Last Updated: Friday, 17 November 2017, 15:16 GMT

Mexico: Organized crime; information on police and state response, including effectiveness; availability of witness protection (2013-July 2015)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 11 August 2015
Citation / Document Symbol MEX105239.E
Related Document(s) Mexique : information sur le crime organisé; information sur les mesures prises par la police et l'État, y compris sur leur efficacité; information sur les mesures offertes pour la protection des témoins (2013-juill. 2015)
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Mexico: Organized crime; information on police and state response, including effectiveness; availability of witness protection (2013-July 2015), 11 August 2015, MEX105239.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/55deccc74.html [accessed 17 November 2017]
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. Organized Criminal Groups

In an October 2014 article, ABC, a Madrid-based newspaper, quotes Eduardo Guerrero, a member of Lantia Consultores, a consulting firm that provides research and analysis on public security in Mexico (Lantia Consultores n.d.), as saying that his firm has knowledge of nine cartels - Sinaloa, South Pacific (Pacífico Sur), Juárez, Tijuana, Gulf (Golfo), Zetas, Michoacan Family (Familia Michoacana), Knights Templar (Caballeros Templarios), the Jalisco New Generation Cartel [1] (Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, CJNG) - and 113 drug trafficking criminal cells, including Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors) and Los Rojos (The Reds), operating in Mexico (24 Oct. 2014). In a June 2015 article, Proceso, a Mexico City-based news magazine, quotes Tomás Zerón, Director of the Criminal Investigation Agency (Agencia de Investigación Criminal, AIC) of the Attorney General's Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR), as stating that three drug lords and two cartels remain in Mexico: Ismael Zambada and Fausto Isidro Meza Flores, drug lords of the Sinaloa cartel, and Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, of the CJNG (Proceso 9 June 2015). He also explained that the remaining groups are loose cells that originated from the dismantling of larger criminal organizations and that they are fighting each other for the control of the cities where they operate (ibid.).

Sources indicate that the CJNG is one of the most powerful and violent cartels in Mexico (ibid.; InSight Crime 8 June 2015). The CJNG operates in western Mexico (ibid.; Proceso 9 June 2015), in the states of Jalisco, Guanajuato, Colima, and Michoacán, as well as in [translation] "several" South American countries (ibid.). In a March 2014 article, 24 Horas, a Mexico City-based newspaper, reports that the CJNG is also present in the state of Mexico alongside the Knights Templar cartel and the Michoacán Family (10 Mar. 2014).

According to the Director of the AIC, the Zetas cartel is [translation] "on the brink of disintegration" (Proceso 9 June 2015). InSight Crime similarly notes that this cartel is a "fragmented force" that is dependent on local criminal activities, most notably in the state of Tamaulipas and on the Gulf Coast, rather than on transnational drug trafficking (n.d.). Sources indicate that the Knights Templar cartel has also been weakening (AP 4 May 2015; Professor 10 July 2015).

2. Activities

The US Department of State's International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) indicates that Mexico is "a major transit and source country for illicit drugs destined for the United States and a center for money laundering" (US Mar. 2015, 235). According to sources, drug trafficking organizations in Mexico have been complementing their revenues with other activities such as kidnapping, extortion, illegal extraction of fuel (Professor 10 July 2015; Trejo 12 Oct. 2014; ABC 24 Oct. 2014), and human trafficking (ibid.). The US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014 indicates that organized criminal groups "exercised a grave and increasing influence over media outlets and reporters, frequently threatening individuals who published critical views of crime groups" (US 25 June 2015, 16). Sources report the alleged killing on 16 October 2014 of María del Rosario Fuentes Rubio, a citizen journalist for Valor por Tamaulipas, a website that denounces violence in Tamaulipas (Animal Político 17 Oct. 2014; SinEmbargo 16 Oct. 2014), who had been receiving threats by organized criminal groups (ibid.). Fuentes Rubio had been kidnapped [the day before (Animal Político 17 Oct. 2014)]; her Twitter account was then hijacked and a photo of what appeared to be her body was posted (SinEmbargo 16 Oct. 2014; Animal Político 17 Oct. 2014).

