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Criminal violence remained high, govt appointed military officer for key role in public security apparatus, and U.S. and Mexico struck migration agreement.
Scores of security personnel killed amid high levels of violence. In north-western Sinaloa state, federal forces 5 Jan captured Ovidio Guzmán, leader of a Sinaloa Cartel faction and son of infamous drug trafficker “El Chapo” Guzmán, in Jesús Maria village; operation left at least 29 people dead, including ten military officers. In apparent bid to secure Guzmán’s release, cartel members same day set fire to shops and vehicles in area and shot at passenger plane in Culiacán airport. In northern Chihuahua state, leader of Los Mexicles criminal group, Ernesto Alberto Piñón de la Cruz, 1 Jan set off mutiny in Ciudad Juárez prison that left 17 people dead, including ten prison officers; he and 29 others escaped. Police 5 Jan killed Piñón in shootout in Ciudad Juárez. In central Mexico State, unknown gunmen 24 Jan killed seven people at gathering in Chimalhuacán municipality. In central Zacatecas state, unknown gunmen 28 Jan killed seven in bar in Jerez municipality. Violence targeting journalists also persisted. Notably, in north-western Sonora state, unknown gunmen 1 Jan shot at reporter Omar Castro.
Authorities drew criticism for further militarisation of public security. President López Obrador 16 Jan appointed former army general and commander of National Guard, Luis Rodríguez Bucio, as new sub-secretary of public security, renewing criticism against govt for entrusting military officers with civilian tasks. Supreme Court 24 Jan upheld controversial article of National Law on Registration of Detentions, which allows armed forces to make civilian arrests without informing police or public.
In other important developments. Mexico and U.S. 5 Jan announced agreement under which U.S. will accept 30,000 migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela; Mexico will accept 30,000 people from same nations having crossed, or tried to cross, U.S. border illegally each month. Trial of Genaro García Luna 16 Jan commenced in New York, U.S.; García Luna, public security secretary and chief war-on-drugs architect under former President Felipe Calderón, is accused of facilitating Sinaloa Cartel’s drug shipments into U.S. and helping group evade capture.
Criminal violence remained high, authorities made further progress on controversial electoral reforms, and local protests over planned hydraulic works turned violent.
Criminal violence persisted at high levels. In central Zacatecas state, unknown gunmen 6 Dec shot dead police officer in Guadalupe municipality. Also in Zacatecas, unknown assailants 19 Dec killed two police officers in separate events in state capital, Zacatecas city, bringing number of police officers killed nationwide in 2022 to 389. In central Michoacán state, authorities 4 Dec arrested alleged regional leader of Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), known as “El Panther”, in Uruapan city. In central Jalisco state, authorities 21 Dec captured Antonio Oseguera, brother of CJNG leader Nemesio Oseguera, in Tlajomulco de Zúñiga municipality. In central Mexico state, armed confrontation between security forces and suspected members of criminal group La Familia Michoacana 27 Dec left three dead. In southern Guerrero state, members of La Familia Michoacana 10 Dec gathered residents of El Durazno locality in Coyuca de Catalán municipality in a primary school and killed seven of them. Meanwhile, NGO Reporters Without Borders 14 Dec identified Mexico as most dangerous country for journalists for fourth consecutive year.
Chamber of Deputies approved controversial electoral reform. After 6 Dec rejecting electoral reform proposed in April by President López Obrador, Chamber of Deputies 14 Dec approved so-called “Plan B”, which amends six secondary electoral laws and reduces structure and budget of National Electoral Institute (INE). INE board members same day issued statement pointing out that reform will jeopardise establishment of polling stations, vote counting, timely monitoring of radio and television stations, and oversight of political party activities and election campaigns.
Local protests erupted over hydraulic works. Residents of Xochimilco and Milpa Alta municipalities 2 Dec blocked roads in Mexico City to protest hydraulic works, which they said started without first consulting with local communities; police same day attempted to forcibly unblock roads, leading to violent confrontations that left over 20 people injured. Protesters 9 Dec lifted blockades after local govt agreed to suspend drainage works.
Criminal violence remained high, govt efforts to push through legislation extending military control over policing met resistance, and opposition against electoral reform mounted.
Lethal violence remained high. In central Guanajuato state, unknown assailants 6 Nov killed mother looking for her missing son in Abasolo city, becoming fifth volunteer search activist to be murdered this year. Also in Guanajuato, arrest of a Santa Rosa de Lima cartel leader sparked wave of violence, leaving nine dead in Apaseo el Alto municipality. In Tarimoro municipality, unknown gunmen 22 Nov shot dead four family members of local police officer. In central Zacatecas department, unknown gunmen 24 Nov shot dead National Guard coordinator José Silvestre Urzúa in Pinos municipality. In eastern Veracruz state, unknown assailants 22 Nov killed journalist Pedro Pablo Kumul in regional capital Xalapa. In central Tamaulipas state, shoot-out following arrest of criminal leader 28 Nov prompted schools and public transport to shut down. In central Jalisco state, unknown gunmen 29 Nov shot dead two civilians in their home in Tlajomulco de Zúñiga municipality.
Govt efforts to deepen militarisation of public security faced headwinds. Senate 9 Nov approved constitutional reform allowing armed forces to continue performing domestic law enforcement duties until 2028, after consent of over 20 state legislatures. Still, govt’s efforts to militarise public security stalled after federal judges in Guanajuato city and Mexico City 15 Nov granted provisional suspension against integration of National Guard into ministry of defence, arguing that initiative violates constitution; planned integration had prompted criticism from civil society observers who accused President López Obrador of breaking campaign promise to keep National Guard a civilian institution.
Proposed electoral reforms sparked backlash. López Obrador’s proposed electoral reforms, which envisage an overhaul of National Electoral Institute (INE) and reduction in number of legislators in Congress and Senate, prompted thousands 13 Nov to protest in over 16 states amid fears reforms could threaten independence and impartiality of electoral system. Despite these calls, López Obrador sought to advance proposals, with Chamber of Deputies 28 Nov approving reform in first debate. Meanwhile, López Obrador 27 Nov led march in Mexico City in response to opposition protests.
Deadly violence, notably targeting local officials, remained high, authorities continued to push through legislation extending military control over policing, and govt struck deal with U.S. to host Venezuelan migrants.
Lethal violence persisted at high levels, notably targeting local officials. In south, unidentified individuals, allegedly linked to criminal outfit, 5 Oct stormed town hall of San Miguel Totolapan municipality, Guerrero state, killing at least 20 including local mayor, police officers and municipal employees; unidentified assailant same day shot dead local Deputy Gabriela Marin in Cuernavaca city, Morelos state. Also in south, in Tabasco state, unknown gunmen 11 Oct killed former mayor of Comalcalco municipality; unknown gunmen 26 Oct shot dead environmental activist in Santiago Jamiltepec municipality, Oaxaca state. In centre, unknown gunmen 15 Oct opened fire in bar in Irapuato municipality, Guanajuato state, killing at least 12; unknown gunmen 4 Oct shot dead activist looking for her disappeared daughter in Puebla city, Puebla state. In north, in Ciudad Juárez city, Chihuahua state, unidentified assailants 13 Oct shot dead former prosecutor for homicides against women and one other. Confrontations between armed groups 13 Oct left at least five dead in four municipalities of Sonora state (north west).
Legislative process to deepen militarisation of public security continued apace. Congress 13 Oct approved constitutional reform allowing armed forces to carry out public security tasks until 2028 instead of 2024; bill must now be approved by 17 out of 32 state legislatures to become law. As of 27 Oct, 13 states had approved reform. Meanwhile, Chamber of Deputies 11 Oct approved initiative allowing federal govt to take unused funds in financial system (bank accounts that have been inactive for over six years) to buy police equipment.
Govt agreed to host Venezuelan migrants turned away at U.S. border. In move condemned by human rights groups, U.S. 12 Oct announced agreement with Mexico to send Venezuelan migrants back into Mexico under Title 42 provision of immigration law introduced during Trump era. Following announcement, migration authorities 15 Oct urged Venezuelan migrants to avoid irregular entry into their territory, saying it would make them “ineligible” for asylum in U.S.
