Mexico Security Summary for October 2016
Date of Report: November 9, 2016
It is now apparent that there has been a sustained decline in public safety across Mexico over the last year and a half. Despite early optimism about the Peña Nieto administration and the notable decline in violence from early 2013 through 2014, many areas of Mexico are now seeing an obvious deterioration in security conditions. Key indices such homicides, attacks on authorities, attacks on public venues, and fatal extortion-related attacks show increases after early 2015. While these increases were not always maintained each month, the overall trend has been upward. This is especially the case with total reported homicides. Almost every month since October 2015 has shown an increase over the previous month. The same is likely true with regard to yet unreleased data for October 2016.
As discussed in our previous reports (e.g., August 2016), the arrest of key cartel leaders has led to tremendous fragmentation and conflict inside the major criminal organizations operating in Mexico. Rising leaders in these organizations appear to be more rash and more prone to violence as they attempt to establish control. Also, violence has certainly increased as a result of the expansion of the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) which is pushing against territories formerly controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel, and against territories controlled by other criminal groups along the Gulf Coast. The CJNG is also advancing on Tijuana; spurring violence there. Indeed, there are also reports that the CJNG has formed an alliance with the Tijuana Cartel against operations of the Sinaloa Cartel in that region.
Meanwhile, Tamaulipas is being hit by continued violence associated with competition between various factions of the Zetas and Gulf Cartel. The Cartel del Noreste (CDN), a faction of the Zetas, is especially violent. However, there are recent rumors that elements of both the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel have formed an alliance called the Carteles Unidos; using the same name as an older entity from about 5 years ago.
Overall, there has also been a steady increase in violence in Chihuahua, Jalisco, Michoacán, and Veracruz since June. We anticipate that the security situation will worsen further because these conflicts are likely to expand.
Attacks against Governmental Authority
There were at least 42 attacks directed at government authorities reported during October. This is a 21% drop from the previous month, but the figure is on par with most months of 2015. There were 8 assassinations of government or political party officials this month. This number is a notable decline from previous months, but obviously still too high. Probably the most significant incident was the murder of a federal judge in Metepec, Edomex. He was the presiding judge over the Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman case. Another judge was murdered in Ojuelos, Jalisco. The former mayor was kidnapped in Fortín, Veracruz. A city council member was reported missing in Poza Rica, Veracruz. A municipal licensing official was assassinated in El Salto, Jalisco.
Figure 1: Attacks against Authorities by Month‡ λ
The municipal treasurer was assassinated in Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán. Another municipal treasurer was ambushed and killed in San Pedro Mixtepec, Oaxaca. These two assassinations may have been the result of extortion of municipal treasuries by organized crime groups. In recent years these groups have been coercing municipal and state government officials to transfer government revenue to criminal groups or face assassination.
Union and party activists were also killed. For example, the director of the Sindicato Independientes de Trabajadores de la Educación de Tabasco (SITET) was assassinated in Tabasco.
There were also several attempted assassinations this month. In another case, a state police officer who worked as a body guard for a Jalisco state senator was gunned down in Guadalajara, Jalisco. He was not with the senator at the time of the attack.
Thirty-two police officers and military personnel were killed in attacks this month. This figure is slightly more than last month and significantly higher than most months in 2014 and 2015. In one case, the deputy chief of police was gunned down in Sahuayo, Michoacán.
Gunmen fired on five military patrols in Guanajuato, Sinaloa, and Tamaulipas. In one case, four soldiers were killed during an ambush while transporting an injured prisoner along Highway 15 near Culiacán, Sinaloa. Two additional soldiers were killed in attacks in Guanajuato and Tamaulipas.
No federal police patrols were reported attacked in October. However, 8 state police patrols were attacked in Guanajuato, Guerrero, Michoacán, Puebla, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz. These incidents resulted in at least five police fatalities and several injuries. Five municipal police patrols were attacked in DF, Edomex, Michoacán, and Nuevo Léon. These attacks resulted in four police fatalities. Elsewhere, a prison guard was killed when gunmen attempted to facilitate the escape of an injured prisoner from a hospital in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas.
