Drugs No Longer Mexico Cartel's Top Earner

Knights Templar now a mining, logging, extortion cartel
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 17, 2014 1:40 AM CDT
Updated Mar 17, 2014 3:03 AM CDT
Drugs No Longer Mexico Cartel's Top Earner
A confiscated iron ore mining operation near the Pacific port of Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico.    (AP Photo/Eduardo Castillo)

Mexico's Knights Templar cartel has diversified so much that instead of being a drug cartel, the organization that started out smuggling crystal meth is now more of an extortion, logging, and mining cartel with a profitable sideline in drugs, the AP finds. In the cartel's home state of Michoacan, illegal mining is now its main source of income and government experts believe it pulls in at least another $1 million a week from extortion demands on lime and avocado producers.

Some experts say a similar shift is taking place in other cartels, with the Zetas probably now making as much from migrant smuggling and extortion as they do from drugs. "I've never looked at them as drug-trafficking organizations," the director of the Southern Pulse security consulting firm says. "They're multinational corporations that will react to market pressures and do what they have to do to stay in business." (More Knights Templar stories.)

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