Country Reports 2014 states that organized criminal groups committed killings with the participation of state, local, and security officials (US 25 June 2015, 1). According to former Mexican governors from different political parties interviewed by Guillermo Trejo, an associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame who specializes in organized crime and political violence in Latin America (University of Notre Dame n.d.), the states' ministerial police forces are [translation] "heavily infiltrated by organized crime" (12 Oct. 2014). Interviewed by Radio Fórmula, a Mexican radio network, two police officers of the Fuerza Única de Jalisco, a Jalisco state police force created in 2014 and tasked with combating drug cartels, stated that high ranking security force officials collaborate with organized criminal groups and that whenever police officers detain a member of an organized criminal group, they are ordered to release them (qtd. in Agencia EFE 5 May 2015).

For more information on the states' ministerial police forces, see Response to Information Request MEX105240.

2.1 Kidnappings and Extortion

The INCSR indicates that, according to "[t]he most recent available Government of Mexico statistics," reported kidnappings and extortions increased by 25.7 percent in 2012 and 29.1 percent in 2013 (US Mar. 2015, 235). A report by Mexico's Executive Committee of the National Public Security System (Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SESNSP) indicates that 1,186 cases of kidnappings were reported to the states' Public Ministry offices from 1 January to 31 July 2014 (Mexico Aug. 2014, 2). The states with the highest numbers of kidnappings were Tamaulipas (340 cases), Veracruz (111), Michoacán (110), the state of Mexico (100) and Morelos (90) (ibid.). The SESNSP also indicates that 4,109 cases of extortion were reported in the country over the same period, and the states with the highest numbers of cases were the state of Mexico (710 cases), Jalisco (526), the Federal District (389), Morelos (266), and Michoacán (259) (ibid.).

Sources report that a Coca-Cola distribution centre located in Arcelia, Guerrero, was closed down in June 2015 due to criminality, including criminality committed by organized criminal groups (Animal Político 23 June 2015; Reforma 25 June 2015). Reforma, a Mexico City-based newspaper, notes that other businesses that closed down in Guerrero due to kidnappings and extortion include car dealerships, gas stations, restaurants, pharmacies, jewelry shops, and grocery stores (ibid.). The BBC reports that organized criminal groups that emerged from the Beltrán Leyva cartel have been committing violent acts against [translation] "hundreds of schools" in the state of Guerrero, particularly those located in the resort city of Acapulco (BBC 13 Jan. 2015). The BBC indicates that El Sur [an Acapulco-based newspaper] published a message that was posted by an organized criminal group at a kindergarten school in Jardín Magos, one of Acapulco's neighbourhoods, threatening teachers with kidnapping their children if they did not hand over their Christmas bonus and saying that the group would watch [their every move and find out] if they filed a complaint with the police (ibid.). The BBC reports that, during 2014, 19 teachers were kidnapped in Guerrero and their whereabouts were unknown as of 13 January 2015; in early January 2015, another teacher was killed (ibid.). According to the BBC, the Ministry of Education of Guerrero hired private security to provide protection to schools located in [translation] "the most conflictive zones" in that state (ibid.). Further and corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2.2 Forced Disappearances

In its report submitted in 2014 to the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances, the government of Mexico admits that "[e]nforced disappearance, together with the delicate task of providing support to victims' families and organizations of victims, is one of the most significant challenges facing Mexico" (Mexico 17 Apr. 2014, para. 5). According to a National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) registry on disappeared persons, as of 31 December 2012, approximately 42,300 persons had disappeared, of which 726 were victims of forced disappearance (ibid. 8 Apr. 2013, para. 75). The CNDH is the national body responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights (ibid. n.d.). Country Reports 2014 indicates that "hundreds" of complaints cases of disappeared persons are attributed to organized criminal groups (US 25 June 2015, 3).

Sources report that 43 students from a high school in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, were detained on 26 September 2014 by police forces of the municipality of Iguala, who handed them over to hit men (El País 8 May 2015; ABC 23 Oct. 2014) of the Guerreros Unidos (ibid.). Authorities state that the students were there to break up a political event (ibid.; Latin Times 26 Mar. 2015). However, Latin Times, a New York-based online news source on Latin America, reports that other students claimed that the disappeared students were there to raise funds for their school (ibid.). According to authorities, the students were executed and incinerated (Noticias Terra with Reforma 27 Jan. 2015; El País 8 May 2015). El País, a Madrid-based newspaper, reports that only one student's remains have been identified (ibid.).