More than 11 additional law enforcement personnel were kidnapped or murdered in Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, and Veracruz. For example, gunmen intercepted a bus transporting two state police officers near Tomatlán, Jalisco. One of the officials was kidnapped off the bus and his body was discovered a few hours later. Also, two soldiers guarding the city market were overpowered, kidnapped, and then murdered in Acapulco, Guerrero. A state police officer was kidnapped and murdered in Tomatlán (Jalisco), and a municipal police officer was kidnapped and murdered in Coscomatepec, Veracruz. A municipal police officer was gunned down along with his wife in Irapuato, Guanajuato. Finally, a municipal police officer was gunned down at a taco stand in Parácuaro, Michoacán.
Family members of government officials were murdered in several areas of the country. For example, the daughter of a military judge was kidnapped while she drove on Highway 57 near Querétaro. The sister of a city commissioner was murdered in Cuautitlán, Edomex. The sister of an alternate state senator was kidnaped in Papantla, Veracruz. The wife of the former chief of police was murdered in Gran Morelos, Chihuahua.
Journalists and other members of the media continue to be targeted as well. For example, a newspaper reporter was injured during an ambush in Apatzingán, Michoacán. The home of a journalist was damaged by arson in Oaxaca, Oaxaca. Assailants set fire to the home belonging to the widow of a journalist who had been murdered during June in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz.
Geographic Pattern of Attacks
Attacks against authorities occurred across 13 states, and this figure is similar to the previous month. The states impacted include DF, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Sinaloa, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz.
Table 1: States Hit Hardest by Attacks on Authorities.
|States||Number of Attacks|
Mexican federal authorities reported the arrest of 5 regional leaders or key operatives of the major criminal organizations during October. This figure is similar to previous months. Also, two regional leaders were killed in battles with authorities, and one was kidnapped and murdered by a rival cartel. Among those arrested was Rodolfo Tovar Zapata “Popo”, a regional leader of the Zetas, who was captured in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. Osiel Cárdenas Jr., the son of Osiel Cárdenas Guillén (the former leader of the Gulf Cartel), was captured in Matamoros, Tamaulipas. Rey David Santiago Vargas “El Oso”, a regional leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, was apprehended in Guanajuato. A regional leader of the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel was arrested in Cuernavaca, Morelos. Also, Gerardo Elías Matamoros de la Garza “El Comandante Matamoros”, a regional leader of the Cartel del Noreste (a branch of the Zetas), was captured in Santa Catarina, Nuevo León.
Javier Morales Valencia “El Shaguee” or “El Señor de los Lentes”, a regional leader of the Zetas, was killed in a battle with marines near Allende, Nuevo Léon. A similar fate met “El Nacho”, a regional leader of the Juarez Cartel, who was killed in a battle in Ciudad Madera, Chihuahua.
Federal authorities also arrested several government officials on corruption charges or for association with organized criminal groups. For example, authorities apprehended the former chief of police of Iguala, Guerrero. He had been implicated in the disappearance of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa in September 2014. Four municipal police officers were arrested for train robbery in Cortazar, Guanajuato. In another case, three municipal police officers were arrested for armed robbery in Chimalhuacán, Edomex. A state police officer was arrested for her involvement in more than 40 armed robberies in Hermosillo, Sonora.
The former governor of Mexico’s Veracruz state, Javier Duarte de Ochoa (PRI), appears to have fled on October 15th just prior to being served a warrant on corruption and money laundering charges. The former governor of Sonora, Guillermo Padrés Elías (PAN), has also disappeared while under investigation.
Authorities reported the seizure of weapons and munitions caches at 4 separate locations across Oaxaca, Sinaloa, and Tamaulipas. Several fragmentation grenades and RPGs were found at the site in Tuxtepec, Oaxaca. Also, the sites in Culiacán contained a M-203 grenade launcher, four 40mm grenades, two fragmentation grenades, and a Barrett 50-caliber sniper rifle. Three armored SUVs were found buried at a site in Ciudad Camargo, Tamaulipas.
Street Battles (Enfrentamientos)
There were 46 street battles reported during October. This figure is identical to the previous month. These battles occurred in 13 states (Chihuahua, DF, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz). This is the same number of states as September. The vast majority of these incidents occurred in Tamaulipas.
