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Mexico Security Summary for December 2016

Date of Report: January 13, 2017

Overview

With regard to public safety, December differed only slightly from the previous two months.  Preliminary reports suggest that the number of violent crimes will match those of the last few months.  Unfortunately, December 2016 probably could be called the “season of beheading and dismemberment” because so many victims met this horrific fate this month.  Also, while the number of attacks against civilians in public venues declined a bit, there were numerous instances of gunmen conducting fatal assaults on families inside their own homes.  Furthermore, vigilantism continues to expand in the central and southern portions of the country.  Residents who are frustrated with ineffectual law enforcement in the face of rising crime rates are increasingly enforcing vigilante “justice” on individuals accused of various crimes; often with fatal consequences.

Also, due to the recent surge of violence in northern Mexico, military authorities have sent additional soldiers and marines to reinforce security operations in Ciudad Victoria, Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo, and Reynosa (Tamaulipas).   Indeed, state authorities have requested that the military continue operations in Tamaulipas for at least three more years.

As if these problems were not sufficient, the announcement of prices hikes for fuel spurred widespread protests across the country in late December; lingering into January 2017.  Highways were blocked in San Luis Potosí, and Zacatecas. The Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) threatened to burn Pemex stations if prices hikes were instituted, and rampant looting occurred in central Mexico and along the Gulf Coast.  At least 80 stores were looted, including 50 in Veracruz.  As a result, thousands of businesses in Mexico City shut down (approximately 20,000).  Also, 400 Pemex stations across the country also closed temporarily.  In addition, fuel shortages affected Aguascalientes, Chihuahua, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Morelos, Oaxaca, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Tlaxcala, and Zacatecas.

Attacks against Governmental Authority

There were 36 attacks directed at government authorities reported during December. This figure is the same as November.  There were 5 assassinations of government or political party officials; a decline of three from the previous month.  This month, the mayor was gunned down while dining in Ocotlán de Morelos, Oaxaca.  A former mayor was assassinated in San Juan Bautista Cacahuatepec, Oaxaca.  A former city council member was assassinated in Nicolás Romero, Edomex.  Also, an analyst with the Subdirección de Recursos Materiales y Obra Pública de la Fiscalía General del Estado (FGE) was reported kidnapped in Veracruz, Veracruz.

Political party activists and leaders were also targeted.  For example, the general secretary of the Confederación Revolucionaria de Obreros y Campesinos (CROC) was assassinated in Santa Lucía del Camino, Oaxaca.  There was also an attempted assassination when the mayor-elect survived an attack in San Miguel del Puerto Pochutla, Oaxaca.

Three municipal chiefs of police were killed in Ziracuaretiro (Michoacán), Pedro Escobedo (Queretaro), and Tlacotalpa (Tabasco).  Thirty-three additional police officers and soldiers were killed in attacks this month.  This is the highest number killed since May 2013.  Some of these fatalities occurred during assaults on patrols, while others were kidnap-executions which occurred in Baja California Sur, Edomex, Guerrero, and Veracruz.  In one case, the head of security for the state prison was gunned down outside his residence in La Paz, Baja California Sur.  Four federal investigators with the Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) were kidnapped and murdered in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero.  Their bodies were discovered in a burned-out vehicle.  Four federal police officers were kidnapped and decapitated in Acapulco, Guerrero.  Two soldiers were kidnapped and murdered in Naucalpan, Edomex.  The bodies of two state police officers were found in a mass grave in Acapulco, Guerrero.

Five military patrols were attacked this month in Guerrero (2), Tamaulipas (2), and Veracruz.   Three soldiers were killed during an ambush in Suchiliapan, Veracruz), and several soldiers were injured during an attack on an army patrol near San Miguel Totolapan, Guerrero.

Figure 1:  Attacks against Authorities by Month‡ λ

Note:  These figures should be considered minimum counts as numerous incidents are not reported by the media or government officials.

λ President Peña Nieto took office on December 1, 2012 (columns in red).

