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
New govt of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) unveiled plans to tackle criminal and conflict-related violence, and from 7 Aug held first of series of regional National Pacification and Reconciliation Fora soliciting public opinion, with promise to design security and peacebuilding policies to be announced in Nov in strict adherence to demands voiced in meetings. Some participants already rejected request from govt to “forgive but not forget”, calling for “truth” including identification of whereabouts of disappeared, and punishment of perpetrators, including state forces. Church 16 Aug announced it would participate in fora. Congress in largest opium-producing state Guerrero (south) 18 Aug passed motion supporting legislation of poppy cultivation and calling on federal authorities to legislate; AMLO govt announced it would consider de-penalising poppy cultivation and processing for domestic pharmaceutical industry, pending UN approval, and aim to de-penalise marijuana production, sale and consumption to curb organised crime revenues. AMLO’s nominee for public security secretary 15 Aug said he expects better trained and paid police to take over security provision from army; military force to be used as last resort; that “going after kingpins” would be less of a priority than targeting gang financing; and that goal is 30-50% homicide reduction in three years. Other priorities include social and economic programs tackling root cause of organised crime, and reparations/support for victims. AMLO 1 Aug reiterated various federal institutions would be moved from capital to regions to stimulate regional growth; but some early AMLO appointments, including Manuel Bartlett, accused of previous corruption and implication in murder cases, as head of electricity commission, prompted criticism. High levels of criminal violence and conflict continued, with 2018 reportedly on course to be most violent year since records began in 1997. Security forces and crime groups, chiefly “Viagras”, clashed throughout month in Michoacán (west) during govt anti-gang “Operation Cleansing”, prompting backlash from group in form of road blocks using stolen and destroyed vehicles. Mexico and U.S. 27 Aug announced “preliminary agreement” in bilateral trade which alleviates fears of end of NAFTA trade agreement, but so far excludes Canada.
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.
[In Mexico] you have civilians affected by extortion and murder, ... you have criminal groups fighting one another, for drug trafficking routes, extortion rackets, theft of oil. You have state security forces fighting criminal groups, which will often lead to shootouts involved in the security operations as well. And you have extrajudicial killings by state forces involved in the fight against organised 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.