Authorities stepped up military control over policing amid persistently high levels of criminal violence.Authorities took steps to deepen militarisation of public security. Govt proposal to formally integrate National Guard into defence ministry 9 Sept came into effect. Civil society groups same day condemned decision, with NGO Amnesty International saying increased military involvement in public security would “lead to more human rights violations and perpetuate impunity”. Responding to accusations he broke campaign promise to demilitarise public security, President López Obrador 6 Sept claimed he had changed his mind after realising gravity of security situation. In response to López Obrador’s move, protests 6, 15, 17 Sept took place in Mexico City. Meanwhile, lower house 14 Sept passed constitutional amendment, proposed by opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, allowing armed forces to carry out public security tasks until 2028 instead of 2024. Senate 20 Sept approved amendment with 18 votes in favour.Criminal violence remained high. Unidentified gunmen 22 Sept opened fire in bar in Tarimoro town, Guanajuato state (centre), killing ten. Unknown assailants 25 Sept ambushed police officers in Cañitas de Felipe Pescador municipality, Zacatecas state (centre north), injuring five. Meanwhile, advocacy group Global Witness 29 Sept released report on threats to environmental activists, showing that Mexico recorded highest number of killings of any country in 2021, totalling 54.Efforts to address impunity for past disappearances continued to face challenges. General Prosecutor’s Office 25 Sept cancelled 21 of 83 arrest warrants it requested last Aug against former officials allegedly involved in 2014 disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College, Guerrero state; judge 14 Sept acquitted José Luis Abarca, former mayor of Iguala, of having ordered students’ kidnapping. Authorities 15 Sept arrested General José Rodríguez Pérez, then commander of local infantry battalion, for allegedly ordering killing and disappearance of six of the students; Rodríguez Pérez is first high-ranking military officer arrested in case.
Rival criminal groups clashed, deadly attacks on journalists continued, and govt announced plans to extend military’s control over policing. Deadly violence persisted at high levels during month. In Jalisco and Guanajuato states (both centre), suspected members of Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG) 9 Aug blocked roads and set fire to vehicles and shops, apparently in response to federal forces’ attempt to capture leading members of group. In Ciudad Juárez city, Chihuahua state (north), suspected members of Sinaloa Cartel’s affiliated groups Los Mexicles and Los Chapos 11 Aug clashed inside local prison, killing two. Violence same day spilled onto city streets, with members of Los Mexicles killing nine. In Baja California state (north west), presumed members of local criminal group Los Erres, which collaborates with CJNG, 12 Aug blocked roads and set fire to public transport in Tecate, Mexicali, Rosarito, Ensenada and Tijuana cities. Suspected members of La Familia Michoacana drug cartel 25 Aug clashed with local gang in Tuzantla municipality, Michoacán state (centre), killing eight. Deadly attacks on journalists continued. Unknown assailants 2 Aug shot dead journalist Ernesto Méndez in San Luis de la Paz, Guanajuato; authorities 16 Aug found body of missing journalist Juan Arjón López in San Luis Río Colorado municipality, Sonora state (north west). Human rights organisation Article-19 18 Aug said 2022 “could be the worst year in a century” for Mexico’s journalists, with 331 documented attacks between Jan and June. President López Obrador 8 Aug announced he would present legislation to formally integrate National Guard into Ministry of Defence (SEDENA), prompting criticism from civil society observers for breaking promise to keep National Guard as civilian institution. Defence Minister Gen Luis Cresencio Sandoval 10 Aug confirmed National Guard will be formally integrated into SEDENA 16 Sept. Meanwhile, authorities 25 Aug announced former Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam will be criminally prosecuted for disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa college in 2014, becoming highest-ranking official facing justice for their deaths.
Protests erupted in Mexico City calling for authorities to address root causes of violence, which persisted at high levels throughout month; President López Obrador met with U.S. President Biden to discuss border security. Following late June killing of two priests in Chihuahua state (north), Jesuits 10 July protested in Mexico City, calling upon society and govt to collectively resolve root causes of violence. Jalisco Cartel New Generation criminal group in video released 8 July called on rivals not to harm “priests, teachers, doctors, nurses” in disputes between armed groups. Meanwhile, criminal violence continued across country. Notably, unknown assailants 3 July shot dead family of seven in Boca del Río city, Veracruz state (east); unidentified gunmen 4 July shot dead three police officers and wounded one in San Francisco del Mar town, Oaxaca state (south); armed individuals 10 July killed six and wounded eight at family celebration in León city, Guanajuato state (centre); gunmen 26 July shot dead six at drug rehabilitation centre near Guadalajara city, Jalisco state (centre). President López Obrador and U.S. President Joe Biden 12 July met in Washington to discuss border security amid U.S. frustration with Mexico’s counter-narcotics efforts. Mexico agreed to improve border security through $1.5bn investment. In Choix municipality, Sinaloa state (north west), security forces 15 July arrested Caro Quintero, founder of Sinaloa Cartel and priority U.S. target, for alleged 1985 assassination of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique Camarena in Mexico. During 15 July operation, 14 marines died in helicopter crash. Ruling party MORENA 30-31 July held internal primaries to elect deputies to National Congress, during which local media reported number of incidents. Notably, unknown men 31 July burned ballot boxes in Tequixquiac municipality, Mexico state (centre); civilians same day reported other irregularities such as forged ballot papers, theft and destruction of ballot boxes and ballot papers, as well as vote-buying throughout country. Meanwhile, finance ministry’s Financial Intelligence Unit 7 July said it had uncovered suspicious money transfers by former President Enrique Peña Nieto between 2019 and 2021, and that State Attorney’s Office had opened formal investigation.
Criminal violence continued at high levels, with rising deadly attacks on security forces; ruling party MORENA consolidated governorship positions ahead of 2024 presidential elections. In Guerrero state (south), two unidentified assailants 6 June killed chicken vendor in market in Chilpancingo municipality; two more were attacked 9 June in same market, leaving one dead; six more assassinated 11 June, including one child; attacks apparently committed by criminal group looking to extract protection payments from sector. In Chiapas state (south), unidentified gunmen 8 June shot dead Rubén de Jesús Valdez Díaz, mayor of Teopisca city, making him 17th mayor to be killed during López Obrador’s presidency since Dec 2018. In Tamaulipas state (centre), unknown assailant 29 June killed local reporter in state capital Ciudad Victoria amid ongoing targeting of journalists. Meanwhile, dozens of armed individuals 14 June confronted each other in San Cristóbal de la Casas municipality in apparent competition over two local market centres and related extortion and illicit drug activities. In Mexico state (centre), armed confrontation between security forces and suspected members of La Familia Michoacana 14 June left eleven dead in Texcaltitlán municipality. Violence against security forces also intensified. In Nuevo Leon State (north east), unidentified gunmen 26 June ambushed and killed six police officers in Anáhuac municipality; in Tamaulipas state (centre), armed men 26 June ambushed police patrol in Mante municipality, killing one police officer; and in Guanajuato state (centre), assailants 26 June killed former police director. Authorities 11-12 June recorded 257 homicides nationwide, making it second most violent weekend in 2022. Ruling party MORENA 5 June won four out of six governorships up for election in Quintana Roo, Hidalgo, Oaxaca and Tamaulipas states, lost Durango and Aguascalientes. MORENA now controls 22 out of 32 state governorships. President López Obrador following day called upon MORENA leaders aspiring for presidency in 2024 elections to start discussing their programs with party members, who will decide on candidate in internal vote; Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, FM Marcelo Ebrard and Interior Minister Adán Augusto López are all frontrunners.
Lethal violence remained high, notably targeting journalists, and President López Obrador called on U.S. to ease embargo on Cuba. Criminal violence continued during month. Notably, unidentified armed group 3 May attacked offices of Attorney General’s Office of Mexico State in Sultepec municipality (centre), blocking roads and wounding two agents, in fourth such incident in area in 2022. In apparent gang shooting, 15 unidentified gunmen opened fire in two bars in Celaya city, Guanajuato state (centre), killing at least 11. Journalists faced targeted violence: unidentified gunmen 4 May killed journalist Luis Enrique Ramírez Ramos in Culiacán city, Sinaloa state (north west); unidentified gunmen 9 May shot dead journalists Yessenia Mollinedo and Johana García in Cosoleacaque municipality, Veracruz state (east). Other violence persisted, notably involving state forces. Puebla state police 9 May allegedly ambushed members of indigenous group Unidad por Coyomeapan, who occupied offices of city govt since June 2021 to prevent local politician they accused of electoral fraud from taking office, leaving four dead. Civilians 11 May confronted and chased off soldiers in Nueva Italia municipality, Michoacán state (centre); army said it entered area in search of methamphetamine laboratories and accused locals of collaborating with local armed group, while civilians said soldiers acted on behalf of armed group Los Viagras. Municipal police 1 May violently supressed march protesting violence against women in Irapuato city, Guanajuato state (centre), arresting dozens, who were released next day. Interior Ministry’s National Registry of Missing People 16 May registered 100,000 people as missing or disappeared. Human rights organisation Fundación para la Justicia y el Estado Democrático de Derecho 28 May released report denouncing militarisation of migration policy since President López Obrador took office. U.S. judge 20 May blocked President Biden’s plan to end pandemic-era policy allowing U.S. authorities to turn away asylum seekers arriving at country’s southern border with Mexico. López Obrador 7-8 May visited Cuba calling for “renovation” of country’s “revolution” and on U.S. to lift sanctions, 10 May said he would not attend U.S. summit planned 6-10 June if other countries were excluded, 18 May demanded Venezuela and Nicaragua be invited.
