30 October 2013
Moralillo Bridge, Tamaulipas state
According to Milenio, the Tamaulipas side of the bridge is controlled by the Gulf Cartel, while the Zetas levy fees on people leaving Veracruz. The newspaper reported that there is no visible law enforcement presence in the communities at either end of the bridge, and residents have been squeezed so hard by extortion demands from the cartels that many businesses are shuttered and properties abandoned.
InSight Crime Analysis
The flagrant and well organized nature of this extortion — with motorists offered weekly and monthly charges and discounts for frequent travel — is indicative of the infiltration of organized crime into day-to-day life in Mexican communities and continued neglect of certain regions by the country’s security services.
The ability of these cartels to maintain such a racket when it would arguably only require a minor police presence at each end of the bridge is symptomatic of the ineffective protection provided by the state that many of the country’s self-defense groups cite as their cause to take up arms. While the southwest is the stronghold of such groups, they have been reportedly springing up elsewhere, including Tamaulipas and Veracruz.
Meanwhile, the fact cartels have taken to imposing road tolls only underscores the scope of their criminal diversification, and willingness to take advantage of any money making opportunity. In recent years cartels have increasingly moved into such diverse fields as cargo theft, cattle trafficking and mining, as well as expanding their activities in more traditional criminal sectors such as kidnapping and extortion.