Authorities are investigating the appearance of two banners in Mexico City announcing the arrival of a powerful drug cartel in the capital, long considered a safe haven from the country’s notorious criminal organizations.
The narcomantas, or narco signs, were found hanging from a pedestrian overpass earlier this week on Periférico Sur, the city’s outer ring road, in the borough of Álvaro Obregón.
“To all of the population, we are the Jalisco New Generation Cartel. We hereby inform you that we have arrived and that the fight it will provoke is not against civilians . . .” one sign read.
The banner went on to say that instead it would target a Mexico City-based criminal organization it called “the ‘H’ Cartel” as well as authorities that support it, explicitly naming police from a city government drug investigation agency as well as Federal Police.
But the National Security Commissioner is skeptical that the banners serve as evidence that the cartel they purport to be from has really arrived in Mexico City.
“Until now, we know that there is an organized crime group in Tláhuac but we have no indications of the operational presence of another group,” Renato Sales told a press conference yesterday.
He added that if any other cartel was detected in Mexico City, the information would be made public immediately.
The mayor of Mexico City agreed with the commissioner’s assessment, adding that he had asked federal Interior Secretary Alfonso Navarrete if there was any evidence or concern that another cartel was operating in the capital.
“He expressly told me no,” Miguel Ángel Mancera said.
The mayor explained that the only part of Mexico City where federal authorities are carrying out intelligence work related to drug trafficking is in the southern borough of Tláhuac.
In July last year, a joint operation between marines and federal and local police against the Tláhuac Cartel resulted in the deaths of several sicarios, or hitmen, as well as the alleged gang leader known by the alias “El Ojos.”
Narco-blockades made an unprecedented appearance in Mexico City during the showdown.
Despite denying the presence of other cartels, Mancera said that city authorities are taking the banners seriously and would fully investigate their appearance in conjunction with federal authorities.
He also conceded that it cannot be ruled out that there are people in Mexico City who are linked to organized crime because cartel financial operators have been arrested in the capital before.
In addition, a 2017 city government report said that in January last year there were 20,000 places where drugs are bought and sold in Mexico City.
Authorities are also investigating another narcomanta that was found in the northern borough of Azcapotzalco last month. That sign was directed at investigative police at the city’s drug investigation agency who, according to the banner, are involved in extortion, bribery and abuse.
In contrast to Sales and Mancera, some non-government security observers argue that other cartels have almost certainly already infiltrated the capital.
“We have insisted that it is unlikely that organized crime groups are not operating in the city. If the Mexico City International Airport is one of the main entry points for weapons, drugs and other contraband, it’s barely credible that there is no control by a bigger group . . .” said Francisco Rivas, the director of the National Citizens’ Observatory.
A security specialist and former official at the Mexico City Secretariat of Public Security said the narcomantas have similar characteristics to those seen in other parts of the country.
“. . . It’s feasible that the capital is already immersed in a drug selling turf war,” Gabriel Regino said.
Their argument is backed up by a report from the Federal Police, which warned in 2011 that seven drug cartels as well as a cell of the notorious Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13 gang, were operating in areas that together covered all of the capital’s 16 boroughs.
The 2011 report said that criminal organizations including La Familia Michoacana, the Sinaloa Cartel, the South Pacific Cartel and Los Zetas were involved in crime in the capital including homicides, violent robberies, kidnappings, extortion and drug production and distribution.
A report completed by the federal Attorney General’s office in December adds further weight to the argument that large cartels are likely operating in the capital.
It said that La Familia Michoacana was operating in the states of México and Morelos — both of which border Mexico City — as well as the nearby southern state of Guerrero.