High levels of criminal violence persisted, recall referendum confirmed President López Obrador as head of state, and authorities detained thousands of irregular migrants. In Guerrero state (south), prosecutor’s office said two gunmen launched attack in coastal resort of Acapulco, killing two; police later shot dead assailants. In Michoacán state (centre), clashes between security forces and Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG) 2 April killed at least nine in Sahuayo municipality, including one police officer; security forces 4 April killed five suspected CJNG members in Chavinda and Jaconda municipalities. In Veracruz state (east), shoot-out between alleged crime group members and police 5 April killed four in Acultzingo. In Mexico state (centre), unidentified attackers 10-11 April shot dead family of eight in Tultepec municipality. In Chihuahua state (north), unidentified criminal group 16 April killed five, including police officer and migration official in Janos municipality. UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances 12 April called for end to “absolute impunity” over disappearances, said organised crime “central perpetrator of disappearance in Mexico, with varying degrees of participation, acquiescence or omission by public servants”; By late Nov 2021, over 95,000 people registered as disappeared, with average of 8,000 new cases each year since 2017. Senate 27 April approved establishment of National Human Identification Centre to facilitate search for missing persons, albeit without allocating resources. On political front, in first recall referendum in country’s history, 92 per cent of 18 per cent registered voters 1o April voted for President López Obrador to remain in office for six-year term, which supporters viewed as proof of his popularity; opposition dismissed vote as propaganda. Ruling party MORENA 17 April failed to obtain two thirds parliamentary majority necessary to change constitution and implement energy reform, tightening govt control over energy sector. MORENA majority 18 April fast-tracked change in mining law to secure national control over lithium; Senate 20 April passed new mining code. National Migration Institute 26 April said authorities detained almost 6,000 migrants in four-day span, pointing at sharp rise in irregular migration; in just one day, authorities 24 April arrested 330 migrants on Puebla-Orizaba highway.
High levels of criminal violence continued, notably targeting women and journalists; authorities held talks with U.S. on mass migration. More than 75,000 women 8 March demonstrated on International Women’s Day to condemn pervasive gender-based violence. During month, suspected members of El Abuelo Cartel 8 March killed four women in Tepalcatepec in Michoacán state (centre); in first quarter of 2022, International NGO ACLED recorded over 90 attacks targeting women across country. Meanwhile, journalists faced targeted violence: unidentified gunman 4 March shot dead journalist Juan Carlos Muñiz in Fresnillo city, Zacatecas state (centre north), and unidentified attackers 15 March killed journalist Armando Linares in Zitácuaro city, Michoacán state. European Parliament 10 March passed resolution that condemned killings of journalists and urged President López Obrador “to ensure that human rights defenders and journalists can continue their activities without fear of reprisal and without restriction”; in response, López Obrador same day slammed resolution as “slanderous”. Other violence persisted. In Michoacán state (centre), unidentified gunman 10 March shot dead mayor of Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG)-controlled Aguililla city; shoot-out between CJNG and Carteles Unidos (CU) 10 March killed five in Nuevo San Juan Parangaricutiro village; gunmen 27 March attacked clandestine cockfighting venue, killing 20 in Las Tijanas locality. Following 13 March arrest of suspected leader of Northeast Cartel Juan Gerardo Treviño “El Huevo” in Nuevo Laredo city, Tamaulipas state (north near U.S. border), gang members 14 March launched armed attacks against military installations and blocked roads; authorities 15 March extradited El Huevo to U.S. on organised crime and drug-trafficking charges, with Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard labelling arrest as “one of the most important of the last decade”. Federal forces 13 March also detained alleged leader of CJNG Aldrin Miguel Jarquín in Colima state (west). Mexican and U.S. officials 14 March discussed need to address “unprecedented flow” of migrants and its root causes at high-level meeting in Mexico City. Several thousand Ukrainians and anti-war Russians during month tried to enter U.S. via Mexico; in response, U.S. authorities granted one-year temporary “humanitarian parole” to Ukrainians despite Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” migration policy.
Targeted killings of journalists prompted local outcry, armed group violence continued unabated, and U.S. authorities temporarily halted avocado import after security incident. Deadly attacks on journalists continued throughout month, with a total of at least six journalists killed since Jan: suspected gang members 5 Feb killed former journalist Ernesto Islas Flores outside his house in Tijuana city, Baja California state (north west); unidentified gunmen 10 Feb shot dead journalist Heber Lopez in Oaxaca state (south). President López Obrador 11 Feb illegally revealed financial information about journalist Carlos Loret; Loret is among those who reported alleged conflict of interest in president’s family, including case involving one of López Obrador’s sons. In response to attacks on journalists, dozens of reporters 14 Feb launched protest at Chamber of Deputies session; series of protests across country urging govt to put an end to violence on journalists followed in subsequent weeks. Meanwhile, armed groups violence continued across country. Notably, clashes 5 Feb erupted between criminal gangs in Zacatecas state (centre north), killing 16; three separate armed attacks 2, 3, 6 Feb killed ten in Juchitán de Zaragoza, Oaxaca state (south). Authorities 7 Feb found body of Enrique Velázquez Orozco, mayor of Contepec municipality, Michoacán state (centre), who had disappeared two days earlier; 10 Feb found four plastic bags with human remains in front of govt building in Yehualtepec municipality, Puebla state (centre). In Tapachula city, Chiapas state (south), hundreds of migrants 3 Feb protested against slow pace of visa approvals and threatened to form new caravan; National Human Rights Commission 5 Feb asked immigration authorities to speed up regularisation processes to allow nearly 2,000 migrants to regularise their stay or travel free from detention. Mexico representative of UN refugee agency 11 Feb urged Mexico to find alternatives to migrant detention or asylum. In unprecedented step, U.S. 12 Feb suspended avocado imports from Michoacán state after U.S. health inspector reportedly received threatening phone call; authorities 18 Feb lifted ban.
High levels of criminal violence notably targeting journalists continued; ruling party came in spotlight for corruption case. Deadly criminal violence continued. In Zacatecas state (centre), Cartel Jalisco New Generation (CJNG) 6 Jan left car filled with ten bodies in front of state governor’s office in state capital Zacatecas; police arrested two suspects. In Veracruz state (east), CJNG 7 Jan reportedly dumped nine bodies in Isla municipality and accused Veracruz official of collaborating with Sinaloa Cartel; 8 Jan dumped four bodies outside state capital Xalapa. Unidentified gunmen 9, 16 Jan attacked bars in Ciudad Juárez municipality, Chihuahua state (north), and Comalcalco municipality, Tabasco state (south), killing respectively three and six people. In context of regular clashes between CJNG and “United Cartels” coalition, unidentified gunmen 17 Jan killed five outside Tarecuato town, Michoacán state (centre). Armed men 27 Jan killed seven people in Zamora city, Michoacán state (west). Unidentified gunmen 29 Jan attacked army patrols in several towns of Michoacán, injuring ten soldiers; army accused local population of acting as “social base” for CJNG. Killings of journalists persisted. Notably, unknown assailants 12 Jan attacked journalist José Luis Gamboa in Veracruz port, Veracruz state (east); Gamboa three days later died from his wounds. In Tijuana city, Baja California state (north west), unidentified gunman 17 Jan shot dead photojournalist Margarito Martinez Esquivel outside his home; gunman 23 Jan shot dead journalist Lourdes Maldonado in her car. Electoral Court of Judicial Power 12 Jan confirmed ruling MORENA party would have to pay 4.5mn pesos fine (about $190,000) after National Electoral Institute mid-Sept found 10% of Texcoco municipal workers’ wages (around $600,000) had been used for party financing between 2013 and 2015; President López Obrador 18 Jan publicly expressed support toward Secretary of Education Delfina Gómez who was Texcoco mayor at the time. Head of country’s Commission for Refugee Assistance Andres Ramirez 3 Jan said number of asylum applications in Mexico nearly doubled in 2021 from 2019, mostly from Haitian and Honduran migrants. U.S. 5 Jan began returning migrants to Tijuana city in restart of Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” migration policy.