A federal highway patrolman was killed when gunmen fired on his vehicle in San Juan El Alto, Tabasco.  A federal police officer was shot while resting in his vehicle in Morelia, Michoacán.  The assailants also stole the vehicle.  Two investigators with the Procuraduría General de Justicia (PGJ) were injured by gunfire while investigating a crime scene Sahuayo, Michoacán.  Also, a burned-out van belonging to the Instituto Nacional de Emigración was found abandoned in Cruillas, Tamaulipas.

Two state police patrols were attacked in Michoacán.  Also, a state investigator and an official with the Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado were injured during an armed attack in Cumpas, Sonora.  Four municipal police patrols were attacked this month.  These incidents occurred in Oaxaca, Sinaloa, Tabasco, and Veracruz

Gunmen also launched attacks on three fixed targets. In one case, approximately 11 gunmen stormed a municipal police station in Papalotla (Edomex), overpowering the three officers on duty.  They also stole an ATM that was located in the same building.  Elsewhere, a municipal police station was attacked in San Miguel Totolapan, Guerrero.  Also, an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was detonated at the offices of the Procuraduría de la Defensa del Contribuyente in Oaxaca, Oaxaca.

Several family members of government officials were targeted this month as well.  For example, two teenage daughters of the mayor were kidnapped in San Juan Coatzospam, Oaxaca.   Also, a brother of a former state official was killed in Colima.  Organized criminal groups, along with corrupt political leaders, continue to also target the media as a form of censorship.  This month a reporter was gunned down in Chihuahua, Chihuahua

Geographic Pattern of Attacks

These attacks occurred across 11 states (Baja California Sur, Edomex, Guerrero, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Querétaro, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz).  This is a decline in number of states from the previous 8 months, and the incidents were spread more evenly across the affected states.

Table 1: States Hit Hardest by Attacks on Authorities.

States Number of Attacks
Guerrero 8
Oaxaca 6
Michoacán 5
Veracruz 4
Edomex 3
Tabasco 3
Tamaulipas 3

Progress?

Mexican federal authorities reported the capture of two regional leaders or key operatives of the major criminal organizations during December.  This is the lowest number since June 2013.  It is also indicative of the extreme fragmentation of the major cartels that has occurred with the arrest of key leaders over the last four years.   The two leaders apprehended in December were both of the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel.  Alfredo Beltrán Guzmán “El Mochomito”, the son of Alfredo Beltrán Leyva “El Mochomo”, was captured in Zapopan, Jalisco.  Rodolfo López Ibarra “El Nito”, a regional leader of the cartel, was captured in Hermosillo, Sonora.  Several dozen low-level members of various organizations were arrested in the course of law enforcement operations against drug trafficking and kidnapping groups, but none were reported as significant players.

In addition to the leaders of organized criminal groups, federal authorities arrested several government officials on various charges relating to corruption or association with organized criminal groups.  For example, the former warden of the state prison was arrested for links to organized crime in La Paz, Baja California Sur.  The leader of the Sindicato de Transportistas de Materiales de Construcción de la Confederación de Trabajadores de México (CTM) in Tamaulipas was arrested for his involvement with organized crime.  Also, eight municipal police officers were arrested on corruption and kidnapping charges in Cárdenas, Tabasco.

Federal authorities seized weapons and munitions caches at 3 locations across the country.  These sites were located in Chihuahua and Veracruz.  A rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) and a Barrett 50-caliber sniper rifle were found at the site in Acayucan, Veracruz.

Street Battles (Enfrentamientos)

There were 38 street battles reported during December.  This figure closely matches all months since July 2016. Although these months were lower than the first half of 2016, they match the average of 2015.  This month battles occurred in 12 states (Guerrero, Hidalgo, Michoacán, Morelos, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Veracruz).  The number of states is on par with most months of 2016.  Bystanders continue to be injured or killed during some of these battles.  This month, a 9-year-old boy was killed during a battle in Cuautepec de Hinojosa, Hidalgo.

Table 2: States Hit Hardest by Street Battles.

