Borderlands: CFI Logistica expands Mexico operations; drug trafficker who used trucks convicted

Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of United States-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week: CFI Logistica expands cross-border operations; Laredo mayor Saenz hails signing of USMCA; jury convicts trafficker using commercial trucks to smuggle drugs; Laredo CBP office gets new director of field operations. 

CFI Logistica expands cross-border operations with new headquarters in Mexico

CFI Logistica, which provides logistics services in Mexico and cross-border operations among the U.S., Mexico and Canada, recently moved to a new corporate headquarters in the central Mexican city of Guadalajara.

“While many transportation providers are making well publicized exits from the Mexican market, CFI Logistica is aiming to expand, making it exactly the right time in our history to move into a larger, more strategic facility that can accommodate our continued expansion,” Mike Cervin, CFI Logistica’s vice president of sales, said in a release.

The new headquarters will be located in Guadalajara’s World Trade Center, an international corporate trade complex with more than three dozen businesses representing eight countries.

CFI Logistica is a wholly owned subsidiary of Joplin, Missouri-based CFI, an operating company of TFI International (TSE: TFIFF). CFI is a national truckload and logistics company.

Cervin added that CFI Logistica is experiencing growth in both cross-border and intra-Mexico traffic, across full-truckload and less-than-truckload segments. The company’s service portfolio includes all trailer types, he said.

“The majority of our top customers have needs throughout North America,” Cervin said. “We serve the entire North American continent with a diverse set of services that match up well with the multiple supply chain needs of customers with freight moving within and between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada.”

CFI Logistica also added 75 new employees in 2019, including transportation and logistics planning and operations professionals. In addition, the company expanded its service footprint in 2019 to include customs brokerage and service to Central America.

Laredo mayor Saenz hails signing of USMCA trade agreement

Laredo, Texas, Mayor Pete Saenz praised the signing on Wednesday of the newly ratified United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

“I can attest that President Trump did sign the USMCA because I was there,” Saenz said during his annual State of the City address in Laredo on Thursday of the White House ceremony. “I am honored to have been invited to the White House to witness such a historic signing. This is great, great news for our city.”

“Laredo’s positive outlook rests squarely on improving trade and commerce through the new USMCA, which means further improving our strong relationship with Mexico, our neighbor,” Saenz said. “A strong and secure Mexico means a strong and secure Laredo.”

Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz giving his State of the City address on Jan. 30. image: City of Laredo

The USMCA is projected to increase annual U.S. exports to Canada and Mexico by a combined $33 billion above the current NAFTA baseline, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

The agreement could also increase U.S. gross domestic product by stimulating sectors of the economy that the trucking industry serves, like agriculture and manufacturing.

“We must ensure that our existing businesses remain here and that new ones want to move in, all with a willingness to invest and create meaningful jobs,” Saenz said.

Port Laredo is the largest inland port and the second-ranked port among more than 450 U.S. airports, seaports and border crossings, with more than $235 billion in trade value in 2018, according to WorldCity, which analyzes U.S. Census Bureau data.

“Laredo continues to rely heavily on trade, transportation, logistics, warehousing, cold storage facilities and other related enterprises to fuel our economy,” Saenz said. “We anticipate USMCA will increase jobs, facilitate infrastructure, create specialization and continue to develop markets with fair and reasonable pricing on goods and services for you the consumer. This translates to more continued growth and solidifies Laredo’s role in international trade.”

Saenz touted the construction of a new free and secure trade FAST lane at Laredo’s World Trade Bridge and the widening of commercial exit lanes as improvements to provide increased fluidity of traffic for empty trucks and Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT) certifiedcargo.

Saenz added Laredo International Airport is the only airport on the U.S.-Mexico border with 24-hour, seven-days-a-week pre-inspection cargo processing services provided jointly by U.S. and Mexican customs.

The airport also recently announced the addition of Mexican airline Aeromar, which will provide nonstop flights from Laredo to Mexico City International Airport.

“This is a boon for Laredo’s economy in terms of leisure, travel and support of the trade industry,” Saenz said.

Jury convicts trafficker using commercial trucks to smuggle $26 million in drugs

A Texas man who headed a cross-border drug transportation operation was recently found guilty by a federal jury in Brownsville, Texas.

Rafael Villanueva, 40, was convicted on Wednesday for his role in trafficking more than 1,000 kilograms of cocaine involving $26 million in drug proceeds, according to a statement released by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas in Brownsville.

During the trial, the jury heard from 21 witnesses detailing Villanueva’s role as head of a drug transportation group based in Brownsville that moved cocaine from the Rio Grande Valley on to cities throughout the United States.

“Villanueva had customers in Mexico who needed transportation for cocaine to areas throughout the U.S. — Houston; Chicago, Illinois; Jackson, Mississippi; as well as locations in South and North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia,” according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office. “The commercial vehicles were outfitted with special compartments to hide the cocaine and drug proceeds.”

Several witnesses testified Villanueva hired them to move the cocaine north and the drug proceeds south. Fellow traffickers also testified Villanueva borrowed their trucks for the cocaine when commercial drivers Villanueva hired were arrested with loads of cocaine.

Villanueva was convicted of drug trafficking and money laundering. His sentencing is set for May 4. He faces up to life in prison and will remain in custody pending his hearing.

Laredo CBP office gets new director of field operations 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently announced the appointment of Randy J. Howe as director of field operations for the Laredo field office.

In that role, Howe oversees the operations of eight ports of entry extending from Brownsville to Del Rio, Texas, around 380 miles along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Laredo field office processes the largest amount of land-based commercial truck traffic in the U.S., with more than $178 billion in merchandise entering in fiscal year 2018 through the 23 crossings, six airports and one seaport that make up the eight ports of entry.

In addition, in FY2018, CBP officers seized 101,509 pounds of narcotics valued at $243.5 million while processing more than 3.5 million commercial trucks, 21 million privately owned vehicles, 58 million passengers and pedestrians, and 69,594 buses within the Laredo field office.

“The Laredo field office is an important, large and distinguished field office that leads the nation in innovative approaches to enhance border security and trade facilitation,” Howe said in a release. “It also processes the largest amount of commercial truck traffic nationwide.”