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.
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.
Criminal violence remained rampant, govt faced more backlash for high number of disappearances, and ruling party healed split ahead of 2024 presidential election.
Criminal violence persisted at high levels. Authorities 13 Nov found Jesús Ociel Baena, second openly non-binary person to occupy magistrate position in Mexico, and partner dead at home; state attorney ruled incident murder-suicide but Ociel had received threats before, prompting rights groups, U.S. and Inter-American Court of Human Rights to call for full investigation. Meanwhile, security forces 3 Nov killed four members of alleged criminal group in Celaya city, Guanajuato state (centre), while another clash 11 Nov left three police officers and three suspected crime group members dead in Zacatecas city, Zacatecas state (centre). Armed assailants 19-22 Nov abducted three journalists and two relatives in Taxco, Guerrero state (south west). Armed men 28 Nov shot at four journalists returning from murder scene in Chilpancingo city, Guerrero state (south), injuring three; another journalist same day was also shot and injured in Michoacan state. Gunmen 21 Nov killed prominent activist documenting murders in León city, Guanajuato. Security forces 22 Nov captured alleged security chief for Sinaloa cartel faction in Culiacan, Sinaloa state (west).
Govt continued to face criticism for high number of disappearances. Former head of National Search Commission Karla Quintana 7 Nov accused govt of attempting to deflate official number of missing persons from 113,000 by using data from bodies other than official Search Commission; President López Obrador 13 Nov accused Quintana of manipulating data to discredit govt.
Ruling MORENA party presidential candidate and former FM reached agreement. Former FM Ebrard, who came second to Claudia Sheinbaum in internal MORENA vote to select presidential candidate, 13 Nov announced he would not leave party or run as independent in 2024 polls after “political agreement” with Sheinbaum.
In other important developments. Opposition forces and some MORENA members 7 Nov criticised govt over lack of budget allocation for areas affected by Hurricane Otis, which caused $16bn worth of damage. Caravan of hundreds of migrants 5 Nov left Tapachula city, Chiapas state (south) on journey toward U.S. border.
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.
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.
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