Mexico’s judicial institutions are no match for widespread corruption and powerful transnational cartels that dominate parts of the country. Years of an over-militarised “war on drugs” and proliferating criminal rackets have destabilised the country and its neighbours, forcing thousands of refugees and migrants to risk their lives fleeing through Mexico from “Northern Triangle” neighbours like Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Crisis Group focuses on addressing transnational crime, high-level corruption, trafficking and migration, with a special emphasis on the effect these have on children, women and other vulnerable groups. Our aim is to provide a more comprehensive and sub-regional understanding of the challenges to security posed by globalised criminal networks, local gangs and an elusive rule of law.
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.
Originally published in Esglobal
Political violence remained high in run-up to 1 July presidential, legislative, state and local elections. Violence particularly targeted at mayoral candidates, including mayor of Pacula, Hildalgo state, and mayoral candidates for Tenango del Aire, Mexico state, and Apaseo el Alto, Guanajuato state. In worst-affected state Guerrero (south), 24 politicians assassinated and three more disappeared since campaigning began 8 Sept 2017. During same period, at least 1,000 candidates have withdrawn their candidacies nationally citing internal party decisions and political violence. Violence against journalists also continued, including Juan Carlos Huerta shot dead in Villahermosa, Tabasco state (south east) 15 May; National Commission for Human Rights 3 May reported 133 journalists assassinated in Mexico since 2000. Enforced disappearances and alleged collusion between state and criminal actors continued; media late April reported that three people searching for disappeared family members in San Miguel Soyaltepec, Oaxaca state (south west) also went missing 6 April. Federal authorities 14 May filed international arrest warrant for Luis Ángel Bravo Contreras, former Veracruz prosecutor allegedly involved in covering up cases relating to thirteen bodies found Jan 2016. Widespread violence relating to drug trafficking and organised crime also continued; authorities found eight bodies in mass graves in Michoacán state 25 April, twelve in Guanajuato state 12 May; at least 42 executions occurred in Oaxaca in first nine days of May. Lower house of Congress late April unanimously approved initiative abolishing elected politicians’ immunity from prosecution. Commission on Defence and Promotion of Human Rights 2 May revealed 25 incidents of internal forced displacement in 2017 affecting 20,390 people, 60% of them from indigenous groups. U.S.-Mexican relations strained by early May revelations U.S. govt paid $60mn between 2005 and 2017 to settle U.S. Customs and Border Protection cases of human rights violations; U.S. President Trump’s alleged referral to migrants as “animals” 16 May prompted further anger. Govt said it “deeply regrets and disapproves” of U.S. decision 31 May to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, and would impose retaliatory tariffs.
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.
For lessons on crime prevention, Mexico can look to the example of Ciudad Juárez, the world’s “murder capital” in 2008-2010. Government and citizens worked together to bring violence down by strengthening local law enforcement and addressing socio-economic inequalities. These initiatives should be monitored, refined and expanded if Mexico is to overcome its country-wide crisis of confidence at all levels.
The rise of civilian militias to combat lawlessness will make it harder than ever to defeat the cartels unless the government regulates the vigilantes.
Mexico must build an effective police and justice system, as well as implement comprehensive social programs, if it is to escape the extraordinary violence triggered by the country’s destructive cartels in extortion, kidnapping and control of transnational crime.
The repression of riots and the looting of stores [in Mexico] caused at least six deaths and thousands of arrests.
The new [Mexican] criminal justice system seeks to reduce impunity and violations of the rights of the accused. [If the president were to abandon them, he would] repeat the mistakes of his predecessor.
The United States should recognise that its own economic and security interests would be well served by cooperation, not confrontation, with Mexico to tackle organised crime and corruption.
Supporting the Truth Commission of Veracruz would be a good way to foster civil society initiatives in order to prevent violence and help to build democratic institutions in Mexico.
México tendrá que encontrar una forma de relacionarse con el futuro gobierno de Trump, algo complicado y difícil para una economía que no ha logrado despegar realmente, ni cubrir todas las necesidades de su población
Mexico is not doing “nothing” to curb northward migration, as U.S. President Donald Trump claims. In this Q&A, Crisis Group's Latin America & Caribbean Program Director Ivan Briscoe says Washington should help Mexico meet the challenge of migrant and refugee flows from Central America, which are now concentrated in its troubled southern states.
Originally published in The New York Times
Originally published in Miami Herald
Originally published in Open Society Foundation
Deportations from Mexico and the U.S. will not stop Central Americans fleeing poverty and violence. Instead of building a wall, the U.S. should help Mexico provide safe, secure reception areas on its southern border for Central American migrants.