Approximately 21 people were killed during a fierce gun battle near Tubutama, Sonora. Reports indicate that it was a conflict between factions of the Sinaloa Cartel and the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel. During one battle in Monterrey, several fleeing sicarios (cartel gunmen) were killed by gunfire from an overflying marine helicopter. Also, due to heightened tensions, the secretary of defense (SEDENA) announced the transfer of 1000 soldiers to southern Michoacán. Therefore, we anticipate an increase in battles reported from that state in coming months.
Table 2: States Hit Hardest by Street Battles.
|States||Number of Battles|
Hazardous Overland Travel
A bus transporting fans in route to the Formula One in Austin (Texas) was intercepted and robbed near the San Martín Texmelucán toll booth along Highway 150D in Veracruz. In a separate attack, gunmen boarded a bus traveling between Chilpancingo and Tixtla (Guerrero) and shot 8 people. Five passengers died during the attack. A passenger was shot and killed during an armed robbery on a bus as it traveled along the Mexico City-Pachuca highway in northeast Edomex (Highway 85). The bus driver was injured by the gunmen as well. In a separate incident, a passenger was killed during a bus robbery near Tlanepantla, Edomex. A passenger bus was intercepted and its passengers robbed near Juchitan de Zaragoza, Oaxaca. Another passenger bus was robbed in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. A passenger shot and killed four robbers on a bus near the DF-Edomex state boundary. The assailants’ bodies were later found in San Pedro Tultepec, Edomex.
Several people were injured when assailants fired on a truck as it traveled along the Tuxtepec-Playa Vicente highway in Oaxaca (Highway 147). Another truck was attacked in route between Cárdenas and Comalcalco near Cunduacán, Tabasco. Gunmen attempting to rob a family fired into their vehicle traveling along Highway 1 near Valle de Bravo, Edomex. One of the victims was killed in the attack.
Assailants intercepted a taxi transporting a family of four as they traveled along Highway 185 near Emiliano Zapata, Veracruz. The two women, an adolescent boy, and a baby were all kidnapped from the vehicle, while the taxi driver was uninjured. In Matías Romero (Oaxaca) two people were killed when assailants fired on the taxi in which they were riding. Another couple was gunned down while traveling in Atizapán de Zaragoza, Edomex. Three students were kidnapped by gunmen operating a roadblock near Paso del Toro, Veracruz.
Narcobloqueos (Illegal Street Blockades)
- October 2 – Reynosa, Tamaulipas
Official figures concerning the total number of homicide victims of organized crime is not yet available for October. However, preliminary assessments suggest the month will be similar to the last several months; if not higher. Also, at least 81 people were killed in attacks on civilians in public venues such as restaurants, bars, small businesses, shopping areas, a bus terminal, a brothel, and a barber shop. The total number of attacks did decline when compared to September, but the number fatalities was higher this month. There were at least such 35 attacks this month. These attacks occurred across 12 states (Chihuahua, DF, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz). Most of the attacks were in Michoacán and Veracruz. There has also been a notable increase of violence in San Luis Potosi; likely the result of cartel conflicts spreading from adjacent states.
Six people were killed and two were injured during an attack on a hotel in Chihuahua, Chihuahua. Five people were gunned down in a seafood restaurant in Escuinapa, Sinaloa. A gunmen entered a hospital and killed a patient in Ecatepec, Edomex. For unknown reasons several gunmen forced their way into an elementary school in the community of Purísima del Progreso in the municipality of Irapuato, Guanajuato. One of the teachers drew her own weapon and fired at the assailants; they ultimately fled the scene.
Other victims this month include a physician who was kidnapped and murdered in Nacajuca, Tabasco. A veterinarian was gunned down in Cuitláhuac, Veracruz. A professor at the Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa (UAS) was murdered, as was a teacher in Tehuacán, Puebla. A priest was executed in Tucumán, Chiapas. A family of three (including a child) was kidnapped and murdered in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas. A mother and her young child were gunned down in their garden in Ecatepec, Edomex. A family of three was murdered inside their home in Matamoros, Tamaulipas. A couple was gunned down in front of their young son in a restaurant in Córdoba, Veracruz. A family of four (including three females) was gunned down by assailants in their home in Acámbaro, Guanajuato. A 3-year-old girl was shot in the stomach during an attack on her home in Culiacán, Sinaloa.
