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.
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.
Criminal violence displaced thousands as rival groups vied for territory, authorities brought charges against soldiers accused of extrajudicial killing and ruling party began preparations for 2024 presidential poll.
Rampant insecurity displaced thousands. After 1,500 security forces late May deployed to Chiapas state (south) amid fighting between groups associated with Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels, National Guard 1 June said situation was under control; activists, however, continued to warn that Chiapas is on brink of civil war as hostilities displaced hundreds. In Michoacán state (west), fighting from 9 June onward between Jalisco and Knights Templar criminal groups over territory in Apatzingán municipality displaced at least 1,000; gunmen 29 June killed former self-defence group leader Hipólita Mora in La Ruana town, with reports Jalisco cartel may be responsible. In Sinaloa state (west), supposed Sinaloa cartel members 11 June killed two soldiers during confrontation in Culiacán municipality. Insecurity expected to escalate as 2024 elections edge closer.
Soldiers accused of extrajudicial killing in Tamaulipas. Ministry of Defence 10 June announced charges against 16 soldiers after media outlets 6 June released video showing soldiers apparently extrajudicially killing five alleged unarmed gang members in Nuevo Laredo city, Tamaulipas state (north) in May. López Obrador 7 June said “apparent execution” and other such cases would no longer go unpunished under his govt. Govt 26 June announced arrest of former head of federal anti-kidnapping unit over 2014 disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa teacher’s college.
Election preparations heated up. Ruling MORENA party 11 June approved rules for process to select candidate for June 2024 presidential election. Six candidates have registered for participation and left their current posts for campaign 19 June-16 Aug; vote will take place 28 Aug-3 Sept. In what many considered test ahead of presidential poll, MORENA’s candidate 4 June won governorship of State of Mexico (centre), which opposition PRI had controlled for 94 years; PRI defeated MORENA in Coahuila state (north). Meanwhile, Supreme Court 22 June overturned key part of MORENA’s sweeping electoral bill.
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.
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.
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