As the coronavirus rages in Mexico and the northerly Central American countries, criminal outfits have adapted, often enlarging their turf. To fight organised crime more effectively, governments should combine policing with programs to aid the vulnerable and create attractive alternatives to illegal economic activity.
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.
Crime rates are climbing across Mexico, as cartels splinter into smaller groups competing ferociously for turf. Just one state, Guerrero, contends with at least 40 such outfits. The government needs a tailored approach for each region, focused on protecting the public and reforming the police.
With hopes for change sky-high, Mexico’s president-elect confronts endemic violent crime and state corruption. To make good on his campaign promises, his team should pursue justice in killings by state personnel, reform the civilian police and give robust mandates to truth commissions with victim participation.
Mexico stops hundreds of thousands of Central Americans fleeing northward to the U.S. Many are deported, and many more are stuck in the country’s south, vulnerable to crime and rising xenophobia. With U.S. and European help, Mexico should work harder to protect migrants and foster economic development.
Mexico’s third-most populous state has suffered an unprecedented wave of violence. Veracruz’s new governor must stand by pledges to end state-criminal collusion and impunity. Strong international support will be needed to help find the bodies of the disappeared and transform the state police and legislature.
Violence is up but impunity remains the norm in Guerrero, where the lines between organised crime and legitimate authority are often blurred. President Peña Nieto’s government must turn a new leaf and embrace new investigative bodies and international expertise capable of regaining the trust that Guerrero’s corrupted institutions have lost.
The impotence of Mexican government security forces has been made particularly evident in the events of the last few months.
[The arrest of José Antonio Yépez] is basically a short-lived P.R. victory, but it doesn’t provide a solution. The big worry is that there is no backing in terms of a more cohesive security strategy.
While much of the narrative around violence in Mexico focuses on drug trafficking and cartels, the "on-the-ground realities are far more complex.
But in Mexico, armed clashes between rival crime factions continued throughout March and early April, and 2,585 homicides were registered last month alone.
These [armed] groups [in Mexico] are trying to be seen as catering materially and providing a notion of security in places where they are also directly preying on the population [...].
It’s business as usual [for drug cartels in Mexico] with a risk of further escalation, especially if at some point the armed forces are called away for pandemic control.
The “war on drugs” has not smashed Mexican organised crime but broken it into smaller fragments that fight each other for turf. This has come at the cost of thousands of lives, with last year being the deadliest on record. The sheer difficulty of counting the criminal groups underscores the scale of the government’s challenge in protecting the public.
Panel en línea con la participación de los expertos de Crisis Group Falko Ernst y Jane Esberg, quienes presentan sus últimos informes sobre la violencia en México, comentarios a cargo del destacado investigador y columnista Sergio Aguayo y moderado por la subdirectora del Programa de América Latina y el Caribe, Renata Segura.
As the coronavirus spreads, and the U.S. presidential election looms, the Trump administration and Mexican government continue to deport migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Some deportees are carrying the virus. Central American states should press their northern neighbours for more stringent health measures.
Originally published in Business Insider
Shocking pictures from Culiacán show a criminal organisation forcing the Mexican state into submission. In this Q&A, Crisis Group Senior Analyst Falko Ernst explains why the mayhem should compel the government to revisit its security paradigm.