Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Extortion in Mexico: one way it’s done
Like most cities, Monterrey has entertainment districts filled with bars, restaurants, casinos and night clubs. There are almost 7,000 establishments in the city licensed to sell alcoholic beverages. In early 2010 the drug cartel Los Zetas, which security experts say controls organized crime in Monterrey, began demanding that such establishments sell their products right on the premises, principally marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine. In return, the businesses were promised "protection." The cartel extortionists weren't interested in the customary derecho de piso, or weekly "floor charge," just that their merchandise be sold on site.
Word of what was happening spread quickly. Some (usually smaller) owners who didn't want to play the role of drug retailers for Los Zetas quietly closed their doors. Customers were scared off by news of the changing complexion of such venues, and by the presence of new, unsavory patrons who were passing through in search of narcotics (rather than a beer or cocktail). The result was a significant loss of business in establishments – up to 90% in some places. Many bars, clubs and cafes closed their doors. Entire sections of town deteriorated within months.
The rapid exit of legitimate businessmen gave Los Zetas an opportunity to get in on the ground floor. They began purchasing or investing in places abandoned by original owners and operators. Most of the latter say it could not have happened without cooperation from local police, who are often in bed with the cartels. Now the joints' new owners offer customers booze and dope. A very different type of clientele hangs out in such places under the new management.
And what happens when a business refuses to comply with an extortion demand? The same thing that happened to Monterrey’s Casino Royale on August 25. Torched by Zeta arsonists in the middle of the afternoon, 52 employees and customers– mainly women, and in the case of the customers, mainly over 60 – burned or suffocated to death in minutes. Monterrey Casino Attack Leaves 52 Dead.
at 7:55 PM