Mexico Intelligence News Summary
There were several widely-reported security failures in Mexico this month. These incidents brought additional questions about the effectiveness of President López Obrador's “abrazos, no balazos” initiative. In one incident, Mexican authorities apprehended a son of “Chapo Guzman” in Culiacán, Sinaloa. The battle escalated when the sicarios (cartel gunmen) sought to free him. Reports indicate that the number of gunmen eventually more than doubled that of federal authorities within the combat zone. Ultimately, the authorities called off the operation, and he was released. The sicarios had also threatened to track down the families of soldiers if they did not comply with their demand to stand down. Four bystanders were among those killed during the conflict. Furthermore, at least fifty prisoners at a nearby prison escaped (or were released) during the chaos. This episode further magnifies the perception that federal authorities are weaker under López Obrador, and it will likely trigger comparable responses from sicarios when faced with similar situations in the future. Also this month, at least fourteen state police officers were killed in an ambush in Aguililla, Michoacán.
The most widely-reported incident of violence this month was undoubtedly the massacre of at least 29 people at a bar/strip club in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. Media reported that gunmen stormed into the bar, blocked some of the doors and set fire to the establishment in retribution for un-met extortion demands. The incident also caught the attention of the international media and was an embarrassment to the López Obrador administration. More importantly, it demonstrates the inefficacy and outright corruption of officials in Veracruz, and elsewhere in Mexico. After being lulled into a sense of complacency for the last several years, the failures of public safety in Mexico became even more obvious with this incident. Also, with 2993 felony homicides, July was the second most violent month in Mexico. Once the figures for August are released we will see what that month was really like. Interestingly, USA Today recently reported the top ten cities in the world with regard to homicide rates. Tijuana was number one with 100 homicides per 100,000 residents. Acapulco was second, followed by Caracas (Venezuela), Ciudad Victoria, Ciudad Juárez, and Irapuato.
Attacks against authorities occurred across 14 states, and this figure is similar to most months of 2018. The states impacted this month were Chiapas, Colima, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Morelos, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz. Shots were also fired at U.S. Border Patrol agents patrolling the U.S. side of the border near Río Bravo, Tamaulipas. The Cartel del Norte has also threatened Pemex stations which provide fuel to law enforcement and military vehicles in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas.
Authorities reported the seizure of weapons and munitions caches at six separate locations across Guerrero, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Sonora, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz. The army seized a grenade launcher and other weapons in Petatlán, Guerrero. Also, A M203 grenade launcher was seized in Chilapa, Guerrero. A fragmentation grenade was seized in Tingüindín, Michoacán. The army seized a 50-caliber rifle following a battle in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. State police seized a radio repeater station belonging to the Gulf Cartel in Matamoros, Tamaulipas.
There were 44 street battles reported during August. This figure is the highest since March. These incidents occurred in 11 states (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacán, Morelos, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz). Sicarios killed two people in a small business, then fought a battle with municipal police in San Francisco del Rincón, Guanajuato. Five police officers were injured during the incident
At least 82 people were killed in attacks on civilians in public venues such as restaurants, bars, small businesses, shopping areas, repair shops, a barber shop, and other venues. This is the highest number of victims since April, while the actual number of attacks (27) was on par with most months of 2019. These incidents occurred in 9 states (Baja California, Edomex, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Morelos, Nuevo León, Sinaloa, Sonora, and Veracruz).
There were 17 cases of fatal attacks related to extortion operations during August. This is the highest number of incidents since August 2018. These incidents occurred in seven states; Baja California, Edomex, Guanajuato (2 incidents), Morelos (2 incidents), San Luis Potosí, Sonora, and Veracruz (9 incidents). The owner, employees, or patrons of bars, small stores, and repair shops were killed during these incidents. The bar massacre in Coatzacoalcos being the most obvious example.
