A new president seeks to revitalise Mexico’s state institutions, for decades bedevilled by widespread corruption and powerful transnational criminal organisations. Crime and the twelve-year “war on drugs” have destabilised the country; 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, emphasising the effect these problems have on children, women and other vulnerable groups. Our aim is to help solve challenges to security posed by globalised criminal networks, local armed groups and the elusiveness of state rule.
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.
Cartel violence continued unabated while authorities stripped foreign law enforcement agents of diplomatic immunity. Along border between Michoacán and Jalisco central states, clashes between Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG) and alliance of Michoacán-based criminal groups in Nov and early Dec killed at least 26 and displaced over 1,000. Suspected CJNG gunmen 18 Dec shot and killed ex-governor of Jalisco state Aristóteles Sandoval in Puerto Vallarta town. Violence also increased in Zacatecas central state: clashes between CJNG and Sinaloa Cartel over control of drug trafficking routes left at least 28 dead 14-18 Dec; unidentified gunmen 9 Dec killed director of media outlet Prensa Libre MX, Jaime Castaño Zacarías, outside Jerez city. Also in centre, suspected Santa Rosa de Lima cartel 18 Dec killed three suspected CJNG members in Celaya city, Guanajuato state. After President López Obrador 6 Dec called for stripping U.S. officials of diplomatic immunity on Mexican soil, Chamber of Deputies 15 Dec approved new national security law requiring all foreign law enforcement agents to relinquish diplomatic immunity; move widely seen as targeting U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officials following diplomatic spat over Oct detention in U.S. of former Defence Minister General Salvador Cienfuegos on charges of drug trafficking and involvement in organised crime. Ahead of legislative elections set for July 2021, opposition parties Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), National Action Party (PAN) and Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) 5 Dec announced electoral coalition in bid to unseat ruling National Regeneration Movement (MORENA).
Crime rates are climbing across Mexico, as cartels splinter into smaller groups competing ferociously for turf. Just one state, Guerrero, contends with at least 40 such outfits. The government needs a tailored approach for each region, focused on protecting the public and reforming the police.
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.
Cartels’ brand names fade away eventually. [But] all of those [other] networks stay in place.
The impotence of Mexican government security forces has been made particularly evident in the events of the last few months.
[The arrest of José Antonio Yépez] is basically a short-lived P.R. victory, but it doesn’t provide a solution. The big worry is that there is no backing in terms of a more cohesive security strategy.
While much of the narrative around violence in Mexico focuses on drug trafficking and cartels, the "on-the-ground realities are far more complex.
But in Mexico, armed clashes between rival crime factions continued throughout March and early April, and 2,585 homicides were registered last month alone.
These [armed] groups [in Mexico] are trying to be seen as catering materially and providing a notion of security in places where they are also directly preying on the population [...].
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.
As the coronavirus spreads, and the U.S. presidential election looms, the Trump administration and Mexican government continue to deport migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Some deportees are carrying the virus. Central American states should press their northern neighbours for more stringent health measures.
Originally published in Business Insider
Shocking pictures from Culiacán show a criminal organisation forcing the Mexican state into submission. In this Q&A, Crisis Group Senior Analyst Falko Ernst explains why the mayhem should compel the government to revisit its security paradigm.