Mexican Cartels Recruit Smugglers With Newspaper Ads
US customs counters by buying its own space in the classified section.
Innocent jobseekers in Mexico may find themselves unknowingly drafted into the drug war—cartels have begun using the classifieds to advertise openings for house cleaners, cashiers, and security guards. After responding to the ads, the applicants are told to drive cars to the U.S. that are—unbeknownst to them—loaded with drugs. To counter this threat, the US Immigration and Customs and Enforcement has bought ad space in Mexican newspapers to warn potential applicants about the cartel's schemes. “Why don’t we do the same thing that (cartels are) doing? It’s successful for them. Why wouldn’t it be successful for us?” says Lester Hayes, a group supervisor for ICE in San Diego. Since February of 2011, there have been 39 arrests at San Diego's two border crossings—all connected to the Mexican classifieds. Authorities have unearthed 3,400 pounds of marijuana, 75 pounds of cocaine and 100 pounds of methamphetamine during these arrests. According to Hayes, drivers are usually paid $50 to $200 a driving trip—a much smaller sum than the $1,500 to $5,000 that seasoned smugglers are paid. The ads, placed by the ICE in Sunday papers, state in bold letters: “Warning! Drug traffickers are announcing jobs for drivers to go to the United States. Don’t fall victim to this trap.” Victor Clark, Director of Tijuana’s Binational Center for Human Rights, doesn’t believe the ads will do much good unless they specify how to gauge an ad's legitimacy. “It’s very difficult for someone who is unemployed to know whether it’s a trap,” he says. “I don’t think many people are inclined to investigate if they are desperate for work.”