As many as 20 gunmen attacked the small community of San Juanico in Hidalgo. While no injuries were reported, the assailants, threatened the villagers. Assailants attacked a small community near Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas. Fragmentation grenades were thrown into several residences, but there are no official reports of injuries at this time.
Also, the mass deposits of 177 victims’ bodies were found at 54 different sites across 14 states (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Morelos, Oaxaca, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and Zacatecas). Most of the sites were in Veracruz. In terms of the number of victims, sites, and states it is almost identical to September. In line with the notable increase in the frequency of dismemberment and decapitations, this month there were at least 25 such victims at 13 sites across 7 states. They were especially prevalent in Veracruz.
Also, the Veracruz state government reported that 92 bodies have been discovered in mass graves in the northern suburbs of Veracruz since August (these victims were not included on our monthly tabulations). Furthermore, authorities unearthed the remains of approximately 70 additional victims from 105 mass grave sites near Tuxpan, Veracruz. The remains of another 56 people (including females) were discovered on the outskirts of Ciudad Juárez during October.
Women and children continue to be targeted by organized crime groups and October was no exception. This month at least 75 women were killed across 15 states. Most of the female victims were in Veracruz, but high numbers were reported from Edomex and Puebla as well.
Finally, as has been the case for more than seven years, taxi drivers have been heavily targeted by organized criminal groups. The two primary reasons are that they are often subjected to extortion demands and drivers who fail to comply with these demands are killed. The second reason is that taxi drivers often serve has halcons (lookouts) for organized criminal groups. As they are constantly on the move, cartels find taxi drivers to be useful for reporting the movements of law enforcement personnel and rival groups. Therefore, taxi drivers are often killed by rivals in an effort to “blind” competitors to their movements. At least 8 taxi drivers were killed during October. These attacks occurred across Guerrero and Veracruz.
Frustrated residents continue to utilize vigilante justice in an attempt to stem the tide of organized crime in their communities. For example, seven accused thieves (including a woman) had their hands amputated in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. One of the victims did not survive his mutilation. A conflicting report suggests that these individuals owed money to their attackers. In either case, blatant and gruesome forms of violence have become especially commonplace in many areas of the country.
Other Vigilante Incidents
- Early October – new autodefensa groups were formed in two communities near Minatitlán, Veracruz.
- October 1 – an accused thief was burned alive in Matatlán, Oaxaca.
- October 4 – residents amputated three fingers from the left hand of an accused thief in Matamoros, Tamaulipas.
- October 7 – an armed robber was shot and killed by his intended victim in Ecatepec, Edomex.
- October 12 – residents captured two accused thieves in Salina Cruz, Oaxaca. They were turned over to authorities.
- October 13 – three accused thieves were severely beaten by residents in Xonacatlán, Edomex. One of them died from his injuries.
- October 15 – an accused armed robber was severely beaten by residents in Cárdenas, Tabasco.
- October 15 – two accused burglars were beaten in Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán, Oaxaca.
- October 16 – passengers severely beat three bus robbers near the Mexico City-Edomex boundary.
- October 17 – as mentioned above, seven accused thieves had their hands amputated in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco.
- October 19 – three people were killed during a conflict in Santa María Zacatepec, Oaxaca. Following the incident, the villagers seized the mayor, the municipal treasurer, the municipal secretary, the director of hacienda, the director of public works, and a police officer. The municipal officials were later released.
- October 21 – authorities discovered an accused thief tied to a post in Hermosillo, Sonora. He was taken into custody.
- October 26 – the body of an accused child molester was discovered in San Pablo Xochimehuacán, Puebla. Aside from being beaten to death his penis had been removed.
Extortion, Kidnapping, and Armed Robbery
There were 14 confirmed cases of fatal attacks related to extortion operations during October. This figure is the same as last month. These incidents occurred in 8 states (Guerrero, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, Sonora, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz). Most of these were in Veracruz (6). Victims included owners of businesses and professionals. For example, a businessman was gunned down in Paraíso, Tabasco. Also, a bus dispatcher was gunned down in Delegación Tláhuac of Mexico City.
