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.
The “war on drugs” has morphed into a new rash of killings in Mexico. The deadly violence of increasingly well-organised, business-minded criminal groups risks being aggravated by government inaction, corruption and bombastic U.S. rhetoric – exactly what caused the problem in the first place.
Originally published in Esglobal
Number of reported homicides, already during first four months of 2017 at levels unseen since peak of 2011, continued to cause alarm as further fragmentation of organised criminal gangs fuelled violence in Tamaulipas state (north east) and Pacific Coast states of Sinaloa (north west), Guerrero and Michoacán (south west). Intra-cartel violence included 31 soldiers, marines and civilians killed in clashes 1-17 May following April murder of Juan Manuel Loza Salinas, leader of the Gulf Cartel in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. Eight killed in confrontation between Tequileros and Familia Michoacana cartels 12 May in Tierra Caliente, Guerrero; army and police response led to social unrest and protests, blocking over 24 federal highways. After 18 May arrest of 22 alleged Knight Templar cartel members, criminal groups blocked five highways in Michoacán’s Tierra Caliente region. Attacks on journalists escalated throughout country, with two murdered, seven detained and robbed, one kidnapped, one wounded during month. In Sinaloa, murder of three teachers, lawyer and journalist in first half May generated widespread outrage; killing of journalist Javier Valdez sparked protests and renewed govt commitment to protect journalists and rights activists, greeted by some with incredulity. Month also saw murders of human rights defender Miriam Rodríguez from San Fernando, Tamaulipas; two indigenous wixárika activists in Jalisco state (south west); and indigenous tzotzil leader in Puebla state (SE of Mexico City). Former partner of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who later became main competitor of El Chapo’s sons for leadership of Sinaloa Cartel, arrested in Mexico City 2 May. Ten people including four soldiers killed in clashes in Palmarito, Puebla 3 May, after military tried to stop illegal tapping of pipeline belonging to state-controlled Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex). Video emerged showing soldier shooting prisoner in apparent extrajudicial killing during clashes. Senators supporting Internal Security Law, which would extend legal powers of armed forces in public security matters, 10 May proposed extraordinary sessions to approve bill, arguing it would prevent illegal behaviour by military. Army 15 May detained 60 municipal police in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, over suspected membership of criminal organisation involved in April killing of Democratic Revolution Party leader. International Institute for Strategic Studies think-tank 9 May reported Mexico second most lethal conflict after Syria in 2016, with 23,000 homicides related to criminal violence; govt disputed figures.
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 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
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.
Originally published in Los Angeles Times
Originally published in The World Post