2.3 Forced Displacement

Sources note that "entire" communities have been displaced in Mexico by organized criminal groups (Cantor June 2014, 15, 18; RI 2 July 2014, 1). Forced displacement is present in states such as Sinaloa (ibid., 3; Cantor June 2014, 15), Guerrero, and Michoacán (ibid. 15, 18). A joint article by El Universal, a national Mexican newspaper, and Noroeste, a Sinaloa state newspaper, reports that, according to data produced by the Secretary of Social and Human Development of Sinaloa (Secretaría de Desarrollo Social y Humano de Sinaloa, SEDESHU) 4,714 persons had been internally displaced by organized criminal groups in the state of Sinaloa as of May 2014 (El Universal and Noroeste 17 Sept. 2014). The article adds that 70 percent of displaced persons in Sinaloa are women, children, and seniors (ibid.). During a May-June 2014 fact-finding mission in Mexico, Refugees International (RI), an NGO that advocates for the human rights of displaced persons (RI n.d.), met more than 20 families that were displaced from their ranches in the state of Sinaloa between January and May 2012 after armed confrontations between the Sinaloa cartel and the Beltrán Leyva cartel took place for the control of the mountain range (ibid. 2 July 2014, 2-3). According to the families interviewed by RI, "people and cattle were killed, houses were robbed or burned down, and entire extended families were run off their land. All reported being given a choice: work for the cartel, leave [their lands] now, or die" (ibid.). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2.4 Trafficking in Persons

A CNDH report indicates that Mexico is an origin, transit, and destination country for human trafficking (Mexico 8 Apr. 2013, para. 87). Country Reports 2014 indicates that "[t]here were numerous instances of armed groups limiting the movements of migrants, including kidnappings and homicides" (US 25 June 2015, 18). Between 2010 and 2012, the CNDH received 85 complaints related to human trafficking, of which 42 were filed in 2012 (Mexico 8 Apr. 2013, para. 88). Further and corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2.5 Attacks on Security Forces

A 5 May 2015 US Department of State travel warning for Mexico indicates that battles between rival criminal organizations or with security forces have taken place in towns and cities, and that these organizations have created roadblocks on major highways to prevent security forces from responding to criminal activity. Europa Press, a Madrid-based news agency, reports that, on 22 May 2015, 43 people, most of them civilians, were killed during an ambush allegedly set up by the CJNG to attack security forces in the border area between the states of Jalisco and Michoacán (22 May 2015). The Associated Press (AP) reports that the CJNG is accused of launching [translation] "several attacks" on 1 May 2015 in various locations in the state of Jalisco, including shooting down a military helicopter with a rocket launcher (AP 4 May 2015). In these attacks, 15 people died, including 6 soldiers, 1 state police officer and 8 alleged criminals; 19 were wounded; and 36 vehicles, 11 banks, and 5 gas stations were burned down (ibid.). Mexico City-based newspaper El Universal reports that during 2015, 13 soldiers died and 34 were wounded during the 86 attacks that were committed against the military (22 May 2015).

2.6 Attacks on Municipalities

A paper by associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, Guillermo Trejo, and Sandra Ley, a visiting fellow at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, indicates that organized criminal groups extort municipalities to finance drug trafficking activities (Trejo and Ley 1 Feb. 2015). In an op-ed published in El País, Trejo gives the example of organized criminal groups in Michoacán who extorted municipalities by demanding 30 percent of their budget assigned for public works and 20 percent of their budget assigned to salaries of public servants (Trejo 12 Oct. 2014).

Trejo states that [translation] "there is a long list" of local politicians who have been attacked or killed by organized criminal groups (ibid.). Trejo and Ley specify that, between 2007 and October 2014, organized criminal groups killed 82 mayors, 64 municipal public servants, 13 political candidates, and 39 political activists, and that 243 public servants were threatened, kidnapped, or disappeared (1 Feb. 2015). Sources report that, in November 2013, Ygnacio López Mendoza, mayor of Santa Ana Maya, Michoacán, was killed after holding a hunger strike to denounce the fact that several Michoacán mayors were being extorted by the Knights Templar cartel (SinEmbargo 16 Nov. 2013; AP and Los Angeles Times 10 Nov. 2013). Sources note that the extortion consisted of taking 10 percent of municipalities' public works budgets (ibid.; SinEmbargo 14 Mar. 2014). An article published by AP and the Los Angeles Times indicates that, according to Ricardo Bautista, president of the mayors' association of Mexico, "at least 40 mayors had been killed in Mexico in recent years" (AP and Los Angeles Times 10 Nov. 2013). SinEmbargo, a Mexican digital newspaper, reports that after the killing of Ygnacio López Mendoza, the Minister of the Interior, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, offered protection to threatened mayors but later said that [translation] "it was not possible to protect each and every mayor in the country" (16 Nov. 2013). In another article, SinEmbargo reports that in May 2012, a few months after taking office in the municipality of Tepalcatepec, Michoacán, mayor Guillermo Valencia asked the state and federal governments to provide military protection from organized criminal groups but received no response; according to the mayor, [translation] "it is taboo" to speak out about organized criminal groups (SinEmbargo 14 Mar. 2014). Sources report that two employees of the Acapulco's land registry office were killed [in October 2012 (Reforma 30 Oct. 2012)] by an organized criminal group after they refused to hand over the land registry database (Trejo and Ley 1 Feb. 2015; Reforma 30 Oct. 2012).