There were also several non-fatal attacks this month. For example, a fragmentation grenade was thrown at a Pemex station in Orizaba, Veracruz. It failed to detonate.
During October authorities reported the disruption of 13 kidnapping operations. This is the same number as September. These were located in 6 states (Baja California, Morelos, Oaxaca, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Veracruz). Most of the operations were in Tamaulipas and Veracruz.
A school teacher was released after a ransom payment of 5 million pesos in Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca. Finally, an intended kidnap victim overpowered his assailants and fired their AR-15 as they fled the scene in Poza Rica, Veracruz.
There were numerous new cases of kidnapping reported this month. For example, a physician was kidnapped in Acapulco, and her mutilated body was later discovered in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero. Another physician was kidnapped in Coatzacoalcos (Veracruz), and another was kidnapped from her office in Jáltipan (Veracruz). Prominent businessmen were kidnapped in Coatzacoalcos (Veracruz), and in Macuspana (Tabasco). Four people (including two women) were kidnapped from a funeral in Apatzingán, Michoacán. A teacher was killed while being transported in the trunk of an automobile that crashed following his kidnapping in Espinal, Veracruz. Three high school students (including a female) were kidnapped in Veracruz.
Sexual Predation of Females
The media has also reported a notable increase in the number of women being kidnapped and murdered across Mexico. In a pattern similar to that of Ciudad Juarez (Chihuahua), it appears that the victims are being targeted as a part of sexual-related crimes. Most of these incidents involving female kidnap victims have been in Guerrero, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz.
These kidnappings can occur anywhere and at any time. For example, a female biomedical student was kidnapped in Veracruz, and another woman was taken off a street in Minatitlán. A young woman was kidnapped in Poza Rica, Veracruz. The body of a 22-year-old woman who was kidnapped two months ago was discovered in Piedras Negras, Coahuila.
A female school teacher was kidnapped in Perote (Veracruz), and another woman was kidnapped nearby under similar circumstances. Elsewhere, a woman was kidnapped from a store in Veracruz. Two more female school teachers were kidnapped in Villahermosa, Tabasco. A waitress was kidnapped and murdered in Villa Azueta, Veracruz.
A 17-year-old girl was kidnapped on the way to school in Chimalhuacán, Edomex. The daughter of physician was kidnapped off a street in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. A 14-year-old girl was kidnapped in Guerrero. The bodies of a recently kidnapped girl was found in San Andrés Tuxtla, and another in Hueyapan de Ocampo (Veracruz). A 14-year-old girl was kidnapped by several men traveling in a taxi in Tampico, Tamaulipas. She fell from the vehicle a few minutes later and was rescued by authorities.
Aside from the incidents of hijackings and armed robberies discussed in the travel section on page 4, there were numerous reports of armed robbery across Mexico this month. For example, at least 6 banks were robbed in DF, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz. Also, there have been increased reports of train robberies in Guanajuato; especially near Apaseo el Grande, Celaya, Irapuato, León, and Salamanca. According to a recent report, a recently arrested group was responsible for as many as 600 such robberies (80% of the total reported across the country).
Several commercial vehicles were reported stolen and several were recovered as well. For example, a Corona beer truck was hijacked in Ixtepec, Oaxaca. Mexico City police apprehended a truck hijacker as he traversed the city in a stolen truck. Another vehicle and trucking robbing operation was disrupted in Cortázar, Guanajuato.
Other robberies were directed at the general public in exposed settings. For example, media reports indicate that Michael Bock, an executive with Mercedes Benz was robbed while in route to the Hotel Hyatt Polanco in Mexico City. Another man was killed during an armed robbery in Sultepec, Edomex. An architect was killed during a robbery in Orizaba, Veracruz. A school teacher was killed during a robbery in Xalapa, Veracruz. Three people were shot during an armed robbery in a shopping center parking lot in Tlalnepantla, Edomex. Two bystanders were injured by gunfire during an armed robbery in Mexico City. Finally, there are also increased reports of armed robberies being committed while vehicles are trapped in traffic in the Mexico City area.
Attacks on Authorities (October 2016)
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