Deadly criminal violence continued, while U.S. reinstated Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” migration policy. In Tula City, Hidalgo state (centre), members of local oil theft gang Pueblos Unidos 1 Dec attacked prison and liberated nine inmates including group leader; authorities next day re-apprehended three, arrested ten people suspected of playing role in attack and reportedly put 12 security forces members under investigation. In Chinicuila municipality, Michoacán state (centre), internal displacements continued due to new waves of violence: clashes 7 Dec erupted between members of Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG) and National Guard; CJNG 8 Dec exploded drones on civilians in Chinicuila, Villa Victoria. About half of 4,800 Chinicuila inhabitants fled during month, including mayor and 15 police officers who 10 Dec resigned denouncing lack of federal govt support. In Jalisco state (centre), armed clashes 7 Dec erupted between CJNG and Sinaloa Cartel in Teocaltiche municipality, leaving seven dead. In Cerritos municipality, San Luis Potosí state (also centre), police 8 Dec launched operation against reported members of criminal group, leaving five killed in shootout including one police. Meanwhile, several armed clashes 29-30 Dec killed at least 14 people in Zacatecas state (also centre). U.S. and Mexican officials 2 Dec announced restart of former U.S. President Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy which forced tens of thousands of Central American asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for U.S. courts to hear their immigration cases; after U.S. President Biden issued new rescission memo, federal appeals court 13 Dec upheld order to reinstate policy. In Tuxtla Gutiérrez city, Chiapas state (south), truck packed mainly with Guatemalan migrants being smuggled northward 9 Dec flipped over, leaving at least 55 dead and 105 injured. U.S. and Mexico 14 Dec officially relaunched bilateral security operation with new agreement “Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health and Safe Communities” entering into force to replace 2007 Merida Initiative. UN Security Council 22 Dec approved Mexico’s resolution against arms trafficking.
Armed group violence continued at high levels with renewed fighting for control of trafficking routes reported in several states. Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG) stepped up offensive in attempt to extend control over Michoacán state (centre). Notably, CJNG 6 Nov reportedly killed seven men and left dismembered bodies in Hidalgo city with note addressed to rival Los Correa Cartel; 8-9 Nov raided Chinicuila town and Tepalcatepec city, leaving six soldiers injured and reportedly causing displacement of around 1,500 families. Also in Michoacán state, unidentified armed group 1 Nov killed 11 farmers in Tangamandapio town. In Mexico state (also centre), suspected members of criminal group La Familia Michoacana 4 Nov killed at least two police officers in ambush in Texcatitlán town. Authorities 15 Nov detained wife of CJNG leader Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes in Zapopan locality, Jalisco state (centre); in apparent retaliation, suspected CJNG members next day kidnapped two navy personnel in same locality, releasing them 19 Nov. Escalating clashes between criminal groups and state forces also reported in Zacatecas state (centre). Notably, criminal group 8 Nov kidnapped and later killed three police officers in Loreto municipality; in apparent gang-related killings, at least 16 bodies found 18 and 23 Nov in Zacatecas. Meanwhile in Quintana Roo state (south), shootout between suspected criminal groups 4 Nov killed two group members in Cancun resort town, casting doubts on security conditions in Mexico’s biggest tourist hub. In Chiapas state (also south), paramilitary group 3-5 Nov attacked Indigenous community in Aldama town amid land conflict, reportedly forcing 3,000 to flee. Violence also erupted in Chiapas as law enforcement tried to contain thousands of migrants heading north: after National Guard 31 Oct opened fire on truck carrying migrants, killing one, clashes 4 Nov left several injured on both sides. Govt 23 Nov said most migrants had accepted offer to quit caravan in exchange for legal status in Mexico. U.S. authorities 30 Nov sentenced wife of jailed Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán to three years imprisonment for helping Sinaloa drug cartel.
Criminal violence remained at high level, and security dialogue with U.S. kicked off. Shootout between two criminal groups 10 Oct left 20 dead in Guadalupe y Calvo municipality, Chihuahua state (north). Unidentified gunmen same day killed four off-duty police officers in Zacatecas municipality, Zacatecas state (centre north). In Michoacán state (centre), unidentified gunmen 18 Oct attacked nightclub in Morelia municipality, killing six. Shootout between suspected criminal group members 20 Oct killed two foreign tourists in Tulum resort town, Quintana Roo state (south). In Tamaulipas state (north near U.S. border), clashes erupted between law enforcement and Gulf Cartel (CDG) in Matamoros town, leaving four CDG dead 17 Oct and at least another three killed 22-23 Oct, including cartel leader Ariel Treviño Peña, alias “el Tigre”. Interior ministry 5 Oct said 47 journalists and 94 human rights and environmental activists killed since start of President López Obrador’s term in late 2018, with perpetrators sentenced in only five and two cases respectively; also said state officials responsible for 43% and “organized crime” for 33% of attacks against journalists, which continued in Oct. Unidentified gunmen 26 and 28 Oct shot and killed two journalists in Guerrero and Chiapas states (south). Meanwhile, govt 6 Oct created Truth Commission to investigate grave human rights violations committed during country’s so-called anti-leftist “dirty war” between 1965 and 1990. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 8 Oct attended High-Level Security Dialogue in capital Mexico City to discuss new security cooperation agreement between U.S. and Mexico with view to replacing current Merida Initiative launched in 2007 to fight organised crime and associated violence. Authorities 6 Oct deported 129 Haitian migrants despite criticism from human rights and conflict prevention groups. In Hidalgo municipality (Tamaulipas state, north), authorities 8 Oct detained 652 mostly Guatemalan migrants bound for U.S. border, including 200 minors, 101 of whom were deported to Guatemala 12 Oct. Clashes 23 Oct erupted in Chiapas state (south) as law enforcement tried to contain thousands of migrants from Haiti, South America and Central America heading north.
High-level criminal violence persisted, with activists at particular risk, while authorities relaunched economic dialogue with U.S., including on migration issues. In Morelos state’s Cuernavaca city (centre), unidentified assailants killed environmental activist Rodrigo Morales Vázquez 2 Sept and social activist Alejandro García Zagal 7 Sept. In Chihuahua state (north), armed attack 7 Sept left nine dead in Cuauhtémoc municipality; Juárez Cartel’s La Línea faction 22 Sept reportedly killed six people in clash with Sinaloa Cartel. In Michoacán state (west), Jalisco Cartel New Generation throughout month attempted to take control of Michoacán-Jalisco border town of Tepalcatepec, with explosives-equipped drones now being reportedly used and threats specifically targeting civilians. Notably, during 14-15 Sept cartel offensive, gang members killed five individuals manning checkpoint; several people, including two national guardsmen, also injured during fighting. In Coahuila state (north east), soldiers 16 Sept killed nine people who had according to official sources attacked police officers in Hidalgo municipality. In suspected extortion-related attack in Guanajuato state (centre), package containing explosive device 19 Sept killed two civilians in Salamanca city; development illustrates escalating use of explosives by criminal groups. During visit of FM Marcelo Ebrard to U.S. capital Washington DC, Mexico and U.S. 9 Sept agreed to relaunch bilateral High-Level Economic Dialogue, which among other measures seeks to foment economic development in southern Mexico and Central America to curb migration. Violence against migrants continued. Notably, armed groups 13 Sept abducted and same day released 38 people, including 22 Haitians and Cubans, in Matehuala city, San Luis Potosí state. Migrants also continued to seek to cross border to U.S. under perilous circumstances: reports 16 Sept revealed that over 10,000 mostly Haitian migrants awaited in dire conditions under bridge outside U.S. city of Del Rio, in hope of being processed by U.S. immigration authorities. In Chiapas state (south), around 1,000 mostly Haitian migrants 28 Sept gathered in Tapachula city to request asylum appointments. Govt 29 Sept sent 70 Haitian migrants back to Haiti in what it described as “voluntary return” flight.
Drug cartel violence continued, with journalists at particular risk; U.S. policy toward migrants and refugees came under scrutiny. Heavy fighting throughout month persisted in Zacatecas state (centre north), allegedly between Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG) and Sinaloa Cartel-affiliated groups, leaving at least 28 dead 3-13 Aug. In video released 8 Aug, men claiming to speak on behalf of CJNG leader threatened to kill prominent TV journalist Azucena Uresti over what they deemed to be unfair coverage of battle between cartel and vigilante groups in Michoacán state (centre). Unidentified gunman 19 Aug shot dead radio journalist Jacinto Romero Flores in Ixtaczoquitlán town, Veracruz state (east). Meanwhile, federal govt 4 Aug filed lawsuit in U.S. court against 11 U.S. gunmakers and arm dealers for alleged negligent practices encouraging illegal arms trafficking to Mexico. In blow to President López Obrador, referendum on trying former presidents 1 Aug fell short of 40% turnout required to make it binding. Head of Mexico Supreme Court 6 Aug said he would conclude his term as planned in late 2022 despite Congress’s controversial decision in April to extend it by nearly two years. In possible strategic move ahead of 2024 presidential election, López Obrador 26 Aug appointed governor of his home state of Tabasco, Adán Augusto López Hernández, as new interior minister. UN refugee agency 11 Aug expressed concern after U.S. late July began deporting Central American undocumented migrants and asylum seekers to southern Mexico under COVID-19-related public health order. U.S. Supreme Court 24 Aug required U.S. President Biden’s administration to reinstate former U.S. President Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy, which forced tens of thousands of Central American asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for U.S. courts to hear their immigration cases; U.S. govt same day said it would challenge ruling. Meanwhile, caravan of about 500 migrants and asylum seekers from Central America and Caribbean 28 Aug left southern city of Tapachula for Mexico City to protest slow asylum process as govt deployed hundreds of security forces, videos on social media showed National Guard troops and govt’s migration agency officers allegedly beating and detaining migrants.
