Is Mexico's 'garbage dump cartel' a real drug cell, or a group of criminalized poor people?

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Nine trash collectors who claim to have made a living sifting through garbage in a massive landfill on the outskirts of Mexico City have spent more than two years in a maximum security prison for allegedly forming a dump cartel that kidnapped people and trafficked drugs. But were they framed by local police?


That's the argument by family members, who insist the men were arbitrarily detained for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, according to a recent report by Mexican daily Reporte Indigo.

According to the investigation, the families of the detainees say they were working honest jobs —collecting trash, selling gravel, among others— when they got collared by police and sent off to the Puente Grande maximum security facility, the prison that once held drug lord Joaquín “Chapo” Guzmán prior to his first jailbreak.


At the time of the arrest, authorities said they rescued two hostages and seized high-caliber firearms, grenades, several cartridges, and what appeared to be packages of cocaine, according to Mexican daily Excelsior. Since then, they’ve been charged with organized crime, illegal possession of firearms, kidnapping and drug trafficking. Their relatives deny the charges. In the past, police have been accused of framing defenseless people to pad their drug war numbers and manipulating crime scenes.

The media jumped on the story and dubbed the accused gang the "Cartel del Bordo," named after the famous Bordo de Xochiaca landfill. The abandoned garbage dump is a source of income for many families who sell plastic, recycle disposed objects buried in the landfill. Many displaced and homeless people squat on the land, which is rumored to also be a hub for criminal activity.

But two year's later, new doubts are being raised about whether the Bordo Cartel is a real criminal organization or just a bunch of impoverished trash pickers who don't have the means to defend themselves or get a fair shake in Mexican courts.

Fusion reached out to Mexico State police, but did not receive a response.

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