3. Police and State Response

The INCSR indicates that, as part of the Merida Initiative, a partnership between the US and Mexico to combat organized crime (US n.d.), the US has provided approximately US$1.3 billion in training, equipment, and technical assistance to Mexico's judicial and security apparatuses since 2008 (ibid. Mar. 2015, 235). It further indicates that the federal police have tripled in size since 2006 and that "[m]any states" are rebuilding police forces to curb corruption (ibid.). Sources report that in November 2014, after the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero and in light of the documented corruption in the police, the President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, announced the disbanding of the 1,800 municipal police forces to create 32 state police forces (El Observador 27 Nov. 2014; El País 27 Nov. 2014). According to CNN, as of March 2015, this reform was in the Senate for study (30 Mar. 2015). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. The CNDH states that even though legislation on public security is [translation] "adequate, in reality it does not conform to traditional dynamics inside [state] institutions or with the professional training offered to public servants working in the judicial system" (Mexico 8 Apr. 2013, para. 69).

El Universal indicates that, according to a report by the Ministry of Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA), 45,000 soldiers have been deployed throughout the country to combat crime and organized criminal groups (El Universal 22 May 2015). The report also indicates that 1,500 security operations are undertaken every day by the military, and that from 1 December 2012 to 28 February 2015, security forces seized 17,797 weapons, 2,748,674 bullets, 19,338 vehicles, 2,085 grenades, 34 vessels, and 40 aircrafts (ibid.). Over the same period, authorities detained 14,699 people, and seized approximately US$35 million and 88 million Mexican pesos [approx. C$7.2 million] (ibid.).

Sources quote Mexican President Peña Nieto as indicating that organized criminal groups in Mexico [translation] "are better prepared and equipped [than security forces], and have weapons that are far more sophisticated" (CNN 30 Mar. 2015; Proceso 30 Mar. 2015). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a professor of political science at the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo, in Morelia, Michoacán, whose research focuses on organized crime in Mexico, asserted that the state, [translation] "especially local governments," has "limited capacities" to act against organized crime (10 July 2015).

Country Reports 2014 indicates that impunity "remained a problem throughout the country[,] with extremely low rates of prosecution for all forms of crime" (US 25 June 2015, 1). The CNDH indicates that 15 percent of crimes committed in Mexico are reported; 1 percent of them are prosecuted and [translation] "barely" 1 percent of the accused are condemned (Mexico 8 Apr. 2013, para. 67). In a Radio Fórmula interview, Felipe Calderón, ex-President of Mexico [2006-2012], said that organized criminal organizations have [translation] "taken over the state" through threats and violence against its citizens by taking advantage of the weakness of state institutions (qtd. in Milenio 6 Mar. 2015; qtd. in Economíahoy.mx 6 Mar. 2015). El País reports that 90 percent of the population considers the police to be [translation] "one of the most corrupted institutions" in the country (27 Nov. 2014).

3.1 General Victims' Law

On 9 January 2013, the government enacted the General Victim's Law (Ley General de Víctimas) (Mexico 2013). A copy of Article 7, which outlines some of the benefits available to victims, is attached to this Response (Attachment 1).

