not,” prosecutors said, though they didn’t report any such deaths.
Local media identified the criminal group as the Los Viagras cartel. Prosecutors declined to say which cartel was involved because the case was still under investigation, but they confirmed Los Viagras dominates the towns forced to make the Wi-Fi payments.
Law enforcement seized the equipment late last week and shared photos of the makeshift antennas and piles of equipment and routers with the labels of the Mexican internet company Telmex, owned by powerful Mexican businessman Carlos Slim. They also detained one person.
Mexican cartels have long employed a shadow network of radio towers and makeshift internet to communicate within criminal organizations and dodge authorities.
But the use of such towers to extort communities is part of a larger trend in the country, said Falko Ernst, Mexico analyst for Crisis Group.
Ernst said the approximately 200 armed criminal groups active in Mexico no longer focus just on drug trafficking but are also “becoming de facto monopolists of certain services and other legal markets.” He said that as cartels have gained firmer control of large swaths of Mexico, they have effectively formed “fiefdoms.”
Ernst said gangs in some areas are charging taxes on basic foods and imported products, and noted they have also infiltrated Michoacan’s lucrative avocado business and lime markets as well as parts of local mining industries.
“It’s become sort of like an all-around game for them. And it’s not specific to any particular good or market anymore. It’s become about holding territory through violence,” he said. “It’s not solely about drugs anymore.”
While more and more cases document how drug cartels rule in certain parts of the Mexican territory, Lopez Obrador keeps on denying that criminal organizations are way above the state in certain regions.