US authorities have blacklisted two media outlets linked to the mysterious Mexico drug cartel Los Cuinis, an action that could finally throw this secretive criminal group into the spotlight.
In a December 16 press release, the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that prominent Mexican businessman Naim Libien Tella and local newspaper Unomasuno have been designated as "Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers" for their ties to Los Cuinis.
"Through its relationship with Naim Libien Tella, the Los Cuinis Drug Trafficking Organization has used the Mexican newspaper Unomasuno to further its drug trafficking activities," OFAC Director John E. Smith said.
Libien Tella is the vice president of Unomasuno and has had a "long relationship" with Los Cuinis' leader Abigael Gonzalez Valencia, the press release stated. Gonzalez Valencia, who was captured by Mexican authorities in February, allegedly granted Libien Tella power-of-attorney over his Guadalajara-based investment group Valgo Grupo Inversion.
OFAC also sanctioned Valgo Grupo Inversion, Mexican newspaper Diario Amanecer and airline Aerolineas Amanecer, all of which are either owned or controlled by Libien Tella.
As a result of these actions, US citizens are generally prohibited from doing business with Libien Tella and the implicated companies, and any of the sanctioned entities' assets under US jurisdiction will be frozen.
OFAC chart of Los Cuinis' connection with Libien Tella and sanctioned businesses
InSight Crime Analysis
Los Cuinis' low profile doesn't match their reported drug trafficking capabilities. In August, OFAC Director John E. Smith called Los Cuinis "one of the most powerful and violent drug cartels in Mexico." The group is also closely allied with the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG), perhaps the fastest rising criminal group in the country.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Jalisco Cartel
Despite their drug trafficking networks and powerful allies, Los Cuinis have largely managed to stay out of the media spotlight. OFAC's sanctioning of Libien Tella could change that.
As El Daily Post reported, Libien Tella is part of a wealthy and politcally influential family. His uncle, Miled Libien, owns one of Mexico States' largest media groups, Grupo Miled, and is a strong supporter of Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto. The media will likely hone in on any connection between Mexican elites and drug traffickers, which would draw increased attention to Los Cuinis.
US authorities have certainly set their sights on Los Cuinis. This is the third time this year Treasury has sanctioned Los Cuinis; US authorities first placed the group on its "Kingpin" list in April alongside the CJNG, and in August over 20 businesses and individuals who allegedly provided financial support to the group were also added to the list.