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Mexico Security Summary for November 2017

Date of Report: December 7, 2017

Overview

Official crime figures for November are not yet available from the Secretaría de Gobernación (SEGOB). However, the agency reported that there were 2371 felony homicides during October. That figure is the highest ever recorded. The total number of homicides reported in October was 3607; also a record high. Thus far, there have been 20,878 felony homicides reported in 2017; a figure that already exceeds the total for 2016. Reports of armed robberies, highway robberies, kidnapping, and extortion have also increased through 2017; and November was no exception.

Attacks against Governmental Authority

There were 42 attacks directed at governmental authorities reported during November. This figure is a slight drop from October, but is still on par with the monthly average for 2017. There were 10 assassinations of current or former governmental, party, and union officials this month. This figure is on par with most months of 2016 and 2017. Among the victims this month was the mayor-elect in Hidalgotitlán, Veracruz. The gunmen surrounded his home and opened fire; killing three bodyguards along with the elected official. Another mayor and his wife were ambushed and killed in Ixhuatlán, Veracruz. A city council member was assassinated in Chietla, Puebla. A mayoral candidate and his bodyguard were ambushed and killed in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero. A former mayor was assassinated in Guevea de Humboldt, Oaxaca.

The president of the Comisión Estatal de Derechos Humanos (CEDH) and his son were gunned down in La Paz, Baja California Sur. His wife and daughter were also injured in the attack. An official with the Fiscal Especializada en Delitos Sexuales y contra la Familia was intercepted and killed in Pánuco, Veracruz. An activist with the Consejo Consultivo de la Coordinadora Nacional de Artesanos y ComerciantesZepaniah Titlatozke” was murdered in Atzacan, Veracruz. The leader of the Asociación Ganadera Local (AGL) was kidnapped in Acayucan, Veracruz. The president of the Comisariado Ejidal was assassinated in Mujica, Michoacán.

There were also three attacks that did not result in fatalities. In one case, gunmen fired on a vehicle belonging to a mayoral candidate in Cancún, Quintana Roo. He was not in the vehicle at the time. A former municipal treasurer was injured by gunmen in Las Choapas, Veracruz. A member of the Comisión Estatal de Derechos Humanos (CEDH) was kidnapped in Guadalajara, Jalisco. He was released a few days later.

At least 14 police officers or military personal were killed in attacks this month. Two military patrols were attacked in Tamaulipas during November. One was an army patrol in Reynosa, and the other was a marine patrol in Matamoros. One federal police patrol was attacked in Reynosa as well. Ten state police patrols were attacked in Chihuahua, Michoacán, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz. In one case, two state police motorcycle officers were gunned down in Tangancícuaro, Michoacán. Two state police officers were ambushed and killed in Soledad de Graciano Sánchez, San Luis Potosí.

Four municipal police patrols were also attacked. These incidents occurred in Puebla and Veracruz (3 attacks). The attack in Puebla resulted in two police fatalities. In a separate incident, a municipal chief of police was injured during an ambush in La Merced del Potrero, Oaxaca. Also, a former chief of the transit police was gunned down in a restaurant in Manzanillo, Colima.

Other attacks this month occurred in Baja California Sur, Durango, Jalisco, Morelos, San Luis Potosí, and Veracruz. In one case, a municipal police officer was kidnapped and murdered in San Juan Evangelista, Veracruz. A municipal employee was kidnapped and dismembered in Tlaquiltenango, Morelos. A soldier was kidnapped and murdered in Bocoyna, Chihuahua. A state police officer was executed in La Paz, Baja California Sur. A state police officer gunned down in San Luis Potosí. Another state police officer was gunned down in Córdoba, Veracruz. Several assailants murdered a prison employee in her home in Guadalajara, Jalisco.