States Number of Battles
Veracruz 16
Tamaulipas 5
Michoacán 3
Nuevo León 3

Hazardous Overland Travel

Passengers on three separate buses were robbed at an illegal roadblock on Highway 145D near Cosamaloapan, Veracruz.  A truck was intercepted at the same spot as well.  Elsewhere, gunmen stopped a bus between Ciudad Acuña and Piedras Negras (Coahuila) and forcibly kidnapped three passengers.  Assailants robbed passengers on a small bus traveling near Putla de Guerrero, Oaxaca.  City bus passengers were robbed in the city of Veracruz.  Another city bus was robbed in Xalapa, Veracruz.  A passenger and an armed robber fatally shot each other on a city bus in Chicoloapan, Edomex.  Authorities arrested several gunmen who had set up a temporary road block to rob travelers on Highway 180 between Catemaco and Hueyapan de Ocampo (Veracruz.)

A 2-year-old girl was injured when gunmen fired into a taxi in Zamora, Michoacán.  Another passenger in the taxi was killed during the attack.  A mother and her 8-year-old daughter were killed when someone fired into their vehicle in Las Choapas, Veracruz.

Violence

The official number of people killed as a result of organized crime during December is not yet available.  However, preliminary estimates suggest that at least 700 people were killed as a result of organized crime this month.  Deposits of multiple bodies were left at over 54 sites across Mexico; amounting to at least 141 victims.  These “wholesale” deposits were found in 18 states (Baja California, Baja California Sur, Colima, Edomex, Guerrero, Jalisco, Mexico City, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and Zacatecas).  Most of the sites were located in Tamaulipas and Veracruz.

There has also been an increase in the number of victims being decapitated or dismembered.  At least 43 victims met this fate and their remains were left at 27 sites across 10 states this month; especially in Tamaulipas and Veracruz.  There were several cases where multiple heads were left in public settings.  Also, a human heart was found in the street in Acapulco, Guerrero.

In addition to these kidnap-executions, there were at least 30 attacks on civilians in public venues such as restaurants, bars, small businesses, shopping areas, a church, a wedding, and a Mexico City Metro station this month.  At least 55 people were reported killed and dozens injured in these attacks during December.

These attacks occurred across 15 states (Baja California Sur, Chihuahua, Colima, Edomex, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico City, Michoacán, Morelos, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz).  Most of the attacks were in Michoacán and Veracruz.  In one incident, three people were killed during an attack on a wedding in Vista Hermosa, Michoacán.   Two people were killed and two were injured during an attack on a bar in Acayucan, Veracruz.  Elsewhere, eight people were injured when gunmen opened fire outside a store in Apatzingán, Michoacán.

Aside from the abovementioned attacks, hundreds more people were murdered by organized criminal groups across Mexico.  For example, an elderly couple were murdered when gunmen entered their home in Ecatepec, Edomex.  A mother and her son were killed by three gunmen during an attack on their home in Guadalupe, Nuevo León.  Three people were found with gun shots to the back of their heads inside their home in Mazatlán, Sinaloa.  A family of four (including a teenager) were gunned down outside their home in Tecomán, Colima.  Gunmen fired more than 60 rifle rounds during a fatal attack on a family in their home in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas.  Also, a teacher was gunned down in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas.  An EMS technician was killed by an assailant traveling on a motorcycle in Delegación Benito Juárez of México City.  At least 9 taxi drivers were reported killed this month; in Coahuila, Guerrero (2), Jalisco, and Veracruz (4).

At least 38 women and their daughters were executed in at least 27 separate incidents across Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Colima, Edomex, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Mexico City, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and Zacatecas.  Also, two women were kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered in southern Mexico City.  Two women were kidnapped and murdered in Salinas Victoria, Nuevo León.

