Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cancún Zetas extort even street vendors, and run sex trade, too - with INM help

A Dodge City brew of Zetas, cabbies, imported prostitutes and corrupt INM agents

Cancún, Quintana Roo-
I've reported before on the extreme micro-control which the Los Zetas drug cartel exercises over every aspect of the local economy in this Riviera Maya gateway. Everybody here has to pay the derecho de piso -- also known as the floor charge, or sometimes just the rent. It's so bad that some businessmen have asked that city policing be turned over to federal troops, just as it was in body-strewn Veracruz last year (Mexico's Riviera Maya in the hands of drug cartels and extortionists).

But now a local paper, Por Esto, reports that even street vendors must pay the tax. We're talking about people who sell tacos or refrescos or images of la Virgen de Guadalupe on street corners. There are about 500 such licensed vendors in the hotel zone alone, and occasional unlicensed entrepreneurs who sell on the sly from time to time. The tax man collects from all of them, says Por Esto, but he never issues a factura to any.

An average weekly extortion fee against these petty vendors is $500 pesos - about $40 USD. The local Zeta manager may "let them ride" for 30 days or so - $40 is more to many of these people than might be imagined - but by the second month he'll come calling. Por Esto reports that the most hard-hit group has been the "Marias," indigenous women from Chiapas state and other rural provinces who subsist by selling clothing and petty trinkets on the street.

Speaking of women and streets, the paper has been reporting in recent days on Cancún's flourishing sex trade. Prostitutes are everywhere, it says, delivering to all the hotels, or for those who prefer to partake of such services off-site, in massage parlors and clandestine sites all over town, which may not be safe (Los Pelones strike again in Riviera Maya).

Por Esto says many Cancún prostitutes are Brazilians, Argentines and (surprisingly to me) Germans. Who would have guessed . . . but maybe they fear the imminent collapse of the euro. In any case, the paper claims that crooked agents of Mexico's immigration authority, INM (Instituto Nacional de Migración) work with corrupt tourist police to ensure that these women of the evening don't encounter labor permit-related problems. It's certainly not the first time such allegations have been leveled against the federal agency. Here in Mérida, in 2009, the head of the regional INM delegation was busted for links to a local prostitution ring which operated in a very good neighborhood. He was allowed to resign, but the madame of the establishment was sentenced to a decade in prison last year (Will trail in Argentine prostitution ring case once again lead to Mexico's INM?).

Cancún taxi drivers play a key role in the flesh trade. They hand out flyers, brochures and business cards to anybody who looks like he might have the slightest interest in pursuing some R&R. For every prostitution client delivered by a cabbie, Los Zets pay $200 to $500 pesos. Not bad, when added to the client's own tip to the driver. Such is life for taxistas.

June 5 - "Full service" gay sex can be had on the streets of Cancún for 500 pesos (about $35 USD), according to a local news service today. But as with every other commercial enterprise in town, Los Zetas run that business, too. Gays who work the streets must in return peddle narcotics for the Zetas (and of course, make sure that the proceeds get turned in each night). If a gay sexoservidor doesn't want to sell drugs while he's busy turning tricks, he has the option of paying the derecho de piso like everybody else does. But it may run up to 700 pesos per evening, or almost 5,000 pesos in a week ($350 USD). That's a lot of dough in Mexico. Criminales, tras red de sexoservidores.

Aug. 7 - Street drug sales are on the rise in the heart of Cancún, known as the "party center." In one neighborhood, including busy Yaxchilán avenue, police say there are at least 1,500 tienditas - little retail outlets. Drug prices are up 10-15%in the hotel zone. A 100 gram bag of marijuana averages 200 pesos ($16), and a gram of coke goes for 200-250 pesos (up to $20). But those prices are peanuts compared to the street price in the U.S. -- the result of unlimited supply and lax law enforcement, no doubt. Another reason why Quintana Roo is such a popular place with visitors from afar.

Aug. 20 - The Los Zetas spy network in Cancún is operated with and through local taxi services. The purpose and function of these hired or impressed-into-service halcones is to keep track of police and military movements in the city, especially in and near the sprawling hotel zone, where Zeta street distributors are constantly peddling drugs to visitors. A local paper has been filled with articles of late, claiming that 90% of taxi drivers are involved with the Zetas on some level, transporting functionaries from one place to another, keeping alert and passing along information, etc. Here's just one of many.

Aug. 27: Zeta extortionist arrested after demanding 40,000 pesos ($3,100) a month from "Pushy Cats," a Playa del Carmen nightclub.

Nov. 19 - Cocaine and marijuana are the most popular drugs with Cancún and Playa del Carmen waiters, bartenders and private security guards who work in tourist establishments. Both are readily available on the street, 24/7.

Mar. 19, 2013 - Expanding Gulf Cartel likely behind three recent Riviera Maya atrocities

Prostitución y delincuencia unidas:

Crimen arrasa con el gremio taxista:
Los Zetas, al mando del sindicato de taxistas:
Sindicato de taxistas, fuera de control:
Taxistas, peones del crimen organizado:

Life sentence for Mexican extortionists:
Argentine woman implicates her father with Los Zetas and crooked INM agents:
Argentine woman prepares to tell all in prostitution and human trafficking ring:
Human trafficking in the Yucatán peninsula:

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