Criminal groups continued to fight for control of trafficking routes in several states. In Zacatecas state (centre north), clashes between alleged members of Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG) and Sinaloa Cartel 1 July left 30 dead outside San Juan Capistrano town. In Chiapas state (south), suspected CJNG members 7 July killed five Sinaloa Cartel members, including son of former cartel chief in Chiapas, in drive-by shooting in state capital Tuxtla Gutiérrez. Also in Chiapas, unidentified armed men 5 July shot and killed indigenous leader and human rights defender Simón Pedro Pérez López in Simojovel town; clashes 7 July erupted between drug-trafficking gangs and newly formed self-defence group in Chenalhó and Pentalhó municipalities, and gunmen 9 July ambushed military and police officers on their way to Pentalhó, leaving nine injured; suspected self-defence group 26 July raided Pentalhó and abducted 21 people; violence in area reportedly displaced thousands throughout month. Meanwhile in Tamaulipas state (north), three warring Gulf Cartel factions 26 July announced truce. Entire municipal administration-elect of Penjamillo municipality, Michoacán state (centre), 1 July announced it would not assume office; move comes after suspected criminal group kidnapped mayor-elect and killed two of his close collaborators following 6 June elections. In Mexico state (centre), federal authorities 5 July arrested former high-ranking federal police officer Luís Cárdenas Palomino over torture allegations. Meanwhile, Mexican news outlet Latinus 8 July released video reportedly showing President López Obrador’s brother Martín Jesús receiving large amount of cash from state official in 2015, when López Obrador’s National Regeneration Movement first participated in elections; Latinus said cash was never reported to electoral authorities, and could amount to campaign finance violation; López Obrador next day said video was part of smear campaign to discredit him.
Legislative elections marked setback for ruling party amid ongoing violence by criminal groups. Ruling MORENA party 6 June lost absolute majority in lower house of Congress; together with allied Ecologist Green Party and Labour Party, MORENA still holds more than 50% of seats. President López Obrador 8 June said he would negotiate with Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to secure constitutional changes in electoral law, energy sector and security, which require two-thirds majority; 16 June said he would seek constitutional reform to formally incorporate National Guard into armed forces before 2023. MORENA also secured majority of municipalities, and won 11 out of 15 governorships, thus becoming country’s primary political force at state level. Violent incidents continued in lead-up to elections, including ambush that killed five people transporting voting materials in Chiapas state (south) 5 June. Consultancy firm Etellekt 21 June reported total of 102 politicians, including 36 candidates, killed since Sept 2020. In days following vote, demonstrators contested results on grounds of alleged electoral fraud and vote-buying notably in Tlaxcala state (centre), where MORENA won most mayorships previously held by PRI. Meanwhile, federal judge 15 June sentenced former mayor of Chínipas city (Chihuahua state in north), Schultz Alcaraz, to eight years in prison after Alcaraz admitted to having abetted assassination of journalist Miroslava Breach in 2017. In Tamaulipas state (north), unidentified gunmen 19 June killed at least 18 people among whom four drug lords in Reynosa city near U.S. border. In Zacatecas state (north), suspected shootout between two rival drug cartels 24-25 June killed 18. U.S. VP Kamala Harris 6-8 June visited Guatemala and Mexico on her first trip abroad since taking office, met with López Obrador in capital Mexico City; both sides agreed to continue to jointly address root causes of migration from Central America. Harris 25 June visited U.S.-Mexico border.
Armed group violence continued, notably targeting politicians and journalists in lead-up to 6 June legislative, regional and local elections. Authorities 29 April-12 May excavated 26 bodies in and around Irapuato town, Guanajuato state (centre). Amid turf battles between Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG) and rival Sinaloa Cartel in north of Jalisco state (centre), unidentified armed group 7 May abducted and later killed three siblings in state capital Guadalajara; thousands 12 May took to streets in Guadalajara to call for justice. In Sonora state (north), unidentified assailants early May killed local journalist in Sonoyta municipality and 13 May shot dead former state attorney and current mayoral candidate in Cajeme municipality. Also in north, unidentified gunmen 24 May ambushed and killed Sinaloa state police director near state capital Culiacan. Unidentified assailants 25 May killed mayoral candidate in Moroleon city in Guanajuato state, bringing to 34 number of candidates and to 88 number of politicians murdered ahead of 6 June vote. President López Obrador 7 May accused National Electoral Institute of tolerating vote buying by two opposition candidates in Nuevo León state (north). Attorney General’s Office 10 May announced investigations into both candidates over allegations of campaign irregularities; cases are currently the only ones made public out of 450 ongoing investigations for suspected electoral fraud. After collapse of Mexico City metro overpass 3 May killed 26, hundreds in following days took to streets to demand justice for victims and protest corruption and negligence; authorities had reportedly ignored successive warnings about structural weaknesses and damages in construction of elevated track. Ruling MORENA party-dominated Senate 6 May rejected creation of investigative commission into accident. López Obrador and U.S. VP Kamala Harris 7 May vowed to collaborate to tackle root causes of migration in Central America; more concrete steps expected during Harris’s visit to Mexico City scheduled for 8 June.
Criminal groups continued to target politicians and civil society activists ahead of June general elections, and tensions ran high between ruling party and electoral authorities. Suspected members of criminal group 3 April killed Carlos Marqués Oyorzábal, environmental activist and municipal commissioner in San Miguel Totolapan municipality, Guerrero state (south). Unidentified gunmen 24 April killed Francisco Rocha, candidate for Tamaulipas state (north) Congress, in state capital Ciudad Victoria. Etellekt, a consultancy firm tracking political killings, 10 April reported 68 politicians, including 22 candidates, killed since campaign for legislative, gubernatorial and municipal elections started in Sept 2020. Meanwhile, clashes between Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG) and alliance of local criminal groups mid-March-early April reportedly left at least eight killed and displaced more than 1,000 in Aguililla municipality, Michoacán state (centre). U.S. 6 April sanctioned two CJNG members over accusations of involvement in attack on Mexico City’s police chief in June 2020 and murder of Jalisco state’s former governor in Dec 2020. National Electoral Institute (INE) 27 April confirmed its March decision to cancel 50 ruling MORENA party candidacies, including for governor of Guerrero and Michoacán states, over candidates’ failures to account for campaign spending. President López Obrador next day said decision was politically motivated and “blow against democracy”. Earlier in month, MORENA candidate for governor of Guerrero, Félix Salgado Macedonio, 11 April threatened to impede elections if barred from running, and next day emitted veiled threats against INE commissioners, asking his supporters if they would “not want to know where [the commissioners] lived”; women’s groups and allies have widely protested Salgado’s candidacy, who stands accused of rape. Govt-controlled Senate 15 April voted to prolong Supreme Court President Arturo Zaldívar’s tenure by two years until 2024, in possible violation of constitutional four-year limit to Supreme Court presidents’ tenure; opposition immediately accused MORENA and López Obrador of aiming to “control” institution ahead of 2024 presidential election. Amid rise in number of migrants on Mexico-U.S. border in recent months, U.S. govt 12 April said it had reached deal for Mexico to send more troops to border with Guatemala.
