The recent discovery of drug tunnels underneath Mexico City's largest market reveals how criminal groups continue to compete to control a site that has long been a major hub of illicit activity.
An October 9 raid on the sprawling Central de Abasto market uncovered several tunnels used to transport drugs between warehouses.
Authorities also detained 17 people during a search of three properties and seized drugs -- including cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines -- 36 slot machines, one firearm, cash and several vehicles, according to a news release from Mexico City officials.
One group targeted in the raid was the Fuerza Anti-Unión. The gang reportedly installed 50 members in the market to control drug sales and extortion rackets, according to Milenio. Gang members are suspected of working with the powerful Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación - CJNG), which allegedly supplied them with weapons, according to local media reports.
Concerning the CJNG, city authorities stated Mexico's largest criminal group did not operate in the capital directly but had allied itself with “various criminal groups” at different times.
The raid was part of a year-long investigation, known as “Operation Zócalo,” that disrupted the criminal activities of 14 groups in Mexico City, according to a separate news release. More than 1,300 bank accounts were frozen as part of the operation, and some 400 suspects were arrested.
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Central de Abasto is home to thousands of businesses and is one of the world's largest markets. The massive commercial activity has made it a historic hub for contraband, micro-trafficking, money laundering, extortion, kidnapping and more.
InSight Crime Analysis
The raid seems to support recent evidence that the Fuerza Anti-Unión, potentially backed by CJNG allies, has made temporary gains in Central de Abasto. But a market of this size is unlikely to be controlled for long, or in its totality, by a single group.
Until relatively recently, another gang, La Unión Tepito, appeared to have been in control of part of the Central de Abasto market. In July 2020, Mexican authorities raided market shops believed to be used by La Unión Tepito to launder money.
Criminal economies thriving in the Central de Abasto are nothing new. In 2012, Mexican newspaper Reforma published an in-depth expose on massive theft, contraband and drug trafficking rings at the market, which included associates of the Beltran Leyva Organization.
The CJNG's presence in Mexico City, even if only supplying the Fuerza Anti-Unión, could alter criminal dynamics in the capital. As InSight Crime previously reported, the high-profile assassination attempt of Omar García Harfuch, Mexico City’s public security secretary, in June was likely a sign that the CJNG is trying to establish itself as a major player around Mexico City. If so, the city could face a rapid rise in violence, as seen in most parts of the country where the CJNG is trying to impose its authority.