Picture arriving at a job training for a security guard position only to be seized by narcotraffickers and coerced into serving them.
The El País newspaper recently published a story about a man who escaped his captors in 2017. The subject decided to use Luis as his moniker for safety reasons.
Originally, he was working for a drug rehabilitation center in metropolitan Guadalajara but wanted to pursue other professional fields. He resorted to Facebook groups like Bolsa de Trabajo GDL and Trabajos Guadalajara in search of other opportunities, only to discover a security guard gig with a promising weekly salary of 4,000 pesos.
After getting in touch with the company’s supervisor, Luis joined a WhatsApp group with 15 other prospected candidates. Soon enough, they were all invited to attend a municipal training in Tala and offered 4,000 additional pesos for showing up.
Luis’ excitement wore off as soon as he realized that this was all a hoax planned by the New Generation Jalisco Cartel.
In the end, 17 applicants “disappeared” as they were taken into the Navaja hinterland and recruited against their will. Some families were notified of the disappearances but weren’t sure whether their loved ones were alive or dead.
“When we turned into Tala, we went through a breach and arrived at an abandoned farm, with barbed wire and wooden sticks,” recalled Luis. “There was a man with a goat’s horn telling us to keep going in. There was no furniture, only 38 people on the floor. This was when I realized that I had got myself into trouble because this wasn’t normal. When we entered the room, they ordered us to keep quiet and sit down, telling us that we couldn’t go to the bathroom unless we asked for permission. We were just pure humble, poor people to them.”
Authorities eventually learned about the operation in July 2017 after discovering some encampments in the mountain range. At one of them, 15 were arrested yet only three of them could prove that they were being held captive. These three were ultimately released.
By then, however, Luis had gotten away. He decided to file his own case to law enforcement officers, despite the danger it presented. His testimony also became part of the 2017 investigation case, which included testimonies of a common form of recruitment among cartel members enslavement.
Based on reports, men from the valleys of the Tequila region, the Guadalajara metro and even Central Americans have been kidnapped to perform forced labor. Past abductees have included day laborers, the unemployed, car washers, masons, deportees and ex-military men, as well as drug addicts from rehabilitation centers.
In Jalisco, these cases have primarily occurred in villages like Tala, Ahuisculco, Las Navajas and Cuisillos – all of which are less than an hour outside of Guadalajara behind La Primavera forest in the municipality of Tala. Within this region are fertile lands, old haciendas and indigenous communities protective of their ancestral lands.
Las Navaja is one particular settlement thought to be in cahoots with narcos. One of the local sayings states, “crime did penetrate; people accepted things that ended up compromising them.”
Cartel groups actively safeguard this mountainous terrain due to its connectivity to major cities like Colima, Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta. The port in Manzanillo is especially frequented because it is where chemical ingredients land to produce synthetic drugs.
According to El País, Jalisco’s Attorney General office received six reports of missing people between June 6 and 13 in 2017. Each case involved a person leaving home to move to Tala for employment reasons.