While not directed at governmental authorities, two community watch members stationed at a security post were killed by several gunmen on the outskirts of Los Reyes, Michoacán. Finally, while not classified as an attack, several individuals stole two government vehicles from the parking lot of the Fiscalía General del Estado (FGE) in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. Unknown individuals set fire to a police vehicle in Las Choapas, Veracruz. Also, assailants overpowered an officer of the Policía Auxiliar, Bancaria Industrial y Comercial (PABIC) and stole his service weapon while he was guarding a Pemex station in Etla, Oaxaca.

Several family members of government officials were also attacked. For example, a 17-year-old niece of a former city council member was kidnapped in Altamira, Tamaulipas.  Also, a niece of the former mayor was kidnapped and murdered in Omealca, Veracruz. A nephew of the mayor was kidnapped and partially cremated in Las Choapas, Veracruz.

As is the case most months, several members of the media were also targeted. For example, a reporter was kidnapped and murdered in San Luis Potosí. A reporter with TV Olmeca was injured during an attempted kidnapping while she was driving in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. Several Molotov cocktails were thrown at the residence of a journalist with the El Heraldo de León in León, Guanajuato.

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).

Geographic Pattern of Attacks

Most of the attacks were in Veracruz, followed by Tamaulipas and San Luis Potosí. The shift of importance from Tamaulipas and Guerrero to Veracruz is a key indication of the deterioration of public safety in that state this year.

Table 1: States Hit Hardest by Attacks on Authorities

States Number of Attacks
Veracruz 15
Tamaulipas 7
San Luis Potosí 3

 

Progress?

Mexican authorities arrested 3 key leaders of criminal organizations during November, and another one was killed in a battle with authorities. This is the lowest number of key leaders since April, and it is a significant drop from September and October. One target was, Martiniano de Jesús Jaramillo Silva “Pata de Queso”, a regional leader of the Zetas Vieja Escuela. He was captured in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas. Also of relevance is that Ana Isabel Treviño Morales, “La Jefa Zeta”, who is the sister of Miguel Ángel Treviño Morales “Z40” and Óscar Omar Treviño Morales “Z42”, was captured in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas.

An affiliate of the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel, Samuel Lizárraga Ontiveros “El Tortillero”, was captured in Querétaro, Querétaro. He was the leader of the Mazatlecos (the enforcer unit of the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel). Finally, José Alfredo Velázquez Hernández “El Fredy”, the leader of Los Viagras (an enforcer unit of the Familia Michoacana) was killed in a battle with authorities in Buenavista Tomatlán, Michoacán.

Interestingly, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently reported that they have evidence that Rafael Caro Quintero, one of the founders of the Cártel de Guadalajara, and who was recently released after serving 28 years in person, has now taken a leadership role in the Sinaloa Cartel.

Mexican authorities reported the seizure of several small weapons caches this month. These sites were located in San Luis Potosí and Sonora. The site in San Luis Potosí contained several fragmentation grenades. Weapons, body armor, and stolen marine uniforms were also seized in Texistepec, Veracruz. The army also seized a fake armored valuables truck at a checkpoint in San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora. The vehicle had false paint and markings of Sepsa S.A. de C.V.

Street Battles (Enfrentamientos)

There were 50 street battles reported during November. This number is on par with most months in 2017. These battles occurred in 11 states (Chihuahua, Guerrero, Michoacán, Morelos, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, and Veracruz). This was a slight increase in states from the previous month. Notably, there was an increase in violence in San Luis Potosí; including a battle and attacks on authorities.  In fact, an army helicopter was fired on during a gun battle in San Luis Potosí. Elsewhere, a taxi driver was killed by stray gunfire during a battle in Reynosa.

