Cartels Wager Drug Money on Cockfights
The Mexican tradition of cockfighting draws cartel members as violence surges both inside—and outside—the ring.
Rooster fights are a centuries-old tradition for the ranchers and farm workers in the small towns along the coast of Guerrero, Mexico. But in the past few years, the events have started to attract a more violent crowd, thanks to the feuding cartel members who routinely make appearances to bet large sums of drug money on the fights. “The narcos sometimes bet as much as 100,000 pesos on a fight,” says a man at the ringside barrier at a recent match. Residents in the towns frequently see mutilated or headless corpses lying in the streets with threatening notes left by hitmen. They have also become accustomed to cartel gunmen stopping and questioning them, especially if they have out-of-state license plates. And the death toll is rising; recently, in the Acapulco area, police found the bodies of two tortured young men, gunmen killed 15 people in a nearby town, a police officer was killed inside his house, another police officer was shot and a 15-year-old girl was killed by a stray bullet—all in just one day. The Mexican government and military forces have been no match for the fighting between drug trafficking groups, so it mainly goes unchecked. For now, the violence at the actual rooster fights has remained largely inside the ring—but they serve as a grisly metaphor for the violence that surrounds.