Mexican narcos’ fascination with exotic animals surfaced this week after a spider monkey dressed as the mascot of a drug gang was killed in a shootout, a 450-pound tiger wandered into the streets of Nayarit state, on the Pacific coast, and that a man died after trying to pet a captive tiger in an area dominated by a cartel in western Michoacan state.
Like scenes from a narco TV series, exotic animals have long been part of the Mexican underworld.
Photos from the scene of ain Texcaltitlan with police in which 11 drug gang members died, showed a small monkey – wearing a tiny camouflage jacket and a tiny “bulletproof” vest – lying on the body of a man armed dead who was apparently its owner.
Authorities in the state of Mexico confirmed the authenticity of the photos and said it was unclear whether the monkey – who was also wearing a diaper – died in the rain of bullets that killed its owner.
“A primate was killed at the scene, which likely belonged to a criminal who was also killed at the scene,” state prosecutors said in a statement, adding that “an autopsy will be performed on the animal by a veterinarian specialized in the species”. and animal trafficking charges would be brought against the suspects who survived the shooting.
Then on Wednesday, the environmental protection attorney general said he seized a tiger in Tecuala, in the Pacific coast state of Nayarit, near the border with Sinaloa, home to the cartel of the same name.
The office said it acted “after receiving reports of a Bengal tiger roaming the streets of Tecuala”, and found the animal was illegally held there.
This information was based on a video posted on social media earlier this week showing a young woman screaming as she encountered the tiger on the street of a residential area. “Shut up, it could be getting closer,” a woman can be heard saying on the video.
Authorities said the tiger’s claws and fangs had been removed, and a man can be seen later in the video casually throwing a rope at the tiger’s neck and leading him away.
Perhaps the most tragic story is that of the western state of Michoacan, which has long been dominated by the Carteles Unidos gang and the Jalisco Cartel, which the Department of Justice considers “one of the five criminal organizations most dangerous transnational corporations in the world”. .” .
Authorities confirmed on Sunday that a man was seriously injured by a tiger in Periban, Michoacan, a town in the state’s avocado-producing region, where gangs have long extorted protection payments from the lucrative trade of the lawyer.
In a video posted on social media, the authenticity of which could not be confirmed, the man is seen calling the tiger next to a fenced enclosure. “Come on, come on,” the man can be heard pleading.
The man stands outside the enclosure, apparently feeding the tiger with one hand, as he reaches his other arm through the chain-link fence to stroke the animal’s neck.
The man then screams in pain after the tiger quickly spins and bites the outstretched arm and refuses to let go. Finally, the tiger mangled both of the man’s arms.
Michoacan state law enforcement confirmed the man was taken to hospital, where he died days later from his injuries.
Mexican law allows individuals to keep exotic animals if they register them under strictly regulated conditions. But security analyst David Saucedo said criminals sometimes go so far as to obtain such permits.
According to Saucedo, drug traffickers often keep exotic animals as a symbol of status and power, mimicking the Colombian drug lords of the 80s and 90s, such as.
“Mexican drug traffickers copied from Medellin cartel narcos the custom of acquiring exotic animals and establishing private zoos,” Saucedo said. “According to the code of the drug-trafficking aristocracy, having a private zoo was a prerequisite for joining the circle of major drug traffickers.”
Sometimes animals can inadvertently attract unwanted attention. Botas, the beloved monkey of notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, is what led police to the drug lord’s hideout in October, according to a report in Mexican media.
In some cases, animals had a more sinister use.
“Some drug cartel capos, like Zetas leader Heriberto Lazcano, acquired exotic animals to torture or make their victims disappear,” Saucedo said. “Many of his enemies were devoured by the tigers or crocodiles the Zetas kept in their enclosures or cages.”
Lazcano himself was killed in a shootout with Mexican military personnel in 2012.
Mexico has recorded more than 340,000 murders and tens of thousands of disappearances since launching a controversial military offensive against organized crime in 2006.
Experts and human rights defenders say the militarization of the fight against organized crime has exacerbated the problem of violence in Mexico.
Since coming to power in late 2018, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has repeatedly called on the security services to rely more on intelligence than force in fighting crime.
In March, Lopez Obrador accused popular TV shows of glorifying the violent drug trade. He criticized TV series on platforms such as Netflix, saying they presented a rosy version of drug dealer lifestyles.