Analyst: Mexican Cartel Openly Advertising for Members Because of Exodus of Young Males to U.S.

By Mark Browne | March 16, 2016 | 10:17 PM EDT

Mexican state police stand guard in May 2015 at a location near the border of Michoacan and Jalisco states, scene of a gunbattle with suspected drug traffickers that left 40 people dead. (AP Photo/Refugio Ruiz, File

Mexico City ( – A Mexican drug cartel’s brazen decision to use street flyers to recruit new members in central Mexico may in part be the result of a local labor pool decimated by young men who leave the country to look for work in the U.S., according to one analyst.

The cartel, according to security specialist and national university professor Raul Guillermo Benitez Manaut, may be having trouble finding new help because of a lack of young men living in the area where the cartel operates, namely northern Michoacán, northern Guanajuato and southern Jalisco. Seventy-percent of the local population is female, he said.

Benitez called the use of flyers a “desperate” measure not seen before – and “very risky” for the gang because it allowed for government infiltration.

It is also a sign that the cartel, known as the New Generation, is expanding in the southwestern state of Jalisco to fill a vacuum left by the government’s successful anti-cartel activity in the neighboring state of Michoacán, he said.

The recruitment flyers offered work as guards and bodyguards with a fictitious security firm, but respondents were sent instead for arms training and then inducted into the cartel, the Associated Press reported earlier.

Jesus Eduardo Almaguer Remirez, the chief prosecutor in Jalisco, said approximately a dozen recruits were arrested earlier this month, including an American woman who reportedly headed up the effort to hand out flyers in the beach resort of Puerto Vallarta.

Alejandro Hope, a security analyst in Mexico City, said the use of the flyers showed how willing the cartel was to act in the open without fear of prosecution.

Mexican drug cartels strictly rely on word of mouth to attract new members, Benitez said. Recruitment is never done in the open as it’s seen as too risky. “They normally recruit using family members, to be safer,” he said.

"Normally it is done through friends or acquaintances. Now they are doing it openly, deceiving people, obviously, but openly."

Media reports said the government was tipped off to the flyer recruitment effort when one recruit’s family complained he had been kidnapped and held for ransom after refusing to work for the cartel. At a press conference, Almaguer Remirez also referred to the cartel’s difficulties attracting new members and said it was increasingly using threats and coercion.

A study of Mexican migration to the U.S., commissioned by the national Congress, found the greatest outflow of workers between 2005 and 2010 was from the central state of Guanajuato (182,960), followed by Michoacán (153,570)  and then Jalisco (151,260).

One-third of all Mexicans who went to the U.S. during the period were from the central part of the country and totaled just over 576,000, the study found.

Benitez said efforts by the New Generation cartel to recruit former employees of two other cartels hit hard by government actions in Michoacán also appear not to be working.

Former members of the cartel once headed up by Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera – the infamous drug lord recently recaptured by authorities – may fear being killed if they sign up with a new cartel, Benitez said.

Meanwhile, the Mexico City daily El Universal reported Sunday that Mexican authorities made 2,982 arrests from 2006 to 2015 for the illicit use of exact copies of police and security force uniforms, as well as the cloning of security vehicles. Benitez said drug cartels often use the cloned cars and uniforms to move contraband unimpeded.

So far, the cartels haven’t turned to the Internet to recruit employees, he said. Use of the Internet by the cartels is almost unheard – except for Twitter, which has been used by cartels in in Nuevo Laredo and northern Tamaulipas to threaten people and for extortion, but not to recruit new members, Benitez said.

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