Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Water, Honey, Beans And Beer: Cartels Deliver Food Supplies In Acapulco

"Sol Prendido" for Borderland Beat

Organized crime handouts have already appeared in the port. "Hunger doesn't ask whose side is it on," say victims. Experts warn of the risk of narco-loans, money laundering and medicine trafficking.

They call it Paradise, but that Saturday at noon it was hell. The temperature reached 35 degrees with the wind chill of an oven and the sand raised by three trucks in La Laguna de la Testaruda, behind the Miguel Terrazas neighborhood, made Acapulco, devastated by hurricane Otis, look as if it had a sepia filter that dramatized the presence of the cartels.

"Don't even think of taking pictures, just look," recommended a man I met on the outskirts of the Food Market in the port of Guerrero. He was carrying 24 cans of chili peppers that he planned to exchange for food when someone shouted that they were giving away food pantries near the Filadelfia Church and he jumped into the bed of a truck to get his.

He and at least 200 other victims received a supply of food that felt like oxygen as the catastrophe suffocated them. Water, honey, beans and toilet paper.

They were delivered by masked men driving four-wheel drive vehicles with tinted windows and no license plates. They did not advertise themselves as organized crime, but it was not necessary for them to sound it out: what looks like a cartel in Guerrero usually is.

"On whose behalf did they tell you they deliver the pantries?", I asked, and the man's kind look turned into a look of contempt.

"Why should I tell you? Then they won't want to help us, I'd better not to say anything.

He left carrying his pantry in black bags and the 24 cans of chili. His legs were shaking from lack of food. At night, he said, more of the criminal group's trucks would be in the hospital area and he needed to rest to be able to carry more aid back to his house.

"I'm going to grab everything," he said goodbye. "My hunger doesn't ask me from what side of the law did this come from?"

The 10 mafias

A report prepared last year by the Ministry of the Navy, consulted by MILENIO, recognizes that ten criminal groups operate in Acapulco: two have national reach - Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel - and eight are regional, such as La Familia Michoacana, the Beltrán Leyva, Guerreros Unidos, Los Rojos, Los Tlacos, Los Ardillos, the Independent Cartel of Acapulco (CIDA) and the Cartel of the South (Cártel del Sur).

They dispute at least six illegal markets in Guerrero's most famous port: drug dealing, sexual exploitation, sale of adulterated alcohol, extortion, kidnapping and environmental crimes. But the force of Hurricane Otis was able to change even that criminal order.

Two other illegal markets could be the protagonists of the "new Acapulco", if the reconstruction is not protected, agreed experts interviewed by MILENIO: one in the popular zones and the other in the tourist zone, that is to say, the one that concentrates the wealthiest inhabitants.

In the former, the threat of usurious loans for those who lost everything and need urgent money to rebuild their homes or businesses is looming. And in the second, the threat of money laundering looms, taking advantage of the fact that Acapulco requires 270 billion pesos to put hotels, restaurants and nightclubs back on their feet.

And a third illicit activity is approaching as garbage collection services are delayed and bodies and garbage accumulate in stagnant waters: the possibility of organized crime trafficking in medicines - as happened in the most critical stages of the covid-19 pandemic - but now against cholera and dengue fever.

Operation "drop-by-drop loans".

To achieve the first objective, organized crime is handing out pantries to gain a social base. A military source consulted by this newspaper places the Sinaloa Cartel and the CIDA as the instigators of the robbery of at least 30 bank branches, whose loot was used to buy food supplies in Chilpancingo and Cuernavaca and deliver them to the Otis disaster zone.

Other criminal cells looted businesses to accumulate food supplies and deliver them later as supposedly disinterested aid.

"The delivery of pantries by organized crime is the first step of a very studied plan," says Manuel Añorve, twice mayor of Acapulco. "This is how they are gaining the favor of the Acapulqueños and then they are going to reach them with loans for those who are not banked that will end up with interest well above what is paid to the banks."

In the Whatsapp group Fracc. Las Playas, created by neighbors to alert about criminal acts in Acapulco, a woman acknowledged that there are organized crime deliveries at night and invited neighbors to accept it in the face of the lack of water and food.

"Well, if it is in good condition, accept it. God uses even the bad people so that his children eat," she wrote in the group, in which an audio is also circulating whose source was verified and identified as a victim in Coyuca de Benitez:

"The bad and hooded people were indeed stealing the groceries, they were kicking people out who were formed in line waiting to buy something. They even fired gunshots so that the people who were there waiting to buy something would leave and they came in to steal, they didn't even bother to buy anything"

Those affected by 'Otis have cleaned their houses after the passage of this hurricane

Julieta Fernandez, deputy of the Congress of Guerrero, assured that almost two weeks after Otis made landfall in the Pacific, there are still families in the upper area of Acapulco who do not have drinking water, members of organized crime are handing out beers.

"In neighborhoods like Santa Cecilia, Guadalupe Victoria, Morelos, Alta Progreso... they are handing out beer there. What is happening is that they (the cartels) already had a monopoly on the distribution of alcoholic beverages in Acapulco and some groups also lost everything. Crime, let's put it this way, was also affected, so they give what they have in exchange for favors: beer to those who don't even have enough to drink a glass of water".

