Quantcast
Connect with us

Mexico’s Zetas drug cartel strikes gold in the coal business

Published

on

They may be known for flashy cars and state of the art weaponry, but Mexican druglords have found an earthy new source of wealth: dirty old coal.

They are mining it themselves in a coal-rich area along the US border or buying it from small mine operators, then reselling it to a state-owned company at fabulous margins that can see them make a profit 30 times greater than their initial investment.

Along the way, besides the earth’s black bounty, the druglords are seeking to reap credibility as legitimate business people.

First word of the Zetas drug cartel’s presence in mining-heavy Coahuila state came in October from a former governor, Humberto Moreira, who blamed the notoriously violent group for his son’s death.

The Mexican Mining Association says Mexico produces 15 million tonnes of coal a year, worth $3.8 billion. About 95 percent of it comes from Coahuila.

Reforma newspaper says the Zetas produce or buy 10,000 tonnes of coal a week. Selling it at their inflated prices, that means yearly revenue of $22 million to $25 million.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Zetas were created for former Mexican military special forces operatives who worked for the Gulf cartel. But they broke away from that group to control lucrative drug trafficking routes to the United States and engage in other crimes such as extortion, people trafficking and fuel theft.

“The Zetas are the first Mexican cartel to diversify from drugs into other areas,” said Tomas Borges, author of a book on the cartels.

Zetas leader Heriberto Lazcano was shot and killed by authorities October 7 in the coal mining town of Progreso. Hi body was later stolen by armed men.

Moreira says the drug lord had his own coal pit in the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

But the Zetas presence is not new. Raul Vera, bishop of Coahuila’s capital Saltillo, said drug traffickers have been digging coal for years and doing it in areas where it is illegal.

“It is an open secret that drug traffickers are infiltrating the coal mines. But since Moreira spoke out, we have seen police and military around and we know they arrested several people,” a coal industry businessman in Agujita said on condition of anonymity.

Highway 57 heading north to the United States runs through a dusty black area where piles of coal from small, precariously operated mines dot the landscape. Fatal accidents are common.

Trucks loaded with coal are stopped at checkpoints manned by soldiers looking for drug traffickers and drug shipments.

ADVERTISEMENT

Since the Zetas discovered coal, violence has been on the rise, especially in a town of 150,000 called Piedras Negras, or black stones.

For drug cartels, diversification is almost a natural evolution, said Antonio Mazzitelli of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

In Colombia, for instance, traffickers infiltrated gold and coal mines and also dealt in oil.

“Corruption is their main tool for doing business, and also violence, if necessary,” Mazzitelli said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Legitimate businesses help cartels launder money and bring in extra revenue, added Eduardo Salcedo, a Colombian who co-authored of a book on how drug cartels have reshaped Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.

Such business activities allow them not just to bring in more money “but above all gain social and political legitimacy,” Salcedo said.

Traffickers want to be able to “legalize their leaders and activities and join the formal economy, and be able to operate in society in a more relaxed way,” he explained.

But that quiet end does not always involve peaceful means.

ADVERTISEMENT

Traffickers sometimes kidnap, mug or even kill miners and their bosses, or force them into business-sharing agreements, said Salcedo.

In Coahuila, some companies without mines or employees have contracts with local coal industry promoter Prodemi, according to a researcher from a local organization founded by relatives of miners who died in a 2006 accident that claimed 65 lives.

“There are mines that have a capacity for 30,000 tonnes but have contracts for 150,000. What they are selling is not what they are producing,” added the researcher, who requested anonymity.

“They are buying it from a third party and that is where all these people come in, be they Zetas or not, legal or not, clandestine or not.”

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Facebook

Black Republican: Cops ‘treat their dogs better than they treat us’

Published

on

Black Republican political commentator Shermichael Singleton was part of a panel discussing the Phoenix police department that violently arrested the parents of a little girl who walked out of a dollar store with a doll.

The incident occurred months ago, but only now the footage is being released by police, revealing the way the family was treated.

Democratic strategist Joel Payne seemed appalled at the police in the video and the mark that likely left on the children who experienced it.

"I think about that young man talking about his child, and this is their first interaction with police," he said, noting Father's Day. "And that is the life, that's the life lesson that that child is being taught is that in that moment, that police officer was trying to hurt her and to hurt her parents. That's unacceptable."

Continue Reading

Facebook

US attacks Russia’s power grid — but Trump was kept in the dark about it

Published

on

The New York Times is reporting that the United States is cyber attacking Russia's electric power grid and other targets—and that President Donald Trump is being kept out of the loop.

"The American strategy has shifted more toward offense, officials say, with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before."

Trump has not been briefed on the operation because of “the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials.”

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Israel’s Netanyahu just christened a building named after Trump — that doesn’t even exist

Published

on

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spent his Father’s Day dedicating a new Trump Tower-type building that hasn't been built in a town that doesn't exist.

Standing in front of a large sign saying "Trump Heights," Netanyahu, who is being forced back into another election, announced the building before planning even began, Axios reported.

A great day on the Golan. PM Netanyahu and I had the honor to dedicate “Trump Heights” — first time Israel has dedicated a village in honor of a sitting president since Harry Truman (1949). Happy Birthday Mr. President!! @POTUS pic.twitter.com/fdYWzokFLK

Continue Reading
 
 

Copyright © 2019 Raw Story Media, Inc. PO Box 21050, Washington, D.C. 20009 | Masthead | Privacy Policy | For corrections or concerns, please email [email protected]

I need your help.

Investigating Trump's henchmen is a full time job, and I'm trying to bring in new team members to do more exclusive reports. We have more stories coming you'll love. Join me and help restore the power of hard-hitting progressive journalism.

TAKE A LOOK
close-link

Investigating Trump is a full-time job, and I want to add new team members to do more exclusive reports. We have stories coming you'll love. Join me and go ad-free, while restoring the power of hard-hitting progressive journalism.

TAKE A LOOK
close-link