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.
Rival criminal groups clashed, deadly attacks on journalists continued, and govt announced plans to extend military’s control over policing. Deadly violence persisted at high levels during month. In Jalisco and Guanajuato states (both centre), suspected members of Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG) 9 Aug blocked roads and set fire to vehicles and shops, apparently in response to federal forces’ attempt to capture leading members of group. In Ciudad Juárez city, Chihuahua state (north), suspected members of Sinaloa Cartel’s affiliated groups Los Mexicles and Los Chapos 11 Aug clashed inside local prison, killing two. Violence same day spilled onto city streets, with members of Los Mexicles killing nine. In Baja California state (north west), presumed members of local criminal group Los Erres, which collaborates with CJNG, 12 Aug blocked roads and set fire to public transport in Tecate, Mexicali, Rosarito, Ensenada and Tijuana cities. Suspected members of La Familia Michoacana drug cartel 25 Aug clashed with local gang in Tuzantla municipality, Michoacán state (centre), killing eight. Deadly attacks on journalists continued. Unknown assailants 2 Aug shot dead journalist Ernesto Méndez in San Luis de la Paz, Guanajuato; authorities 16 Aug found body of missing journalist Juan Arjón López in San Luis Río Colorado municipality, Sonora state (north west). Human rights organisation Article-19 18 Aug said 2022 “could be the worst year in a century” for Mexico’s journalists, with 331 documented attacks between Jan and June. President López Obrador 8 Aug announced he would present legislation to formally integrate National Guard into Ministry of Defence (SEDENA), prompting criticism from civil society observers for breaking promise to keep National Guard as civilian institution. Defence Minister Gen Luis Cresencio Sandoval 10 Aug confirmed National Guard will be formally integrated into SEDENA 16 Sept. Meanwhile, authorities 25 Aug announced former Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam will be criminally prosecuted for disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa college in 2014, becoming highest-ranking official facing justice for their deaths.
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.