HomeNewsBriefTijuana Architect Case Calls Attention to Unwilling Drug Cartel Mules
BRIEF

Tijuana Architect Case Calls Attention to Unwilling Drug Cartel Mules

MEXICO / 12 DEC 2012 BY ELYSSA PACHICO EN

A noted Tijuana architect received a lenient sentence for cocaine smuggling after authorities confirmed that he'd been forced to do so after being threatened by an unidentified client, highlighting the plight of unwilling drug mules in Mexico. 

The architect, Eugenio Velazquez, was sentenced to six months in prison, although the minimum mandatory sentence for smuggling a controlled substance into the US is 10 years. Velazquez was arrested in March after US border authorities found a nearly 13-pound shipment of cocaine in his vehicle at the San Ysidro border crossing in San Diego. 

A US federal judge issued the sentence after Velazquez's defense team was able corroborate assertions that he'd been forced at gunpoint into smuggling. According to Velazquez, a dual US-Mexico citizen who lives in San Diego, he was hired by a client to design a ranch outside of Tijuana. After the client demanded a $40,000 payment in return for providing Velazquez with security while crossing the border, the client threatened Velasquez and his family, saying that if he couldn't pay up, he would have to smuggle drugs into the US. 

Velazquez, who is known for designing Tijuana's Cultural Center, said he was "satisfied" with the judge's ruling.

InSight Crime Analysis

Velazquez, an upper-middle-class professional with a successful career, does not fit the profile of a typical drug mule. The impoverished and unemployed frequently turn to drug smuggling or other forms of crime in order to survive economically. 

Rather than economic need, there are other reasons why Velazquez's profile may have proved attractive to drug traffickers. He had a special permit that allowed him to cross the San Diego-Tijuana border rapidly. And as Proceso notes, professionals fearful of putting themselves further at risk are more likely to plead guilty to federal drug charges in the US, rather than agreeing to collaborate with investigators and naming names. 

The Velazquez case calls attention to the forcible recruitment of unwilling drug smugglers by Mexican cartels. Migrants are frequently used to transport marijuana shipments across the US-Mexico border. Other victims have been used as forced labor. As documented in InSight Crime's special on human trafficking, these include young professionals and engineers used to work as communications technicians. 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

FEATURED / 2 JUL 2018

Voters in Mexico elected a new president who has promised to clean up a graft-ridden government and move the country…

EL CHAPO / 1 NOV 2011

The myths and rumors about fugitive Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin Guzman, alias 'El Chapo,' have reached the point where it…

MEXICO / 16 JUL 2013

The capture of the Zetas leader Miguel Treviño, alias Z-40, may mean more violence in the near term as his…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.