Recent US sanctions against an alleged Jalisco Cartel operative have revealed that the powerful Mexican group is using the resort town of Puerto Vallarta to process drug cash through nightclubs, bars and restaurants.
The US Treasury Department accused Sergio Armando Orozco Rodríguez, alias "Chocho," of having links to senior members of the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación - CJNG) in a February 17 announcement. Treasury officials said that Orozco Rodríguez has multiple businesses in Puerto Vallarta, where he is alleged to launder money for the cartel and run its extortion rackets in the western beach destination.
New businesses were required to get "unofficial permission" from Orozco Rodríguez to open and pay regular fees to the CJNG, according to the Treasury Department.
“Individuals like Sergio Armando Orozco Rodriguez help CJNG infiltrate the economy of Puerto Vallarta and intimidate legitimate businesses,” Treasury Under Secretary Brian E. Nelson said in the statement.
“The cartel uses this renowned tourist destination as a strategic stronghold not only for drug trafficking but also money laundering, extortion, kidnappings and assassinations," he added.
InSight Crime Analysis
Orozco Rodriguez is the fourth CJNG member out of Puerto Vallarta in recent years to make it onto the Treasury Department's blacklist.
In April 2021, Treasury officials accused Francisco Javier Gudino Haro and Carlos Andres Rivera Varela of being alleged members of a CJNG enforcement group based in Puerto Vallarta. The Treasury Department said in its statement that the men "helped orchestrate assassinations using high-powered weaponry on behalf of CJNG," referring to the high-profile assassination of former Jalisco state governor Aristóteles Sandoval in December 2020 in Puerto Vallarta.
With each new blacklist, the beach resort's key role in the CJNG's operations becomes clearer, especially as it relates to the synthetic drug trade.
Unlike in other top tourist destinations in the country, the CJNG appears to have control of Puerto Vallarta, a CJNG stronghold in Jalisco state where its members extract revenues from extortion, money laundering and human trafficking.
The CJNG is also heavily involved in smuggling the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl to the United States. Puerto Vallarta is considered an integral node in that supply chain, receiving shipments of precursor chemicals and fentanyl analogs from China. The drugs are then moved north to the Mexican state of Baja California, where they are smuggled across the border into California and Arizona.