MEXICO CITY – Shakedown rackets have long targeted businesses in the most violent corners of Mexico. Now the practice is spreading. One anti-crime group estimates that kidnapping across the country has jumped by one-third this year compared to 2012. And as the extortion industry expands, it has drawn both experienced criminals and imitators.
Experts say that's a byproduct of Mexico's crackdown on drug gangs. As authorities nab cartel bosses and break up chains of command, lower-level gunmen and traffickers are desperate for income and looking for income in new places.
Targets include everything from multinational businesses to corner pharmacies and unsuspecting holidaymakers. The gangs are less organized, but more ubiquitous than the drug cartels, affecting broad swaths of the country.
Security expert Jorge Chabat says, "It affects all economic activity. It discourages investment."