Political violence continued in run-up to 6 June legislative, regional and local elections, and women mobilised against gender-based violence. Unidentified assailants 17 March killed Pedro Gutiérrez, ruling MORENA party precandidate for municipal presidency of Chilón town, Chiapas state (south), alongside his 8-year-old son and another person; 20 March killed Ivonne Gallegos Carreño, opposition precandidate for mayor of Ocotlán de Morelos town, in Oaxaca state (south). Govt 4 March said at least 64 politicians, including 17 candidates running for office, had been killed between Sept 2020 and Feb 2021. On International Women’s Day, thousands of women 8 March gathered across country against gender-based violence, high rates of femicides and impunity enjoyed by perpetrators, as well as President López Obrador’s backing of Félix Salgado Macedonio, who stands accused of rape, as ruling MORENA party candidate for Guerrero state governorship. Women’s march in capital Mexico City turned violent: demonstrators threw firecrackers and Molotov cocktails against fence erected outside presidential palace and clashed with police, leaving at least 81 injured including 62 police. National Electoral Institute 26 March suspended Macedonio’s candidacy alongside 26 other candidates, citing failures to report campaign spending. Suspected members of La Familia Michoacana criminal group 18 March ambushed and killed 13 police officers or agents from state prosecutor’s office in Coatepec Harinas municipality, Mexico state (centre). Angry villagers 29 March detained 15 soldiers for hours in Motozintla municipality, Chiapas state (south) near border with Guatemala after soldier reportedly shot dead Guatemalan migrant. Prosecutors 28 March said they were investigating four municipal police officers following death of woman in police custody previous day in Tulum town, Quintana Roo state (south); Obrador next day said woman had been subjected to “brutal treatment and murdered”. In major policy shift, Chamber of Deputies 11 March approved law partly legalising marijuana; law still has to pass Senate. U.S. President Biden 22 March dispatched envoys to Mexico and Guatemala for talks on how to manage major increase in number of migrants heading for Mexican-U.S. border; Biden 24 March said he had tasked U.S. VP Kamala Harris with coordinating efforts to stem flow of migrants on border.
Political violence ran high in lead-up to legislative, gubernatorial and municipal elections set for 6 June, as several candidates killed. Unidentified assailants killed Leobardo Ramos Lázaro, mayor of Santa María Chahuites town, Oaxaca state (south) 4 Feb; Juan Gilberto Ortiz Parra, ruling party National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) precandidate for mayor of Úrsulo Galván town, Veracruz state (east) 11 Feb; Gladys Merlín Castro, former mayor of Cosoleacaque town, also Veracruz state, and her daughter, Karla Merlín, MORENA precandidate for Cosoleacaque mayor 15 Feb. Amid growing anger over President Obrador’s backing of ruling party candidate for southern Guerrero state governor, Félix Salgado Macedonio, who is accused of rape, protesters for and against Salgado’s candidacy 24 Feb clashed in Iguala city, leaving at least one injured. Other criminal violence also high. In Jalisco state (centre), police 11 Feb found 18 plastic bags containing human remains on outskirts of state capital Guadalajara; unidentified gunmen 27 Feb opened fire on home in Tonala municipality near Guadalajara, killing at least 11. In Veracruz state, unidentified gunmen 12 Feb attacked municipal police patrol in Córdoba city, killing three. In Chihuahua state (north), unidentified assailants 14 Feb ambushed alleged members of criminal group in Villa Coronado town, killing five. Tamaulipas state (north) Attorney General 2 Feb said 12 officers belonging to elite police unit had been arrested and charged with homicide of 19 mostly Guatemalan migrants whose bodies were found late Jan near U.S. border. Attorney General’s Office 23 Feb asked Congress to strip Tamaulipas governor Francisco Garcia Cabeza de Vaca of immunity to prosecute him for alleged ties to organised crime and money laundering. U.S. authorities late Feb detained wife of jailed Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán on suspicion of drug trafficking. U.S. administration mid-Feb said it will gradually allow into U.S. tens of thousands of asylum seekers currently forced to wait in Mexico for their immigration court hearings as a result of former U.S. President Trump’s immigration policy; 19 Feb admitted first group of asylum seekers into U.S.
Authorities cleared former Defence Minister Salvador Cienfuegos of drug trafficking charges following his release from U.S. custody; meanwhile, gang violence remained high. In Guanajuato state (centre), deadly turf war between Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel (CSRL) and Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG) continued in Santa Rosa de Lima territory. Suspected CJNG gunmen 7 Jan shot nine people dead in Celaya municipality. CSRL members next day killed four, set house on fire, and left threatening message addressed to CJNG in same municipality. Clashes between suspected CJNG and security forces 11 Jan in Villagrán and Celaya municipalities left one police officer and at least nine assailants killed. Unidentified assailants overnight 12-13 Jan shot dead family of five inside their home in Irapuato municipality. In neighbouring Jalisco state (also centre), authorities 13 Jan found 17 plastic bags containing human remains in Tlajomulco de Zúñiga municipality; unidentified gunmen 30 Jan opened fire at civilians in Ojuelos municipality, killing seven. Territorial disputes between cartels also continued to claim lives in neighbouring Michoacán state. Two clashes between CJNG and suspected members of United Cartels — alliance of cartels and organised crime groups – 9-15 Jan left at least 16 dead along Michoacán-Jalisco border; local militia mid-month also clashed with CJNG. In Tamaulipas state (north), authorities 23 Jan found 19 burnt bodies in vehicles in Santa Anita town close to U.S. border; Guatemalan migrants reportedly among victims. Ahead of June legislative, gubernatorial and local elections, unidentified assailants 12 Jan shot dead member of Guanajuato state parliament in Juventino Rosas municipality. Authorities 14 Jan cleared former Defence Minister General Salvador Cienfuegos – who was arrested in U.S. in Oct on charges of organised crime and allowed to return to Mexico in Nov following Mexican govt pressure – of all charges. U.S. next day reserved right to reinitiate investigation against Cienfuegos, said move questioned bilateral security cooperation; Mexican govt had promised thorough investigation of Cienfuegos in return for his release from U.S. custody. Govt 25 Jan announced President López Obrador tested positive for COVID-19.
Cartel violence continued unabated while authorities stripped foreign law enforcement agents of diplomatic immunity. Along border between Michoacán and Jalisco central states, clashes between Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG) and alliance of Michoacán-based criminal groups in Nov and early Dec killed at least 26 and displaced over 1,000. Suspected CJNG gunmen 18 Dec shot and killed ex-governor of Jalisco state Aristóteles Sandoval in Puerto Vallarta town. Violence also increased in Zacatecas central state: clashes between CJNG and Sinaloa Cartel over control of drug trafficking routes left at least 28 dead 14-18 Dec; unidentified gunmen 9 Dec killed director of media outlet Prensa Libre MX, Jaime Castaño Zacarías, outside Jerez city. Also in centre, suspected Santa Rosa de Lima cartel 18 Dec killed three suspected CJNG members in Celaya city, Guanajuato state. After President López Obrador 6 Dec called for stripping U.S. officials of diplomatic immunity on Mexican soil, Chamber of Deputies 15 Dec approved new national security law requiring all foreign law enforcement agents to relinquish diplomatic immunity; move widely seen as targeting U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officials following diplomatic spat over Oct detention in U.S. of former Defence Minister General Salvador Cienfuegos on charges of drug trafficking and involvement in organised crime. Ahead of legislative elections set for July 2021, opposition parties Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), National Action Party (PAN) and Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) 5 Dec announced electoral coalition in bid to unseat ruling National Regeneration Movement (MORENA).
Criminal violence remained high while previous administrations faced new accusations of corruption and criminal activity. Armed group violence continued unabated, notably in Guanajuato state (centre), where Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel (SRLC) and Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG) compete for territory and oil siphoning; scores of bodies were discovered in clandestine burial sites, including 76 in Salvatierra city 20 Oct-11 Nov and 45 in Cortázar municipality 1 Nov. Unidentified gunmen killed journalists Jesús Alfonso Piñuelas in Cajeme municipality, Sonora state (north) 2 Nov and Israel Vázquez in Salamanca city, Guanajuato 9 Nov. Hundreds 9 Nov demonstrated against femicides and gender-based violence in Cancún city, Quintana Roo state (south east), after dismembered body of 20-year-old member of feminist movement was found in city previous day; police reportedly fired live rounds at protesters attempting to force entry into city hall, wounding at least two; use of force triggered further demonstrations in capital Mexico City and Chiapas state in following days. Previous administrations continued to face accusations of corruption and criminal activities. Army captain 11 Nov handed himself over to authorities after judge ordered his detention for alleged links with criminal organisation Guerreros Unidos, suspected of involvement in 2014 disappearance of 43 Ayotzinapa teaching college students. Reforma newspaper 12 Nov published internal document from Attorney General’s Office which accused former President Peña Nieto of having run criminal structure to influence elections and accepted bribes during his time in office. Mexican and U.S. Attorney Generals 17 Nov jointly announced that U.S. would drop drug trafficking charges against former Defence Minister General Salvador Cienfuegos so he could be investigated in Mexico instead; Mexico govt had raised objections over his arrest in U.S. in Oct, citing national security considerations; Cienfuegos returned to Mexico next day. Govt 27 Nov issued arrest warrant for corruption and began to seek extradition of former Public Security Minister Genaro García Luna, currently awaiting trial in U.S. on charges of collaborating with Sinaloa Cartel.
