Recent US sanctions against an alleged Jalisco cartel operator reveal the powerful Mexican group is using Puerto Vallarta to launder drug proceeds in nightclubs, bars and restaurants.
The US Treasury Department accused Sergio Armando Orozco Rodríguez, alias “Chocho”, of having ties to senior members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) through an announcement on February 17. Treasury officials claimed that Orozco Rodríguez had several businesses in Puerto Vallarta, where he would launder money for the cartel and direct his extortion networks to the coastal destination.
Any new business in Puerto Vallarta had to obtain unofficial permission from Orozco Rodríguez to open and also had to pay regular “fees” to the CJNG, according to the Treasury Department.
“People like Sergio Armando Orozco Rodríguez are helping the CJNG infiltrate Puerto Vallarta’s economy and intimidate legitimate businesses,” Undersecretary of the Treasury Brian E. Nelson said in the statement.
“The cartel uses this well-known tourist destination as a strategic stronghold not only for drug trafficking but also for money laundering, extortion, kidnapping and murder,” he added.
Orozco Rodríguez is the fourth CJNG member from Puerto Vallarta to be blacklisted by the Treasury Department in recent years.
In April 2021, Treasury officials accused Francisco Javier Gudiño Haro and Carlos Andrés Rivera Varela of being part of the Puerto Vallarta group of hitmen who work for the CJNG. The Treasury Department said in its statement that the men “helped coordinate killings with large caliber weapons on behalf of the CJNG,” referring to the high-profile killing of former Jalisco state governor Aristóteles. Sandoval, in December 2020 in Puerto Vallarta.
Gonzalo Mendoza Gaytán, aka “El Sapo,” also received sanctions in 2019. Treasury officials described him as a high-ranking member of the CJNG, leading the group in Puerto Vallarta.
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With each new blacklist, the importance of the fate of the beaches for CJNG’s operations becomes clearer, especially with regard to the trafficking of synthetic drugs.
Unlike other major tourist destinations in the country, the CJNG appears to have control of Puerto Vallarta, the group’s stronghold in the state of Jalisco, from where its members derive income from extortion, money laundering and human trafficking.
The CJNG also plays a major role in smuggling the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl into the United States. Puerto Vallarta is considered a critical node in this supply chain, as it receives shipments of precursor chemicals and fentanyl analogues from China.
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