Selected Vigilante Incidents

  • December 3 – an accused child kidnapper was severely beaten by residents and then hung by his neck until dead in San Francisco del Mar, Oaxaca.
  • December 4 – residents of Santo Domingo Tehuantepec (Oaxaca) publicized their intent to lynch and burn an accused hit-and-run truck driver responsible for the death of a local resident.
  • December 4 – an accused thief was strangled to death by residents in Boca del Río, Veracruz.
  • December 5 – residents detained an accused thief in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz.
  • December 9 – an accused thief was shot in the leg in Reynosa, Tamaulipas.
  • December 10 – two Mayan Indians were tied to a tree, tortured, and murdered by local residents in Valladolid, Yucatan.  The conflict was primarily over land tenure.
  • December 11 – members of the El Movimiento Totolapense por la Paz (MTP) detained 17 individuals accused of various crimes for four days in San Miguel Totolapan, Guerrero.  Following their release, four of those detained were transferred to the state capital by authorities for questioning.  Among those being held was a city council member.
  • December 13 – two accused thieves were stripped, beaten, and tied to a post in Oaxaca.
  • December 15 – two accused thieves had their hands removed, and were later killed in Veracruz.
  • December 22 – frustrated by high levels of criminality, residents disarmed municipal police in San Nicolás de Cuajinicuilapa, Guerrero.  Afterwards the residents turned over security operations to an autodefensa group, the Coordinadora Regional de Autoridades Comunitarias (CRAC).
  • December 23 – residents tried to lynch two women accused of attempting to kidnap an infant in Cancún, Quintana Roo.
  • December 25 – an accused child rapist was severely beaten by residents in Centro, Tabasco.
  • December 26 – residents burned a police vehicle and attempted to lynch two accused child kidnappers in San Pablo del Monte, Puebla.
  • December 29 – restaurant patrons detained and beat an individual who attempted to rob the establishment in Minatitlán, Veracruz.
  • December 30 – an accused thief was severely beaten by residents in Reynosa, Tamaulipas.

Extortion, Kidnapping, and Armed Robbery

Extortion

There were 6 confirmed cases of fatal attacks related to extortion operations during December.  This is the lowest number reported since July 2014.  These incidents occurred in 5 states (Coahuila, Guerrero, Morelos, Sinaloa, and Veracruz).  Among the victims were employees or owners of several restaurants, shops, and other small businesses.  Victims included owners or employees of a repair shop, a tortilleria, a Pemex franchise, and a hardware store.  There were numerous non-fatal attacks as well this month.  For example, a clothing store was damaged by arsonists in Monterrey, Nuevo León.

Kidnapping

Authorities reported the disruption of 16 kidnapping operations in December.  This figure is slightly higher than the average for 2016.  These occurred in Edomex, Guerrero, Mexico City, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz.  Most of the dismantled kidnapping rings operated in Tamaulipas and Veracruz.  Reports also suggest an increase in kidnapping in Tamaulipas.  One of these groups had been responsible for the kidnapping of four girls in Delegacion Milpa Alta of Mexico City.

In addition to the dismantling of kidnapping rings, authorities were able to rescue kidnapped individuals at various locations across the country.  For example, a university student was rescued from kidnappers in Acambay, Edomex.  Another victim was rescued in Tihuatlán, Veracruz.

A commercial avocado farmer was shot during an attempted kidnapping near Uruapan, Michoacán; he survived.  The president of the Cámara Nacional de Comercio (CANACO) was injured during an attempted kidnapping in Tuxpan, Veracruz.  A businessman was kidnapped and subsequently released with a slashed throat in San Andrés Tuxtla, Veracruz.

Also, in a case of express kidnapping, gunmen intercepted a vehicle transporting parents and their two children outside a school in Veracruz.  The family was released a few hours later.  Elsewhere, the deputy director of the Imagen de Veracruz newspaper was the victim of an express kidnapping in Boca del Río, Veracruz.

There were also notable cases of traditional kidnappings this month.  For example, gunmen stormed a hotel and kidnapped four engineers in Apaxtla de Castrejón, Guerrero.  They were subsequently released after paying an undisclosed amount.  The engineers worked for Soluciones Creativas Capital Humano. This particular incident illustrates the risks associated with lodging staff in hotels with inadequate security measures.