Criminal violence continued unabated while Supreme Court endorsed President López Obrador’s plan to hold referendum on prosecuting past presidents. Armed group violence continued at high level notably in Guanajuato state (centre), where Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel (SRLC) and Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG) compete for territory and oil siphoning. Amid concerns, first raised in Sept by former Justice Ombudsman of Guanajuato Juan Miguel Alcantara Soria, of possible alliance between Sinaloa Cartel and SRLC, authorities 1-7 Oct registered over 100 murders in state including 32 on 5 Oct; newspaper Mazaltan Post 6 Oct reported CJNG members extorting local business owners in Guanajuato city; authorities late Oct found at least 59 bodies in unmarked graves in Salvatierra municipality. Shootout between rival armed groups 3 Oct left six dead in capital Mexico City. Unidentified gunmen 29 Oct killed journalist Arturo Alba Medina in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state (north). Govt 7 Oct reported 77,171 people have gone missing since 2006 with 13,821 having disappeared during López Obrador’s administration. Supreme Court 1 Oct endorsed López Obrador’s plan to hold referendum on whether former presidents should be prosecuted, but removed any reference to past presidents in referendum question, framing it instead as whether “a process of clarifying political decisions taken in past years” should be undertaken; López Obrador next day hailed decision as “important step forward”, while many others, including political commentators and human rights groups, criticised move as sign court lacks independence and justice is being co-opted. In U.S., former Public Security Minister Genaro García Luna 7 Oct pleaded not guilty in New York court to charges of collaborating with Sinaloa Cartel, trafficking and importing cocaine, and reporting false statements to U.S. authorities; Los Angeles police 15 Oct arrested former defence minister, General Salvador Cienfuegos, on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering. Amid COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn, López Obrador 8 Oct cut funding of 109 public trust funds, claiming officials had taken advantage of emergency funds. Govt 25 Oct admitted COVID-19 death toll was higher than official figures, revising total from 88,924 to 139,153.
Criminal violence remained high while political tensions emerged over 2021 budget. Armed group-related violence continued, particularly in Baja California state (north) and central states of Colima, Michoacán, Guanajuato and Morelos. Notably, gunmen 1 Sept killed eight people attending funeral in Cuernavaca city (Morelos); 17 Sept attacked another wake in Celaya city (Guanajuato), killing five; and 22 Sept attacked taco stand in Irapuato city (Guanajuato), killing five. President López Obrador 1 Sept said “atrocities” – defined as acts of violence that include mutilation and torture – no longer occur in Mexico, but NGO Causa en Común 8 Sept reported 1,850 such attacks between Jan and Aug. Decapitated body of crime reporter Julio Valdivia, who recently covered clashes between local gang and police forces, was found 9 Sept outside Córdoba city, Veracruz state (Gulf Coast in east), bringing number of journalists killed under current administration to 17. Dozens of prominent journalists and intellectuals 17 Sept called on López Obrador to protect journalists and stop his attacks on “freedom of expression”. Govt 9 Sept presented 2021 budget including no significant stimulus investment despite expected economic fallout of COVID-19 pandemic, but major increases for armed forces. UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet 14 Sept and prominent civil society organisation Semáforo Delictivo 21 Sept expressed concern over increasing militarisation of public security, with freedom of information request 6 Sept showing 31% more soldiers deployed across country than at any point under two preceding administrations; budget also included cuts in funding to federated states and municipalities, prompting ten governors 7 Sept to accuse federal govt of granting some states preferential treatment. Women’s rights groups early Sept occupied National Human Rights Commission’s offices in several locations, including in Mexico City 9 Sept, to decry govt’s lack of response to femicides.
Criminal violence remained high while political tensions emerged over corruption allegations against previous administrations. Clashes between armed groups and targeted attacks on journalists continued in several areas. In Guanajuato state (centre) where Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel (SRLC) and Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG) compete for territory and over oil siphoning, security forces 2 Aug detained head of SRLC; violence dropped slightly but remained high following arrest, with Guanajuato recording at least 334 homicides in Aug, more than any other state. In Guerrero state (south), armed group 2 Aug killed journalist Pablo Morruagares and his bodyguard in Iguala city, and two days later shot at offices of publishing platform El Diario de Iguala where Morruagares had worked. In Michoacán state (centre), fighting between CJNG and alliance of smaller armed groups continued to cause displacements in El Aguaje municipality, and unidentified gunmen 4 Aug shot dead journalist Luis Eduardo Ochoa in Uruapan city. In Colima state (also centre), National Guard 6 Aug reportedly discovered 22 bodies in clandestine graves in Tecomán city. In Tamaulipas state (north east), soldiers 17 Aug killed nine alleged members of armed group in Miguel Alemán municipality. Following July extradition from Spain of former head of state-owned oil company PEMEX Emilio Lozoya, who faces corruption charges, Lozoya in testimonies early Aug reportedly accused former presidents Peña Nieto and Calderón of corruption, notably accepting bribes from Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht. President López Obrador 10 Aug claimed Mexico was “narco-state” under his predecessors and 12 Aug said both former presidents should be called to testify; in response, Calderón 10 Aug accused him of politically motivated persecution and state attorney 12 Aug argued he had no constitutional right to be involved. Number of COVID-19 deaths 6 Aug rose to over 50,000, third highest toll globally.
Criminal violence remained at record levels while govt faced scrutiny for COVID-19 response. In Guanajuato state (centre), armed attack on drug rehabilitation centre 1 July killed 27 in Irapuato town; attack reportedly part of territorial battle between Jalisco Cartel New Generation and Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel over drug routes and retail markets. In Tamaulipas state (north east), army 3 July killed twelve people, allegedly members of Cartel of the Northeast, in Nuevo Laredo city, while criminal group Zetas Vieja Escuela 6-9 July reportedly carried out several attacks on food company delivery vehicles in state capital Ciudad Victoria. Criticism of President López Obrador’s austerity program and lack of economic response to COVID-19 persisted amid concerns that rising poverty levels could boost recruitment by armed groups; meanwhile govt continued its partial economic reopening amid steadily rising number of virus infections and deaths. Federal State Attorney’s Office 7 July announced it had identified remains of one of 43 Ayotzinapa teaching college students who disappeared in 2014, accused former President Peña Nieto’s administration of covering up state involvement; Federal Search Commission 13 July said at least 79,602 persons have disappeared since 2006. In first trip abroad as president, López Obrador 8 July visited U.S. President Trump, praising Washington’s respect of “Mexico’s sovereignty”; observers criticised comments, pointing to Trump’s use of anti-Mexican sentiment for electoral gain and forcing of Mexico into hardline anti-migration position. U.S. authorities same day detained former Chihuahua state (north) governor César Duarte for alleged links to organised crime and began extradition process. Former head of state-owned oil company PEMEX Emilio Lozoya arrived in Mexico 17 July to face corruption charges following extradition from Spain; amid reports Lozoya’s testimony may implicate Peña Nieto, López Obrador same day reiterated refusal to pursue legal cases against former presidents.
Criminal groups’ activity continued to drive record homicide rates, with 8 June deadliest day this year with 118 killings, while concerns persisted over both police brutality and violence against police. Guanajuato state (centre), where Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG) and alliance of smaller groups fight over territory, continued to concentrate highest number of homicides; notably, armed group 6 June attacked rehabilitation centre in Irapuato town killing ten. In Colima state (centre), unidentified assailants 16 June killed judge working on CJNG cases and his wife. With 2020 on course to become deadliest year on record, with 11,535 homicides nationwide Jan-April, increase of 309 from 2019, 8 June was deadliest day this year with 118 homicides. In Jalisco state (centre) capital Guadalajara, armed individuals reportedly working for police 5 June abducted 39 during protest against police following death of man in custody previous day; amid public outcry over police violence against protesters and fears of enforced disappearances of all 39, governor Enrique Alfaro 6 June apologised, claiming police had been infiltrated by organised crime groups, and said all protesters had been found. Police 9 June killed 16-year-old American boy in unclear circumstances in Acatlán de Pérez Figueroa town, Oaxaca state (south), prompting further outrage. Attacks on police continued including three police officers killed in Silao city, Guanajuato state 11 June, and police chief and deputy of Zamora city, Michoacán state (centre), killed 17 June; suspected CJNG 26 June ambushed Mexico City’s police chief, wounding him and killing two bodyguards and civilian. Lack of coordination continued to plague govt’s COVID-19 response. Health Ministry 10 June advised population to stay at home but President López Obrador next day called on people to return to “new normality”.
