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.
On 1 December, Andrés Manuel López Obrador will assume Mexico’s presidency. He won pledging to end a drug war that has killed tens of thousands. But, as Crisis Group’s Mexico Senior Analyst Falko Ernst argues, he faces formidable challenges that will make it hard for him to uphold his promises.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) assumed office 1 Dec amid concerns that National Peace and Security Plan announced in Nov will cement militarisation of public security. AMLO started implementing new federal organisational structure that will increase centralisation and presidential control of security through central coordinating body, one of his campaign promises; but under pressure from state governors, AMLO 5 Dec handed them powers to coordinate security provision in each state, despite his campaign promise that he would personally be in charge of deciding over and overseeing day-to-day security operations. Govt 15 Dec announced 2019 federal budget, with focus on social and economic developments over security operations. Criminal violence continued unabated; in Michoacán (centre), armed groups affiliated with Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG) mid-Dec began offensive against opposing alliance of armed groups. In neighbouring Jalisco state, CJNG members 3 Dec ambushed state police in Huerta, killing six. CJNG 6 Dec denied carrying out late Nov grenade attack on U.S. consulate in Guadalajara, Jalisco state. Violence also increased in Guanajuato (centre) and Puebla (centre-south), where CJNG competes over oil siphoning markets; twenty people killed in Guanajuato 4 Dec. Central American migrants continued to travel through Mexico in efforts to reach U.S. and apply for asylum; group of masked men 8 Dec attacked 45 Guatemalan migrants in Coatzocoalcos, Veracruz , killing one, while two Honduran teenagers were reportedly murdered in Tijuana on U.S. border 15 Dec. U.S. and Mexico 19 Dec jointly announced $5.8bn in U.S. aid for Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and $4.8bn for Mexico to stem illegal migration. Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras 1 Dec signed agreement for major development plan for Central America and southern Mexico aimed at slowing migration.
With hopes for change sky-high, Mexico’s president-elect confronts endemic violent crime and state corruption. To make good on his campaign promises, his team should pursue justice in killings by state personnel, reform the civilian police and give robust mandates to truth commissions with victim participation.
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.
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.
[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
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 Miami Herald