Currently, there is little evidence that the policies of President López Obrador for combating organized crime are rendering positive results. By most measures, March was considerably more hazardous for Mexican residents than any month since mid-2018. Furthermore, some measures show similar levels of violence experienced in 2012. The bad press is not just within Mexico as the international media has picked up on some recent bad news. For example, a widely-publicized report by the Consejo Ciudadano de Seguridad y Justicia indicates that Tijuana had the highest homicide rate among cities of the world (138 homicides per 100,000 residents). Indeed, five out of the six most violent cities in the world are in Mexico.
There were 60 attacks directed at governmental authorities reported in March. This figure is the highest since July 2018. Among these incidents, there were 12 assassinations of government or party officials. This is the highest number since January. There were two attacks on army or marine patrols. Both these incidents occurred in Veracruz. Two federal police patrols were attacked in Guanajuato and Puebla.
There were also several attacks directed at fixed targets. In one case, gunfire and a fragmentation grenade were used in an attack on a police station in Jáltipan de Morelos, Veracruz. Gunmen fired on a police station in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz. Shots were fired at the offices of the Fiscalía General de la República in Irapuato, Guanajuato. Shots were fired at the offices of the Alianza Sindical in Agua Dulce, Veracruz.
Attacks on governmental authorities occurred in 16 states; which is on par with most months in 2018. These attacks occurred in Baja California, Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, Sonora, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz. There was also a notable increase in attacks on police in Guanajuato this month.
Numerous corrupt political leaders and police officers were also arrested on various charges. For example, an official with the Secretaría de Seguridad Pública was arrested on kidnapping charges in Fortín de las Flores, Veracruz. Two former state police commanders were charged for forced disappearances of two individuals in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. Three state police officers were charged with kidnapping in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. A former mayor was arrested on extortion charges in Otzoloapan, Edomex.
At least 50 street battles were reported during March. This figure is slightly higher than January and February but similar to most months of 2018. These battles occurred in 15 states (Baja California, Chihuahua, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, and Veracruz). A series of battles lasted for more than six hours in Miguel Alemán, Tamaulipas. Stray bullets killed a bystander during one of the battles in Miguel Alemán. Two women were critically injured by stray gunfire during a street battle in Reynosa, Tamaulipas.
The number of felony homicides has not yet been reported for March, however, it is likely that the figure will closely match those of the last several months. In other words, it will likely be near 2400 for the month. There were numerous attacks on civilians in public venues such as restaurants, bars, shopping areas, markets, repair shops, two salón de eventos, a church service, a funeral, and a fiesta de quinceañera. There were 39 such incidents in March, resulting in 95 fatalities. The number of distinct incidents was the highest since November 2018. However, the number of fatalities is the highest since April 2017. These attacks occurred across 11 states (Chihuahua, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Mexico City, Morelos, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz).
There were 12 fatal extortion-related incidents reported during March; resulting in 17 fatalities. This figure is similar to most months of 2018. These incidents occurred in Baja California, Guanajuato (2 incidents), Guerrero, Mexico City, Oaxaca (2 incidents), and Veracruz (5 incidents). The victims included the owners or employees of bars, restaurants, hotels, an auto parts store, and a butcher.
Mexican authorities reported the disruption of four kidnapping operations this month. The figure is similar to the previous six months. These operations were located in Jalisco, Puebla, and Veracruz (2 operations). There were also several cases in which authorities were able to rescue kidnap victims.
Trucks transporting commercial cargo and fuel continue to be targeted by organized crime groups. There are no official figures for March yet, but the Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública (SESNSP) reports that there were 3760 robberies of travelers or transport across Mexico during February, and 76% of these occurred on commercial vehicles. Also, 75% of these robberies involved violence. The final numbers for March will likely be similar.
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Official figures on violence indicate a general upward trend since early 2018, with a peak in homicidios dolosos (intentional homicides) in July 2018. The number of these incidents declined slightly during the last quarter of 2018. However, January is now the highest month since September; with 2452 homicidios dolosos. This represents a 2.7% increase over the average for all of 2018. Official data for February is not yet available from the Secretaría de Gobernación (SEGOB). Furthermore, several states specifically reported increased violence in the last two months. Guanajuato reported the highest number of homicides of any state during January, followed by Edomex, Baja California, and Jalisco. Notably, there has also been a surge of violence in Nuevo Léon during the last few months. The situation is so dire in southern Veracruz that the mayor of Coatzacoalcos was at a groundbreaking ceremony when angry residents demanded he bring a halt to the violence plaguing the city. In sum, it is apparent that any efforts of the López Obrador administration to improve public safety have yet to take effect.
