In another sign of the proliferation of the use of violence and intimidation in Mexico, informal money lenders in the embattled state of Michoacán are turning to local enforcers to make debtors turn over their homes.
The State Attorney General's Office in Michoacán has released details about a network of organized crime affiliates contracted by local money lenders to kidnap debtors and subsequently force them to turn over their homes and properties as payment, reported El Universal. State authorities have secured seven properties that were illegally taken in 2011, as a means of payment on behalf of loan sharks.
"These are properties that were taken from their legitimate owners, who were kidnapped and forced to cede the properties as payment for a debt," said a representative of the State Attorney General's Office to El Universal.
Authorities have not named the organized crime group or groups responsible for carrying out the contracted kidnappings and confiscation of property, nor have they indicated whether any arrests have been made. The investigation is ongoing.
El Universal noted in its report that authorities elsewhere in the country are dealing with similar cases, including in the Yucatán, which has seen a spike in express kidnappings in recent weeks suspected of being connected to illegal loan operations.
InSight Crime Analysis
Michoacán has been plagued by security troubles for years now and is still reeling from extended confrontations between those who call themselves "self-defense" groups and organized crime, a complicated mix of diverse non-state actors. At least a few of these actors have turned to loan sharking operations or, at the very least, working as enforcers for loan sharks.
In part, this can be explained as a natural biproduct of the fragmentation of organized crime in Mexico. Mexico's monolithic criminal organizations have been shattered in recent years. What's left is contract labor, a vibrant black market for weapons and a criminal wherewithal that includes understanding how to employ violence and intimidation.
Regionally, loan sharking has also become a popular way for organized crime networks to put illicit funds into circulation. Such operations often rely on violent enforcement tactics, in turn generating larger security concerns and higher homicide rates.
Authorities in Cali, Colombia, for instance, recently estimated that as many as 10 percent of the city's homicides can be linked to illegal money lending operations.