Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of the United States, Canada and Mexico

Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations *

Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of the United States, Canada and Mexico

Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations *

Article excerpt


Mexico shares a nearly 2,000-mile border with the United States, and the two countries have historically close trade, cultural, and demographic ties. Mexico's stability is of critical importance to the United States, and the nature and intensity of violence in Mexico has been of particular concern to the U.S. Congress. Rising murders, intimidation of Mexican politicians in advance of the 2018 elections, and increasing assassinations of journalists and media personnel have continued to raise alarm. In 2017, 12 journalists were murdered and that number may increase in 2018, as 7 journalists were killed in the first 6 months of the year.1

Mexico's brutal drug trafficking-related violence has been dramatically punctuated by beheadings, public hanging of corpses, car bombs, and murders of dozens of journalists and government officials. Beyond these brazen crimes, violence has spread from the border with the United States to Mexico's interior, flaring in the Pacific states of Michoacán and Guerrero in recent years, in the border state of Tamaulipas, and in Chihuahua and Baja California, where Mexico's largest border-region cities of Juárez and Tijuana are located. Organized crime groups have splintered and diversified their crime activities, turning to extortion, kidnapping, auto theft, oil smuggling, human smuggling, retail drug sales, and other illicit enterprises. These crimes often are described as more "parasitic" for local populations inside Mexico.

Addressing the question of whether violence (as measured by the number of intentional homicides) has reached new heights, the Justice in Mexico project at the University of San Diego reports that total homicides in Mexico increased by 7% between 2014 and 2015.2 Drug traffickers continue to exercise significant territorial influence in parts of the country, particularly near drug production hubs and along drug-trafficking routes during the Peña Nieto administration as they had under the previous president. Although homicide rates declined during the first two years of Peña Nieto's six-year term, total homicides rose 7% in 2015, 22% in 2016, and 23% in 2017, reaching a record level.3 In 2017, government statistics from the National Public Security System indicate there were more than 29,000 intentional homicides-a new record that exceeded the previous high in 2011.

In addition, several analysts have raised concerns about severe human rights violations involving Mexican military and police forces, which, at times, have reportedly colluded with Mexico's criminal groups. Notably, the Mexican armed forces injured or killed some 3,900 individuals in their domestic operations, between 2007 and 2014, with the victims labeled as "civilian aggressors." However, the high death rate (about 500 were injuries and the rest killings) indicates the lethality of the encounters with Mexican military and official reports did not sort out in published statistics how many of the military's victims were armed or were mere bystanders. (Significantly, these statistics did not continue to be made public after 2014)4

Due to casualty estimates being reported differently by the Mexican government than by the media outlets that track the violence, some debate exists on exactly how many have perished.5 This chapter conveys government data, but the data have not consistently been reported promptly or completely. For example, the government of President Felipe Calderón released tallies of "organized-crime related" homicides through September 2011. For a time, the Peña Nieto administration also issued such estimates, but it stopped in mid2013. Although precise tallies diverged, the trend during President Calderón's tenure was a sharp increase in the number of homicides related to organized crime through 2011, when the number started a slight decline before Calderón left office in late 2012. Of total intentional homicides since 2006, many sources indicate that roughly 150,000 of total homicides were organized crime-related killings. …

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