US steps up sanctions on powerful Mexican cartel
Relatives accompany the coffin of the former governor of Jalisco state, Aristoteles Sandoval, after he was killed in December 2020 at a Puerto Vallarta restaurant in an operation blamed on the powerful Cartel to Jalisco Nueva Generacion(AFP)

US President Joe Biden's administration on Tuesday expanded sanctions on a powerful Mexican drug cartel, stepping up pressure as its violent campaign prompts growing concern.

The Treasury Department blocked any US assets and criminalized transactions with three people affiliated with Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion, which was suspected in the brazen assassination in December of a former governor at a tourist restaurant in Puerto Vallarta.

The cartel "is a major contributor to the illicit drugs, including fentanyl, flooding the United States," said Andrea Gacki, head of the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

"Treasury will continue working with its partner US government agencies to disrupt and dismantle this cartel."

The designated individuals included Carlos Andres Rivera Varela, a Colombian native living in Mexico, and Francisco Javier Gudino Haro who were accused by the Treasury Department of orchestrating assassinations and amassing weapons.

The Treasury Department also targeted a travel agent said to be arranging trips for the cartel, which according to the Mexican government has amassed a $50 billion fortune and developed networks around the world.

Biden has been sparing in imposing new sanctions as he looks to review one of the favorite tools of his predecessor Donald Trump.

Concerns have grown about violence in Mexico as well as Central America as Biden faces political heat over a wave of undocumented migrants seeking to enter the United States.

The number two of Jalisco Nueva Generacion was extradited to the United States in February and its leader, Nemesio "El Mencho" Oseguera, is one of the most wanted US fugitives, with a $10 million reward for his arrest.