There were 58 attacks against governmental authorities during February. This is the highest number since July 2018, and this was accomplished in a 28-day month. Of these, there were six assassinations of administrative officials or party/union leaders.
Three military patrols were attacked this month in Jalisco, Michoacán, and Tamaulipas. One federal police patrol was attacked in Michoacán. In that incident, gunmen fired on a police checkpoint on Highway 37D in southern Michoacán. Four state police patrols were attacked. These incidents occurred in Edomex, Guanajuato, and Tamaulipas (2 incidents). Seven municipal police patrols were attacked in Chiapas, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Michoacán, Nuevo Léon, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz. This is the largest number of attacks on municipal patrols since September.
There were also several attacks directed at fixed targets. For example, shots were fired at the municipal palace in Teloloapan, Guerrero. Shots were fired at the windows of the offices of the Servicio de Administración Tributaria (SAT) in Cuernavaca, Morelos. No injuries were reported. Gunmen fired on a state police station in San Juan Evangelista, Veracruz.
Attacks against governmental authorities occurred in 17 states this month. This figure is on par with most months of the last few years. These incidents occurred in Baja California, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Mexico City, Michoacán, Morelos, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz.
Mexican authorities seized weapons, munitions, explosives, armored vehicles, or body armor at seven sites across Chihuahua, Coahuila, Jalisco, Michoacán, Tamaulipas (2 sites), and Veracruz. Several dozen rifles, including a Barrett 50-caliber sniper rifle, were seized in Ciudad Camargo, Tamaulipas. Forty-five rifles and ammunition were seized in Reynosa. Six fragmentation grenades were seized following a battle in Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco.
There were 43 battles between sicarios (cartel gunmen) and governmental authorities, or between rival cartels this month. This figure represents a decline from January but is still higher than the monthly average for 2018. These battles occurred in 13 states (Chiapas, Chihuahua, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Mexico City, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, Sonora, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz).
At least 23 taxi drivers were killed in Guerrero, Jalisco, Nuevo León (3 killed), Oaxaca (3 killed), Tamaulipas, and Veracruz (14 killed). In a period of less than an hour, three taxi drivers were gunned down at different locations across Monterrey, Nuevo Léon. Gunmen opened fire on a group of taxi drivers in Xalapa, Veracruz. One driver was killed, and nine were injured.
There were 13 fatal extortion-related attacks this month, resulting in 17 fatalities. This number is similar to January. These incidents occurred in Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco (2 incidents), Morelos, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz (5 incidents).
The number of reported highway robberies dropped slightly from 1143 in December to 1108 in January (SEGOB). However, the percentage of these that involved violence increased from 88% to 90% during the same time period. Furthermore, robberies on public transport increased by 37% (with 1992 incidents reported during January). The data for each of these crimes is not yet available from SEGOB for February.
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Public safety conditions during January closely matched those of the previous month. The number of attacks against authorities was similar to the previous five months. As was the number of battles reported. There were, however, a higher number of kidnapping incidents reported by the media this month. As indicated by our Annual Report, the high levels of insecurity across many areas of the country have continued throughout 2018. Interestingly, in a recent speech, President López Obrador denied that there had been an increase in violence during December, the first month of his presidency.
There were at least 54 attacks directed at governmental authorities reported during January. This figure is the highest since October 2018. Of particular significance was the high number of assassinations. There were 16 such incidents reported this month.
