often forced onto cars at gunpoint, they are told to hand over their cellphones. If they’re not unlocked, their owners are threatened with having a finger chopped off.

·         The abductors use the phones to extort funds from victims’ family members, first threatening beatings or rape, and then sending photographs of the victims after those threats are carried out.


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