Five Colombians were found dead in Veracruz, Mexico, in what initially appeared to be an organized crime-style killing, although one theory holds that they were targeted for participating in a loan collection scheme.
On November 22, Colombian officials confirmed five bodies found by Mexican authorities had been positively identified as Colombian nationals, reported El Espectador. The bodies were discovered on November 17 near a farm in Puente Nacional municipality, located in the Mexican state of Veracruz.
Information obtained by investigators suggest the men were engaged in business that was "probably" illegal, and were active in the city of Cordoba, reported El Espectador.
Previously reported missing, the five last had contact with their families in Colombia on November 11, reported El Tiempo.
InSight Crime Analysis
It remains unclear why these Colombians were in Mexico, much less why they were murdered, and by whom. Given the history and dynamics of Latin America's regional drug trade, the criminal economies of Colombia and Mexico are inextricably linked, creating numerous possibilities for what these men were doing in Mexico.
SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles
According to El Tiempo, however, the five men were possibly involved in informal loan sharking schemes, and may have been debt collectors. This theory is not without precedent, with recent evidence suggesting Colombian loan sharks are expanding operations throughout Latin America. In this practice -- known as "gota a gota" or "drop by drop" -- creditors offer high-interest loans to poor and working class people with little or no access to formal banking services. A debtor’s inability to repay creditors can lead to violence, even death.
While Mexico has seen security improvements in recent years, the modus operandi of criminal groups like the Zetas and the Guerreros Unidos remains heavily focused around controlling gang territory. Imposing exclusive control over specific areas is what allows the gangs to collect the payments -- known as "piso" -- from migrants, businesses, multinationals, and so on. This emphasis on territorial control might explain why an armed group in Mexico may have reacted so aggressively to the presence of foreign loan sharkers.