The United States has canceled soccer player Rafa Márquez’s visa after being linked to a drug trafficking organization. Márquez, who is the Mexican National Soccer Team captain and Atlas captain in the Liga MX, was included in a list published today by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) as one of the 21 Mexican nationals and 42 entities with ties to drug trafficker Raúl Flores Hernández.

"Raul Flores Hernandez has operated for decades because of his longstanding relationships with other drug cartels and his use of financial front persons to mask his investments of illegal drug proceeds," said OFAC Director John E. Smith.  "This major joint action reflects the U.S. government's close cooperation with our law enforcement partners in Mexico to stop the illegal flow of narcotics and to target and expose drug kingpins and those who facilitate their illicit financial networks."

Besides canceling the visas, this announcement implies freezing all assets of those involved, and prohibiting any American companies from doing any type of business with any person or entity on the list.

The Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, better known as the Kingpin Act, was passed by Congress in 1999, and allows the Treasury Department to freeze the assets of foreign nationals it believes to be involved in international narcotics trafficking and to prosecute Americans who handle drug trafficking money.

According to a Treasury Department news release announcing Wednesday’s actions, all of Márquez’s assets “that are under U.S. jurisdiction or are in the control of U.S. persons” have been frozen. In addition to having assets frozen, once an individual or entity is designated as a specially designated national, according tothe Treasury Department's description of the list, “U.S. Persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.”

The U.S. government referred to Márquez and 34-year-old norteño singer Julio Cesar Alvarez, better known as Julión Alvarez, as people with longstanding relationships with Flores Hernández who "have acted as front persons for him and his (drug trafficking organization) and held assets on their behalf." Among the 42 entities linked to the kingpin, seven belonged to Márquez: Fundación Futbol y Corazón, Grupo Deportivo Márquez Pardo, Grupo Deportivo Alvaner, Grupo Nutricional Alhoma, Prosport & Health Imagen, Servicios Educativos y de Negocios and Grupo Terapéutico de Puerto Vallarta.

Márquez, 38, is one of the greatest Mexican soccer players. A center back and defensive midfielder, he has appeared for his national team 142 times over the last 21 years, and was captain of Mexico’s team at each of the last four World Cups. His club career took him to Europe, where he won four league titles and two Champions League trophies while playing for Barcelona, and to the United States, where he played two years with the Red Bulls of Major League Soccer.

Raúl Flores Hernández maintains strategic alliances with the leadership of Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel and the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, although he operates independently.  His relationships with the leaders of these drug cartels have allowed the Flores DTO (Drug Trafficking Organization) to operate since the 1980s in Guadalajara, Jalisco, and Mexico City, Mexico.  In March 2017, federal drug trafficking indictments were returned in the District of Columbia and the Southern District of California against Flores Hernandez. 

The Flores DTO includes a significant number of Flores Hernández's family members and trusted associates, upon whom he heavily relies to further his drug trafficking and money laundering activities and to maintain assets on his behalf. 

Since June 2000, more than 2,000 individuals and entities have been named pursuant to the Kingpin Act for their role in international narcotics trafficking.  Penalties for violations of the Kingpin Act range from civil penalties of up to $1,437,153 per violation to more severe criminal penalties.  Criminal penalties for corporate officers may include up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $5 million.  Criminal fines for corporations may reach $10 million.  Other individuals could face up to 10 years in prison and fines pursuant to Title 18 of the United States Code for criminal violations of the Kingpin Act.