Mexican Cartels Infiltrate Tortilla Industry, Causing a 61% Increase in Prices and Leaving Businesses in Fear

By: Beth Moreton | Published: Jun 23, 2024

There has been an increase in Mexican cartels, who have been going after tortilla businesses. Owners have said that it is the cartels who are not only damaging their businesses but are also forcing them to up their prices, in some cases by 61%.

The situation has become so bad that most Latin American countries have become centers for producing or transporting drugs, including cocaine. But it isn’t just tortillerias that are suffering, as other businesses, such as fishermen, chicken vendors and builders, are all being threatened by these gangs.

Mexican Cartels No Longer Focus Just on Drugs

Most people used to believe that Mexican cartels would only ever focus on drugs. While this used to be true, they are now focused on another area, which is trying to take control of their own country.

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A pile of multi-colored pills.

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The cartels have now decided to try to control territory that they can exploit financially. They have even been threatening people who are running for office in Mexico’s elections and causing them to drop out, with around 34 of them being killed. 

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American Firearms Linked to Mexican Cartels

Mexican military intelligence was hacked in 2024, and what it showed was that there have been many instances of American firearms being linked to Mexican cartels.

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A black handgun surrounded by gold bullets.

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The leak also revealed which American companies and sellers have been supplying these guns to the Cartels in what has become a major breach of information. 

Stricter Gun Laws Due to Cartels

The situation in Mexico has become so bad that the U.S. government has had to tighten gun laws as Mexican cartels have been found with American firearms.

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A black handgun surrounded by gold bullets.

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This comes after there have been several instances of violence in Mexico and other countries across the world where American firearms have been used, and the U.S. does not want to get caught up in it. 

Mexico Sued U.S. Gunmakers

The Mexican government decided it had had enough of the situation, so it went as far as to sue the U.S. gunmakers. This was done to try and prevent the guns from illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

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A black gun on top of a block of wood.

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Mexico only has one arms dealer, who only issued 50 licenses in one year. This is in comparison to the 600,000 firearms that cross the border illegally every year. 

Most Tortillerias Have Been Threatened

Tortillerias being threatened is relatively new. While just over a decade ago only a very small percentage received this threat, this number has since gone up to 15% and continues to rise.

A pile of tortillas in a bowl next to a wooden rolling pin with flour scattered across the surface.

Source: Micheile Henderson/Unsplash

This is the equivalent of 20,000 storefront businesses that are regularly extorted. If these businesses refuse to pay, they are either set on fire or are put on the receiving end of gun violence.

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Why Are Mexican Cartels Taking Over Tortillerias?

There is some confusion as to why Mexican cartels would want to take over tortillerias. In the beginning, it was all to do with drugs and finding buildings they could use for this purpose.

Tortilla wraps with fillings inside and pots of sauce and refried beans next to them.

Source: Ryan Concepcion/Unsplash

The cartels realized that if they were able to control the business owners and any workforce they had, they could use them to help expand their distribution of drugs while looking like a legitimate business.

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Mexican Cartels Were Kidnapping Business Owners

Regardless of what time of day or night it was and whether anyone else was around, the Mexican cartels have been kidnapping business owners and workers and holding them for ransom. The ransom has typically been between 30,000 pesos ($2100) and two million pesos ($140,000).

A person with a rope tying them to a chair and another in the background.

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Once the ransom is paid, the cartels will use those they kidnapped to help them with selling drugs and being on the lookout for law enforcement. If they don’t comply, their businesses are threatened with closing down, with death also being a possibility. 

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How Tortillas Are Financing Mexican Cartels

It’s not just the actual businesses themselves that are helping Mexican cartels, as the tortillas are also partly responsible for helping to finance the cartel industry.

A pile of tortillas in a wooden basket.

Source: Sergio Contreras/Unsplash

Once the cartels have taken over a tortilleria, any money that is made from the tortillas is used to pay for the weapons the cartels use when threatening people.

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Mexico Is No Longer Safe

Due to the ongoing situation in Mexico and the threats provided by the cartels, many people no longer view Mexico as a safe place and have been attempting to flee elsewhere.

A close-up of the eagle on the Mexican flag.

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It has also stopped people from making investments and wanting to work in the country, and it is even preventing people from starting a family there. 

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Cartels Are in the U.S.

It isn’t just Mexico that is struggling with cartels and in danger, as a report has found that the U.S. is struggling with these cartels also.

A line of people in camouflage and goggles holding black guns.

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What was also discovered is that every single one of the 50 U.S. states has some sort of cartel group, which is something many in every state might not be aware of.

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Tortillerias Are Taking Extra Safety Precautions

Regardless of whether they have been infiltrated by cartels or not, the majority of tortillerias that are still open in Mexico have been taking extra safety precautions to try and protect themselves and their staff.

A white security camera attached to a wall.

Source: Alan J. Hendry/Unsplash

This includes using extra security cameras and staff being behind steel bars. While it might not protect them 100%, it does offer a little bit of extra security and reassurance that was once never needed.                                                        

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