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Mexico: Situation of organized crime; police and state response including effectiveness; availability of witness protection

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 11 September 2012
Citation / Document Symbol MEX104169.E
Related Document Mexique : information sur le crime organisé; les mesures prises par la police et l'État, y compris leur efficacité; la disponibilité de mesures de protection des témoins
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Mexico: Situation of organized crime; police and state response including effectiveness; availability of witness protection, 11 September 2012, MEX104169.E, available at: [accessed 26 November 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

1. General Situation and Statistics

According to a UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) report, Mexico has a "complicated public security situation due to the rise in violence, which stems mainly from organized crime" (UN 20 Dec. 2011, para.16). A US Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) report also indicates that, besides drug trafficking, TCOs [transnational crime organizations] are using extortion, robbery, kidnapping and piracy of goods to finance their operations (US 9 Feb. 2012, 3). The UNHRC also includes trafficking in persons as an activity of organized criminal groups in Mexico (UN 20 Dec. 2011, para. 16).

Sources indicate that organized crime syndicates are present in all the states (Sin Embargo 20 Aug. 2012; El Universal 2 Jan. 2012). Based on research completed by the Institute of Citizens' Action for Justice and Democracy (Instituto de Acción Ciudadana para la Justicia y la Democracia AC., IAC), a civil association composed of professionals who do research and analysis on justice-related issues (IAC n.d.), the president of the Institute stated that the infrastructure of organized crime in Mexico is [translation] "apparent, open, and notorious" (El Universal 2 Jan. 2012). He stressed that in many cases there is political complicity with organized crime and that these groups operate [translation] "under the nose of the police, politicians and all kinds of authorities" (ibid.). The president also indicates that the IAC study shows that organized crime control over Mexican municipalities has gone from 34 percent in 2001, to 53 percent in 2006, to 71.5 percent in 2011 (ibid.). The study also indicates that [translation] "organized crime infrastructure" has diminished in the states of Mexico and Michoacán and is moving to the states of Chiapas, Tamaulipas and Nuevo León (ibid.).

1.1 Regional Variations

According to sources, organized crime-related violence has been spreading to many areas of the country (El Universal 2 Jan. 2012; InSight 16 July 2012). InSight, a web portal on organized crime in the Americas, explains that criminal organizations are expanding to "untouched" municipalities as an opportunity to profit from crimes such as kidnapping and extortion (3 Jan. 2012). Another InSight article reports that, as organized crime violence decreased in the states of Chihuahua and Nuevo León in June 2012, it increased to unprecedented levels in the neighbouring state of Coahuila (16 July 2012). However, the Los Angeles Times reports that the city of Monterrey, Nuevo León, is said to be "'falling' to organized crime" as evidenced by the shootouts, armed robberies, widespread cases of extortion, unofficial curfews, and the "exodus" of professionals, artists and businesspeople to Mexico City and Texas (3 Apr. 2012). The New York Times also reports that in the state of Veracruz, drug violence has "exploded" in 2011 (22 June 2012).

1.2 Rivalries and New Drug Trafficking Organizations

Sources indicate that as the state concentrates its fight against well-established cartels, smaller groups have started to take their place (Al Jazeera 5 Nov. 2011; US 7 Mar. 2012). The OSAC report indicates that the Gulf cartel and the Zetas experienced "small fissures" that broke out in January 2010 (US 9 Feb. 2012, 3). The New York Times also reports the struggle between the Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel for dominance in Veracruz state (22 June 2012). Sources report that the Zetas cartel is experiencing an internal split caused by a struggle between its two main leaders "'Z-40'" and "Lazcano" (Proceso 19 July 2012; CSM 26 July 2012).

Sin Embargo, a digital news source based in Mexico, reports that it is unclear how many organized crime groups operate in the country, but highlights that during the Calderón's presidency, these organizations grew from 7 to at least 25 (20 Aug. 2012). It also reports that new organizations are specializing in kidnapping, extortion and trafficking in people and are not necessarily involved in drug trafficking (20 Aug. 2012). InSight reports that opportunities for profiting from kidnapping and extortion have been reflected in the surge of new regional gangs (3 Jan. 2012). For example, sources report the existence of La Barredora drug cartel in Acapulco which is composed of "at least" 100 people who are dedicated to drug trafficking, assassinations (Latin American Herald Tribune 18 Oct. 2011; Al Jazeera 5 Nov. 2011) and kidnapping (ibid.). Another group is the Independent Cartel of Acapulco, which emerged after the dismantling of larger criminal structures and is connected with extortion of businesses and assassinations (InSight 6 Dec. 2011).

Sources report the fight between La Barredora drug cartel and the Independent Cartel of Acapulco for the local control of drug trafficking in Acapulco, triggering a rise in crime (Latin American Herald Tribune 18 Oct. 2011; Al Jazeera 5 Nov. 2011). According to the Latin American Herald Tribune, a Caracas-based news portal, murder rates in Acapulco increased by 357 percent from January to September 2011, making it the second most violent city after Ciudad Juárez (18 Oct. 2011).

Sources indicate that, according to a report by Reforma, a Mexico City-based subscription newspaper (Reforma n.d.), on May 2010 the organization Mano con Ojos was created by members of the Beltran Leyva cartel to control the [translation] "Valley of Mexico" (Univisión 13 July 2012; Animal Político 13 July 2012), which refers to the Federal District and the State of Mexico (Mexico 28 Aug. 2012). Sources report that the group Mano con Ojos is linked to more than 60 executions (ibid.; Diario Provincia 13 July 2012).

Agencia EFE reports that the Spanish police and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) captured four members of the Sinaloa cartel who attempted to establish a base in Spain to introduce drugs into Europe (10 Aug. 2012).

1.3 Homicides

Animal Político, a Mexico-based digital newspaper (Animal Político n.d.), reports that the government of Calderón decided to keep the information on statistics on the number of deaths from the war on drugs confidential (ibid. 4 Jan. 2012). The article indicates that, according to the Attorney General's Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR), these statistics are [translation] "confidential for reasons of national security" (ibid.). However, on 3 July 2012, the PGR released the number of deaths related to organized crime from January to September 2011 (Mexico 3 July 2012). The seven cities with the highest number of deaths are:

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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