This urgency was recognized by Guadalupe -whose real name has been changed for fear-, a souvenir seller in the handicrafts market near the Diana Cazadora, in Acapulco, who set up an improvised camp in front of the National Palace to ask for more funds for the victims.

"My house has not yet been registered by the government, nor have those of my neighbors. We don't know if they are going to give us a refrigerator or a kitchenette, but 'the others' have already arrived to ask what we need," he says, while showing me his muddy house in a popular neighborhood in the port. "Who are 'the others'? Well, you know... the ones who drive around in trucks without license plates.

Acapulco, a laundromat of crime

Salvador Mejía, an anti-money laundering expert, has a different concern: Mexico does not currently have the financial instruments to be able to identify whether organized crime wants to hide its dirty profits behind public or private works contracts to reinstall the tourist services that were, for example, on the Costera Miguel Alemán.

"We would have to have a monitoring of all the companies that are going to be part of the reconstruction and that those companies go through a government census. That the Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) ask them for information based on the Anti-Money Laundering Law and that each construction company say where their resources come from. Today, there is no will for that.

"Imagine that tomorrow we find out that a company linked to reconstruction has ties to organized crime. We would turn to the UIF directed by Pablo Gómez and demand responsibility, because he evaluated and found nothing," says the specialist in financial crimes.

Private initiative and the government will hold work tables to support the reconstruction of Acapulco. 

The managing partner of the firm Asimetrics sees two risks for Acapulco's large capital: one, that the owners of businesses insured against natural disasters receive several million pesos in the next few months and that, with Acapulco still paralyzed by Otis, they decide to leave to invest in other tourist areas of the country.

Or, two, that those business owners with fresh money in hand decide to leave Acapulco for fear that organized crime will find out that they have been paid by the insurers and will be susceptible to kidnapping or extortion.

"Organized crime has eyes everywhere and all the time in Guerrero. They are going to find out as soon as the businessman collects the insurance and they are going to go against him. In any of the two alternatives there will be other businessmen from outside the port who will raise their hands and there will surely be decent people, but also among those hands will be organized crime.

"If we make a reading of the risk evaluations made by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) we will find that Mexico has no money laundering sentences and that is the biggest black hole we have at international level against organized crime: we do not have the capacity to accuse, prosecute, sentence those who manage the financial resources of organized crime", he assures.

There are 2,605 million pesos of exposure in the area; they will seek to support borrowers to minimize risks.

In 2020, Mexico achieved only three sentences for money laundering; in 2019, 19; and in 2018 only nine, according to the International Narcotics Control Strategy report prepared last year by the U.S. State Department, which criticizes that in the country billions of dollars of organized crime are shuffled with legal money and there is no capacity to separate them.

"I'm telling you that it is 99.9 percent certain that organized crime will want to launder money with the reconstruction of Acapulco. And I'm not saying 100 percent because people are scared of certainties, but there is no way the cartels won't want a huge slice of the reconstruction pie."

Acapulco, Guerrero



  1. The "no servi para nada governo de Hablador". Look who pitched in to help Alcapolco hurricane victims.
    Hablador should be ashamed of himself. Retire!!

  2. Very sad, wanted to go there early next year. Maybe i have to wait a few more months, thank you Sol.

    1. More like you will be waiting a couple of years. My hotel announced not reopening until Dec of 2026.

  3. At least the cartels are giving some of what they stolen but what about the government

    1. Cheap ass government. They only care for themselves.

  4. In the UK we have "food banks". Places were family's living on the breadline can pick up free food, usually 3 days worth of tinned food. You see a lot of drug addicts and refugees at these places. They usually happen twice a week during a 2 hour window.

    Massive rise in these food banks since the start of the tory government 🐀

  5. 270 billion pesos is a little over 15.4 billion dollars. 1dollar=17.50pesos.
    Acapulco is FUCKED

  6. “Hunger doesn't ask me whose side?"

    1. It's been corrected to give a better understanding

  7. Very interesting article 🤔. Don Sol P.
    In depth, unfortunately US news outlets have not yet criticized the Government of the Republic of Mexico handling of hurricane.
    Not even the governor,mayor, secretary of security, bothered to intervene.
    Yes I took agree Obrador should be embarrassed, yet in his daily conferences, no mention of aid to Alcapolco. Unbelievable Mexico, where human life has little value


    This Wednesday, during his morning press conference, President Andrés Manuel López Obradoguaranteed that by the end of November the supply of drinking water that was in Acapulco before Otis hit category 5, the highest, will be fully restored.
    However, he clarified that this does not mean that the entire port will have access to the liquid, since even before the passage of the hurricane the service did not cover the entire municipality, although work will be done on a comprehensive urban development plan to expand this service.

    1. What about food, water, tents will that be until the end of November too?
      There better off receiving stolen goods from the cartels.😭

    2. Why is the President of Mexico re-acting slow at the help citizens need. Something is wrong.

  9. Just let the cartels use their funds to rebuild acapulco. It will be much faster and the residents will be treated with more dignity. Narco capital legit


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