Two Jehovah Witness evangelists were kidnapped from a roadside in Cárdenas, Tabasco.  A few minutes later a mechanic was kidnapped nearby.  The same day a Pemex worker was kidnapped in Paraíso, Tabasco.  The following week another Pemex employee was kidnapped in Minatitlán, Veracruz.   The former director of the Unión Nación de Avicultores was kidnapped in Amatlán, Veracruz.  Two cattle ranchers were kidnapped in San Juan Evangelista, Veracruz.  Gunmen kidnapped two people from the offices of the Nombramientos del Muelle in Veracruz.

A manager of an Aurrera store was kidnapped in Zacapoaxtla, Puebla.  A businessman was kidnapped and murdered in Rafael Delgado, Veracruz.  The son of a businessman was kidnapped in San Andrés Cholula, Puebla.  An evangelical pastor was kidnapped in Huimanguillo, Tabasco.

Also, a radiologist was kidnapped and murdered in Tabasco.  A physician was kidnapped and murdered in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz.  An odontologist was kidnapped and murdered in Villahermosa, Tabasco.  A veterinarian was kidnapped while traveling between San Juan Evangelista and Juanita, Veracruz.

The coordinator of the psychology department at the Universidad Autónoma de Guerrero was kidnapped and murdered.   A primary school principal was kidnapped in Pánuco, Veracruz.  A school teacher was kidnapped and decapitated in Tantoyuca, Veracruz.  Two high school teachers were kidnapped in Reynosa, Tamaulipas.  Two university students were kidnapped in Jáltipan, Veracruz.

An 18-year-old woman was kidnapped off a street in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz.  Gunmen stormed a residence and kidnapped a teenage girl in Guadalupe, Nuevo León.  A 15-year-old girl was kidnapped off a street in Jáltipan, Veracruz.  Two women were kidnapped and murdered in Villahermosa, Tabasco.  Based on their clothing, it is presumed they were kidnapped while jogging.  Another woman was kidnapped and murdered in Tehuantepec, Oaxaca.  A woman was killed by her kidnappers following payment of 3 million pesos in cash, jewelry, and several vehicles in Cárdenas, Tabasco.

Armed Robbery

Armed robbery is widespread across Mexico and can impact businesses and residents in any sector of the country.  Cargo theft and truck hijacking continue to impact transport as well.  A truck driver was killed when gunmen forced a tractor trailer rig off a highway near La Tinaja, Veracruz.  The rig was stolen.  Also, a nude woman who claimed to be a girlfriend of the deceased driver was found wandering the highway a few miles away.

Cargo hijacking continues to plague highways in Tamaulipas as well.  Recently, the Cámara Nacional de Autotransporte de Carga (Canacar) reported significant losses in the northern part of the state.  Elsewhere, several large companies were the victims of armed robbery as the assailants sought Christmas bonus payments destined for employees.  These incidents were reported in Oaxaca and Veracruz.  Three people were kidnapped during an armed robbery of the Central de Abastos in León, Guanajuato.

At least 9 banks were robbed in Oaxaca, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz.  Also, an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was detonated at a bank ATM in Oaxaca, Oaxaca.

A man was shot and killed while resisting a carjacking in Morelia, Michoacán.  An elderly man was killed during an armed robbery in Tuxpan, Veracruz.  Another senior citizen was shot during an armed robbery in Minatitlán, Veracruz.

Attacks on Authorities (December 2016)


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HX / Harary Security Group has established itself as one of the leading security consulting firms in Mexico.

Established in 1996 by Jack Harary, his more than 30 years of experience in all aspects of security have proven his value in Mexicos’ demanding environment.

HX / Harary Security is a world-class consultancy which prides itself on cutting edge services. We are frequently called on and consult with leading Fortune 500 companies like Coca Cola and government organizations like the United Nations. We also service high profile clientele and expatriates to help secure their families, corporate headquarters, factories, warehouses and private residences. You can count on us to meet your security needs.

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