A report produced by the National System for Victims Assistance (Sistema Nacional de Atención a Víctimas, SNAV) [2] with information provided by other government agencies, independent experts, civil society organizations, victims, and the general population identified a lack of coordination among the institutions that make up the SNAV and, as noted by civil society organizations, the duplication of functions between federal and local institutions, which creates confusion and hinders victims' access to their rights (Mexico 20 May 2015, 16, 17). The report also indicates that the assistance provided to victims in the country does not solve their problems and that, in some cases, it [translation] "worsens" them (ibid., 18). Civil society organizations, the report notes, are worried that the institutions responsible for investigating and administering justice "may not be capable" of preserving the confidentiality of personal information nor guaranteeing the safety of the victims (ibid.). The report identified the following reasons why victims do not file complaints, among others: mistrust in government institutions, fear of reprisals, and limited economic resources (ibid., 19). According to people consulted by the SNAV, the number of municipal, state, and federal authorities responsible for providing assistance to victims represent for them "a 'labyrinth' that increases uncertainty and confusion," as there is no unified model to assist victims in the country (ibid., 20). La Jornada, a Mexico City-based newspaper, reported in February 2015 that 12 states had not incorporated the General Victims' Law into their legislation (15 Feb. 2015). Reporte Indigo, a Monterrey-based online news source, reported in March 2015 that the following 10 states [translation] "ha[d] not even started the integration process": Baja California, Campeche, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Federal District, State of Mexico, Guanajuato, Sonora, Tabasco, and Yucatán (9 Mar. 2015). Further information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3.2 Witness Protection Program

On 8 June 2012, the government enacted the Federal Law to Protect Persons Involved in Criminal Proceedings (Ley Federal para la Protección a Personas que Intervienen en el Procedimiento Penal) (Mexico 2012). The articles that outline protective measures to witnesses are attached to this Response (Attachment 2).

According to the Professor, the Mexican witness protection program is [translation] "very limited and has not been very effective" (10 July 2015). In a conference presentation to members of the Legislative Assembly, Lilia Mónica López Benítez, magistrate at the 7th Criminal Court of the 1st Circuit of the Federal Judicial Power, indicated that

[translation]

[t]he lack of regulation regarding the protection of witnesses has created a legal vacuum, a lack of knowledge of who is subject of protection, a lack of definition of the protection appropriate to each particular case, a lack of institutional support, [and] a lack of specification of the rights and obligations of those subject to protection. All of this leads to conclude that the limits of protection and the budget allocated for this purpose are not regulated. (López Benítez 21 May 2014, 3)

The magistrate also indicates that from 2000 to 2012, the government spent approximately 178.3 million pesos [C$14.5 million] on the witness protection program and that 614 persons who were in the witness protection program were killed (ibid., 4). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Notes

[1] CJNG is also translated as "Jalisco Cartel - New Generation" (InSight Crime 8 June 2015).

[2] The SNAV is the government institution responsible for designing programs to protect the human rights of victims of crime and for providing them with assistance and access to justice (Mexico 10 Feb. 2014a). The SNAV is made up of representatives of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, including the President of the Republic, the Minister of the Interior, the President of the Justice Commission of the Legislative Assembly, the President of the Federal Judicial Council, and the President of the CNDH (ibid. 10 Feb. 2014b).

References

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_____. 23 October 2014. Yaiza Santos. "La fiscalía señala al alcalde de Iguala como autor intelectual de la desaparición de los 43 estudiantes." [Accessed 23 June 2015]

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Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to contact the following were unsuccessful within the time constraints of this Response: Mexico - Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, Procuraduría General de la República; a professor of comparative politics, University of Texas; a professor of human rights and globalization, Universidad de Guadalajara; a professor of law, Centro de Estudios Universitarios; a professor of security studies, Universidad de Guadalajara.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; Contralínea; Diario de Guerrero; El Financiero; Excelsior; Factiva; Federal District - Legislative Assembly; Freedom House; Friedrich Ebert Stiftung; Guerrero - Procuraduría General de Justicia; Human Rights Watch; International Crisis Group; Jalisco - Fiscalía Federal del Estado; La Nación; Mexico - Cámara de Diputados, Comisión Nacional de Seguridad, Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía, Procuraduría General de la República, Secretaría de Gobernación, Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional; Michoacán - Procuraduría General de Justicia; TeleSUR; United States - Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation; Univision; Washington Office on Latin America.

Attachments

1. Mexico. 2013. Ley General de Víctimas (General Victims' Law). Excerpts translated by the Translation Bureau, Public Works and Government Services Canada. [Accessed 15 July 2015]

2. Mexico. 2012. Ley Federal para la Protección a Personas que Intervienen en el Procedimiento Penal (Federal Law to Protect Persons Involved in Criminal Proceedings). Excerpts translated by the Translation Bureau, Public Works and Government Services Canada. [Accessed 15 July 2015]

Date modified:

2015-08-13

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 http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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