Puerto Vallarta is hostage to Jalisco cartel

Recent US sanctions against an alleged Jalisco Cartel operator reveal that the powerful Mexican group is using Puerto Vallarta to launder drug proceeds through nightclubs, bars, and restaurants.

The US Department of the Treasury accused Sergio Armando Orozco Rodríguez, alias “Chocho”, of having links with senior members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) through an announcement on February 17. Treasury representatives claimed that Orozco Rodríguez has multiple businesses in Puerto Vallarta, where he allegedly launders money for the cartel and directs his extortion networks in the coastal destination.

Any new business in Puerto Vallarta had to obtain unofficial authorization 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 help the CJNG infiltrate the Puerto Vallarta 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 member of the CJNG in 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 belonging to the group of hitmen from Puerto Vallarta that works for the CJNG. The Treasury Department said in its statement that the men “helped coordinate murders with high-caliber weapons on behalf of the CJNG,” referring to the high-profile murder of former Jalisco state governor Aristóteles Sandoval in December 2020 in Puerto Vallarta.

Gonzalo Mendoza Gaytán, alias “El Sapo,” also received sanctions in 2019. Treasury officials described him as a high-ranking member of the CJNG, serving as the group’s head in Puerto Vallarta.

With each new blacklist, the importance of the fate of the beaches for CJNG operations is drawn more clearly, especially with regard to synthetic drug trafficking.

Unlike other major tourist destinations in the country, the CJNG seems to have control of Puerto Vallarta, the group’s stronghold in the state of Jalisco, from where its members obtain income from extortion, money laundering, and human trafficking.

The CJNG also plays a major role in smuggling the lethal synthetic opioid fentanyl into the United States. Puerto Vallarta is considered an essential node in that supply chain, as it receives shipments of chemical precursors and fentanyl analogs from China.

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