Criminal violence continued to reach record levels, while civil society voiced concern over militarisation of public security. High homicide rates persisted in particular in central states of Guanajuato, Mexico state and Michoacán: notably, unknown assailants 18 May killed eight in armed attack on gas station in Guanajuato and police 23 May found twelve bodies in abandoned vehicle in Michoacán. In Sonora state (north), unidentified gunmen 16 May killed journalist Jorge Armenta and police officer in Cajeme municipality. Presidential decree 12 May allowed use of armed forces in wide array of public security tasks until May 2024; civil society groups condemned increasing militarisation, while National Human Rights Commission doubted decree’s legality for not specifying circumstances in which military could take charge of public security. President López Obrador 15 May criticised international media as “famous but unethical” following series of articles accusing govt of downplaying COVID-19 spread in country. Prison riot erupted 12 May in Colima city (centre) over COVID-19 ban on outside visits, leaving three prisoners dead. Amid significant increase in cases of domestic violence in context of COVID-19 restrictions, López Obrador 15 May claimed 90% of calls made by women to seek assistance were “false”, triggering heavy criticism by media and civil society. Govt 7 May signed agreement with Inter-American Human Rights Commission for expert group to resume investigations and technical assistance in case of disappearance of 43 Ayotzinapa teaching college students in Guerrero state (south) in 2014; expert group finished previous investigation in 2016 having found evidence of federal and state security forces complicity. In media interview, former U.S. Ambassador Roberta Jacobson 2 May said former President Calderon’s govt had information on alleged ties between then Security Minister Genaro García Luna – currently under trial in U.S. on charges of money laundering and involvement in organised crime – and Sinaloa Cartel.
Criminal violence remained high while govt’s soft response to COVID-19 crisis continued to spark controversy. Following highest monthly number of homicides on record in March with 2,585 cases, violence and armed clashes continued at high levels, notably in centre. In series of murders in Guanajuato state (centre) 10 April, unidentified assailants killed at least thirteen people in León and Salamanca cities. In neighbouring Michoacán state, suspected members of criminal group Jalisco Cartel New Generation 26 April killed 21 alleged combatants of rival group Los Viagras in Aguililla city. Several violent incidents also took place in north. Notably, state police clashed with criminal group in Nuevo Laredo city, Tamaulipas state 2 April, number of casualties unknown; and shootout between Sinaloa Cartel and Juárez Cartel in Chihuahua state killed nineteen suspected gang members 4 April. Targeted killings of journalists and civil society activists continued. Journalist Víctor Álvarez, who disappeared 2 April after having received threats from criminal group, was found dead 8 April in Acapulco city, Guerrero (south); same day, unknown assailants shot dead environmental activist and mining opponent Adán Vez Lira in Actopan city, Veracruz state (Gulf Coast in east). Several state governors throughout month criticised govt’s reliance on voluntary measures to curb spread of COVID-19 – including 16 April extension of social isolation recommendations until late-May – and refusal to pursue large stimulus package to mitigate economic impact of pandemic. Sonora state (north) governor 13 April and Michoacán and Jalisco states (both centre) governors 20 April implemented mandatory state-wide lockdowns. Organised crime appeared set on capitalising on crisis to increase penetration into local communities and boost recruitment; various criminal groups 4 April began posting online videos and images of handout of aid packages in Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Michoacán and Jalisco states.
Civil society staged large protests over femicides while criminal violence continued unabated. At least 100,000 people marched in capital Mexico City 8 March to demand end to violence against women; next day, women across country went on strike in observance of “day without women”, with some commercial establishments including banks shutting. Criminal violence continued in Guanajuato state (centre): cartel Santa Rosa de Lima 10 March clashed with state forces and blocked roads reportedly after authorities attempted to detain group’s leader José Antonio Yépez alias “El Marro”; President López Obrador next day denied effort to capture Yépez and said violence was triggered by early March arrests of group members; competition between Santa Rosa de Lima and Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG) over fuel siphoning and other illegal revenue streams continued. López Obrador met mother of former Sinaloa Cartel lead Joaquín Guzmán alias “El Chapo” in Badiraguato city, Sinaloa state 29 March, sparking outcry, with critics noting that president has not met with victims of drug cartels. U.S. authorities 11 March reported arrest of over 500 suspected CJNG operatives in U.S., lauding operation as success against cartel; however, observers noted previous mass detentions failed to curb flow of drugs into U.S. or violence in Mexico. Amid COVID-19 pandemic, govt 28 March called on citizens to stay at home, but govt’s reliance on voluntary measures apart from banning of gatherings of more than 50 people, and López Obrador’s continued travelling sparked controversy. Concerns increased over economic impact of coronavirus amid fall in global oil prices, with peso 9-13 March falling 8.3% to historical low against dollar and analysts voicing fears that state-owned oil company PEMEX may face economic blow.
Criminal violence remained high, affecting indigenous communities in particular, while anger grew over femicides and violence against women. In Uruapan, Michoacán state (centre), shooting reportedly linked to competition between criminal groups Los Viagras and Jalisco Cartel New Generation left nine people dead 3 Feb; clandestine grave with eleven bodies was discovered 2 Feb. In Guerrero state (south), criminal groups continued to impose siege on indigenous communities in attempt to take over territories and businesses including heroin and mineral mining; following Jan killing of ten indigenous musicians by criminal group Los Ardillos, indigenous self-defence force reportedly armed children. Women demonstrated in capital Mexico City and other cities to condemn femicides and call on govt to take action against gender-based violence after police 9 Jan leaked images of body of woman murdered and mutilated by her partner, and body of 7-year old girl, abducted 11 Feb, was found 17 Feb with signs of torture, both in Mexico City. President López Obrador 12 Feb said discussion on femicides was “manipulation” by right-wing political enemies designed to harm him, drawing harsh criticism and leading to further marches. Spanish authorities 12 Feb arrested Emilio Lozoya, former head of state oil company PEMEX who fled corruption charges in Mexico in May 2019; govt has until end of March to request extradition.
Criminal violence remained high, particularly in central states, while security forces clashed with migrants attempting to enter country through southern border. In centre, Guanajuato state recorded 395 murders 1-27 Jan amid competition between Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG) and alliance of local armed groups for control of oil siphoning, drug routes and drug retail markets; in Michoacán state, suspected members of unidentified crime group 20 Jan killed two soldiers and wounded ten police in ambush outside avocado industry hub Uruapan. Clashes between CJNG and rival group Los Viagras over north-bound trafficking corridors from Guerrero state (south) through Michoacán 11 Jan killed two alleged armed group members and police officer; clashes between same groups in Zirándaro, Guerrero starting 14 Jan killed at least ten and forced 800 civilians to flee. Suspected members of armed group Los Ardillos 18 Jan ambushed and killed ten members of indigenous community in Guerrero. Army 16 Jan killed eleven members of illegal armed group, reportedly after being ambushed in Miguel Alemán, Tamaulipas state (south). In what observers lauded as effort to recognise scale of disappearances, govt 6 Jan reported 61,637 people currently classified as disappeared; previous govt maintained total was 40,000. Targeted killings of journalists and activists continued, with radio host Fidel Ávila, missing since Nov 2019, found shot dead 7 Jan in Michoacán state, women’s rights activist Isabel Cabanillas found shot dead 19 Jan in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua state (north) and environmental activist Homero Gómez, missing since 13 Jan, found dead 29 Jan in Michoacán state. Amid regional focus on migration, caravan of Central American migrants, having departed from Honduras 15 Jan, reached Guatemala-Mexico border 19 Jan; after govt closed border 18 Jan under pressure from U.S., National Guard 19-21 Jan used tear gas and threw stones to prevent migrants entering country, leaving several wounded.
Violence continued across country, particularly in Guanajuato and other central states, while tensions with U.S. from Nov eased somewhat. Head of Public Security Secretariat of Cuernavaca in Morelos state (centre), Juan David Juárez López, shot dead 6 Dec in apparent targeted assassination. Also in centre, armed commando 11 Dec attacked municipal police building in Villagrán, Guanajuato state, killing three police and kidnapping four others who were later found dismembered in plastic bags 13 Dec; Jalisco Cartel New Generation claimed responsibility for attack; Villagrán lies in highly contested area due to pipeline running through it, from which criminal groups siphon gasoline. Guanajuato (centre) recorded as deadliest state in country for police, with 78 killed in 2019, out of 442 nationwide. Fighting between members of Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel in a Zacatecas state prison 31 Dec left 16 dead in Cieneguillas town (centre). Genaro García Luna arrested in Dallas, Texas 9 Dec on charges of accepting millions in bribes from Sinaloa Cartel as public security secretary and chief drug-war architect under president Felipe Calderón (2006-2012), and as head of Federal Investigation Agency under previous president Vicente Fox. Calderón reacted with “surprise”. U.S. President Trump 6 Dec announced he was “delaying” designation of Mexican criminal groups as Foreign Terrorist Organisations, which he announced following early Nov killing of Mormon family with U.S. nationality in northern Mexico; Mexican govt had lobbied intensely against designation, which it argued would compromise its sovereignty. Following more than two years of negotiations after Trump re-opened Mexico-U.S.-Canada free trade agreement, the three govts 11 Dec signed USMCA to replace NAFTA. Already ratified by Mexico, the U.S. and Canada are expected to do so early in the year.