Mexico’s state institutions have been bedevilled for decades by widespread corruption and powerful transnational criminal organisations. Crime and the “war on drugs” have destabilised the country and fuelled violence; meanwhile, thousands of refugees and migrants flee through Mexico from similar volatility in Central America. Crisis Group focuses on addressing criminal violence, institutional corruption, trafficking and migration. Our aim is to help solve challenges to security posed by global criminal networks, local armed groups and the elusiveness of state rule.
Mexico's crime wars are hottest in the hinterland. In this photo essay, part of a larger project on deadly violence in Latin America, Crisis Group expert Falko Ernst explains that the fronts are ever-shifting and the distinctions among combatants wafer-thin.
Lawmakers passed controversial electoral reform bill, criminal violence remained high and U.S. court convicted former security secretary for accepting cartel bribes.
Lawmakers voted in favour of controversial electoral reform. National Electoral Institute (INE) 1 Feb filed constitutional challenge to govt’s “Plan B” electoral reform before Supreme Court, saying it will prevent INE from fulfilling its role as election watchdog by reducing its budget and size, softening penalties for electoral wrongdoing and allowing candidates to use public funds in election campaigns. Opposition parties PAN, PRI and PRD have also filed constitutional complaints since ruling Morena party approved reform in Dec 2022. Senate 22 Feb voted 72-50 in favour, however; thousands 26 Feb took to streets in Mexico City to protest reform.
Criminal violence, particularly targeting state officials, remained high. In central Michoacán state, soldiers 4 Feb killed two men in shootout in San Juan Parangaricutiro municipality. In north-eastern Nuevo León state, unknown gunmen 9 Feb shot dead three police officers in Salinas Victoria municipality; 66 police officers have been killed in 2023 so far, 61 per cent more than same period in 2022. In southern Quintana Roo state, authorities 11 Feb found bodies of four employees from Solidaridad municipality’s prosecutor’s office; victims had been tortured and killed in Playas del Carmen town. In north-western Baja California state, unknown gunmen 21 Feb shot dead journalist Araujo Ochoa in Encenada municipality. Meanwhile, in Tamaulipas state, security forces 26 Feb reportedly killed five unarmed civilians in Nuevo Laredo city; local human rights group next day called killings extrajudicial executions and filed complaint with Office of Attorney General.
U.S. court convicted García Luna of accepting bribes from Sinaloa cartel. U.S. court 21 Feb convicted former Public Security Secretary and war-on-drugs architect Genaro García Luna for accepting millions of dollars in bribes from Sinaloa Cartel to help shield group from capture.
Every group [in Mexico] I've ever talked to claims that they don't extort, kidnap or kill innocent people... These claims are, from my experience, never free of contradic...
There is no category in international law for the violence and conflict that’s plaguing Mexico, and especially Michoacán.
There is always an element of negotiation when you use [violence] against the state.
What makes such a wave of journalist killings [in Mexico] possible is that criminal interests … are almost never properly investigated or punished.
The problem in Mexico is still being reduced by most as a turf war between cartels, while it is more of an internal violent conflict.
Cartels’ brand names fade away eventually. [But] all of those [other] networks stay in place.
One of Mexican organised crime’s most lucrative businesses involves stealing petrol and selling it on the black market. Violence is rising along with profits. The government has curbed this trade but still needs to address the official collusion and socio-economic grievances that keep it going.
Campaign season in Mexico has seen a rash of murders, as organised crime seeks to cement its influence no matter which parties win. The government needs to keep trying to break bonds between criminals and authorities, beginning with efforts tailored to the country’s hardest-hit areas.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Naz Modirzadeh, Richard Atwood and Ivan Briscoe, Crisis Group’s Latin America Director, talk about COVID-19’s devastation, polarisation and populism in the region, as well as the Venezuela crisis and violence in Mexico.
COVID-19’s economic devastation will likely make Mexico and the Northern Triangle an even more fertile ground for drug cartels and gangs. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2021 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to discourage iron fist policies and instead help design local security strategies.
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.
The failure of the “war on drugs” – now a welter of spreading conflicts – is a U.S.-Mexican co-production. Washington should stop pushing Mexico City to throw ever more military force at organised crime. Instead, it should help its southern neighbour find solutions tailored to each locale.
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.
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