Eleven state police patrols were attacked in Edomex, Guerrero, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Quintana Roo, Sinaloa, and Tamaulipas. Three state police officers were injured during an ambush in Apatzingán, Michoacán. Two state police officers were killed in Tejupilco, Edomex. Photos from the scene indicate that over 100 rounds were fired into their vehicle. Gunmen also attacked state police in an attempt to facilitate the escape of a prisoner in Culiacán, Sinaloa. Assailants attacked a state police vehicle in an effort to free a prisoner in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz. In another apparent attempt to facilitate an escape, gunmen attacked a van transporting a prisoner in Cancún, Quintana Roo. The prisoner was killed in the incident. One municipal police patrol was reported attacked this month. In this case, two municipal police officers were injured during an attack on their patrol in Jesús Carranza, Veracruz.
There were also 17 additional fatal attacks on authorities across several states
Mexican federal authorities reported the arrest or death of just two regional leaders or key operatives of the major criminal organizations during January. This figure marks a continued decline over the last few years.
Authorities reported the seizure of weapons and munitions caches at 16 separate locations across Baja California, Guanajuato, Guerrero (2 sites), Jalisco, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas (6 sites), Veracruz (2 locations), and Zacatecas. The army seized more than 100 firearms (including three antique belt-fed machine guns), eight fragmentation grenades, three grenade launchers, and 33,000 rounds of ammunition in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. Two Minimi belt-fed machine guns, numerous rifles, tactical gear, body armor, and more than 2000 rounds of ammunition were seized in Cuajinicuilar, Guerrero. Four home-made armored trucks, rifles, ammunition, a fragmentation grenade, and a 40mm grenade launcher were seized following a battle in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. Another such vehicle was captured in Reynosa a few days later. Weapons, ammunition, and three grenades were discovered in Sonora. Firearms, ammunition, and four fragmentation grenades were seized in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. A dozen rifles, 90 rifle magazines, and body armor were seized in Reynosa. Nine grenades were also seized from a truck in Zacatecas. Two fragmentation grenades were found at a site in Guanajuato. Fragmentation grenades were also seized in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco.
There were 46 street battles reported during January. This figure is similar to most months of 2018. These incidents occurred in 17 states (Chiapas, Coahuila, Colima, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and Zacatecas).
As we continue to report each month, overland travel in many rural areas of Mexico should be considered hazardous. There continue to be reports of armed highway robberies in Oaxaca, Puebla, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz.
Bus passengers continue to be targeted by armed robbers. For example, passengers were robbed on a bus traveling between Huatusco and Fortín de las Flores, Veracruz. Passengers were robbed on a bus in Oaxaca, Oaxaca. Gunmen robbed passengers on a bus traveling along Highway 185 near Salina Cruz, Oaxaca. Bus passengers were robbed in Nuevo León. Passengers were robbed on a bus in Ecatepec, Edomex. Passengers on another bus were robbed in Veracruz, Veracruz.
Official figures concerning the total number of homicide victims of organized crime are not yet available for January. However, preliminary assessments suggest the month will be similar to the last several months. Also, at least 66 people were killed in attacks on civilians in public venues such as restaurants, bars, small businesses, shopping areas, a tianguis, a kindergarten, a salón de fiestas, a clinical laboratory, a tortillería, and a cemetery. This represents a slight decline from previous months. There were 34 such attacks this month across Baja California, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico City, Morelos, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz. Most of these incidents were in Tamaulipas and Veracruz.
There were 13 cases of fatal attacks related to extortion operations during January; resulting in 20 fatalities. This figure is on par with the previous six months. These incidents occurred in Baja California, Guanajuato (4 incidents), Guerrero (2), Nuevo León (2), Oaxaca (2), and Veracruz (2). In addition to these attacks, there were several acts of vandalism as well.
There were multiple robberies of numerous supermarkets and stores (e.g., Bodega Aurrerá, Coppel, Elektra, Soriana, etc.) in Oaxaca and Veracruz. Gunmen stormed into a shopping center and robbed from a cafe, and several patrons in Xalapa, Veracruz. Gunmen robbed a school in Gabino Barreda, Veracruz. A similar incident occurred at a school in Ciudad Camargo, Tamaulipas. At least five banks were robbed in Oaxaca and Veracruz. Several ATMs were stolen in Veracruz. Bank customers were robbed in Oaxaca (3 incidents), Tabasco, and Veracruz (2 incidents).
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