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.
Social media is becoming a major source of information about violent crime in Mexico, with many hotspots too dangerous for journalists. But much of what appears is inaccurate or misleading, posted by criminal groups themselves. Platforms should adapt their policies to minimise the risks.
Criminal violence remained high, with LGBTQ community notably targeted; opposition accused President López Obrador of using govt powers to strengthen ruling party’s electoral campaign.
Criminal violence persisted. Shootout between Jalisco and Sinaloa Cartels in Chicomuselo municipality, Chiapas state (south), 4 Jan killed twenty; fighting between groups during month displaced hundreds. Alleged members of La Familia Michoacana crime group 4 Jan attacked rival group Los Tlacos in desert area of Buenavista de los Hurtado, Guerrero state (south west), using drones and killing unconfirmed number. Gunmen 15 Jan abducted activist searching for her disappeared son and killed two of her family members at her house in Salamanca city, Guanajuato state (centre). Meanwhile, concerns grew over stepped-up violence in run up to 2024 elections as rival groups jockey for influence.
Month saw number of attacks targeting LGBTQ+ community. Four transwomen were assassinated in first two weeks of 2024: attacks include 11 Jan killing of activist and Movimiento Ciudadano politician Miriam Noemí Ríos in Zamora municipality, Michoacán state (centre) and 14 Jan murder of activist and ruling MORENA party candidate for Senate Samantha Gómez Fonseca in Mexico City. Activists following day protested in capital Mexico City, calling on govt to take action.
Critics accused govt of using state functions for campaigning. As 2024 presidential election edged closer, López Obrador 8 Jan announced doubling of pension payments and urged senior citizens to vote for party for benefits to continue. Use of state bodies and resources to campaign for MORENA is banned by constitution, and 47 such complaints against both govt and opposition are pending before National Electoral Institute (INE). Meanwhile, former head of recently dissolved state news agency NOTIMEX 9 Jan accused Labour Secretary of asking channel to divert 20% of employee payouts into campaign of MORENA presidential candidate Claudia Sheinbaum in return for kickback. López Obrador next day denied accusations, while opposition candidate Xóchitl Gálvez 11 Jan filed complaint with INE to investigate. Lopez Obrador 31 Jan rejected allegations that his unsuccessful 2006 presidential campaign received criminal financing.
More and more women are joining the criminal outfits battling for turf in Mexico, heightening the dangers these groups pose. To arrest this trend, and to help offenders leave these groups, authorities should cooperate with civil society to provide alternative pathways to earning a living.
Organised crime in Mexico has gone local, as cartels break up into sub-groups battling over smaller patches of turf. At the same time, the federal government has wrested policing away from town halls. A reset is needed to re-empower municipal officials to protect the public.
As crime rises in Mexico, women are in particular danger – of “disappearance”, kidnapping, sexual assault and murder. The state has taken some steps to address this crisis, but it can do much more.
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.
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.
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