Table 2: States Hit Hardest by Street Battles

States Number of Battles
Tamaulipas 22
Veracruz 14
Michoacán 4
Puebla 3

 

Hazardous Overland Travel

Individuals who travel along rural highways are at risk of armed robberies, kidnapping, and fatal assaults. For example, a building contractor from Tamaulipas was kidnapped by gunmen while traveling in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. He was kidnapped despite being accompanied by his driver and a bodyguard. A physician was kidnapped while driving along Highway 10 near Casas Grandes, Chihuahua. A blacksmith was kidnapped while driving along Highway 180 near Tihuatlán, Veracruz. His kidnappers have demanded a ransom of 5 million pesos. A woman and her granddaughter were kidnapped while driving near Agua Dulce, Veracruz. A man was intercepted and kidnapped while driving in Orizaba, Veracruz.

Gunmen threw a rock at a vehicle transporting a family as they drove along Highway 132D near Jalpan, Veracruz. The rock damaged a tire and forced the car to the side of the road, at which time the assailants robbed the travelers and kidnapped a young woman from the vehicle. They later demanded a ransom of 200,000 pesos. She was rescued by federal police in San Pedro Petlacotla.

A family of three (including a 10-month-old baby) were injured when gunmen in two vehicles intercepted their car and fired into it in Monterrey, Nuevo Léon. A small child was injured when gunmen opened fire on a pickup in Cancún, Quintana Roo. A cattle truck driver and a passenger were intercepted and killed while driving near Balancán, Tabasco. Assailants killed a cattle rancher while he was driving along Highway 150D near Carrillo Puerto, Veracruz. A physician was killed during a robbery while driving along Highway 101 near Jaumave, Tamaulipas. Three people were killed when gunmen fired into their vehicle on a highway near Poza Rica, Veracruz. One of the victims was a prominent accountant.

There continue to be reports of roadblocks operated by highway robbers along Highway 150D near Maltrata, Veracruz. This highway should not be driven at night. There were numerous additional incidents of attacks on travelers reported across Mexico this month.

Several buses were also targeted this month. For example, a bus driver was injured when armed robbers fired into the bus during an attempted robbery as it traveled along Highway 145D between Ocozocoutla (Chiapas) and Las Choapas (Veracruz). The driver was able to steer to a nearby toll booth. In another incident, passengers were robbed on a bus traveling along Highway 180 near Acayucan, Veracruz.

Several gunmen robbed passengers on a bus traveling along Highway 185 near Minatitlán, Veracruz. Some of the passengers were pistol-whipped. Assailants in a taxi intercepted another passenger bus near Minatitlán and forced it to the side of the road. They pulled the driver off the bus and assaulted him until a bus company employee and passengers intervened. Passengers were also beaten during a robbery on another bus along Highway 150D near Orizaba, Veracruz. Finally, several assailants robbed approximately 40 passengers traveling on Linea B of the Mexico City Metro near Estación Nezahualcóyotl.

Narcobloqueos (Illegal Street Blockades)

  • November 8 – Reynosa, Tamaulipas

Violence

The high number of homicides reported in September and October will likely be closely matched in November. There were 29 attacks directed at civilians in public venues such as restaurants, bars, stores, a bus terminal, a hospital, and a funeral. At least 43 people were killed in these attacks across 11 states (Edomex, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Nayarit, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Sonora, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz). While both the number of attacks and victims was less than the previous five months, there were many more drive-by shootings of individuals on streets. With regard to attacks on establishments, an example occurred when gunmen shot six people in a bar in Tepic, Nayarit. Two of the victims were women. Four people were killed and six were injured when gunmen attacked a funeral in Yuriria, Guanajuato.

In other cases, assailants executed families, women, and children. For example, three gunmen executed a family of five (including two minors) inside their home in Chihuahua, Chihuahua. Elsewhere, a family of four (including a 2-year-old boy) was executed and their bodies dumped along a highway in San Juan Cacahuatepec, Oaxaca. Gunmen fired indiscriminately at numerous homes from a moving vehicle in Irapuato, Guanajuato. A woman who had just dropped her daughter at school was gunned down on a street by assailants in a passing vehicle in Jacona, Michoacán. Indeed, at least 50 women were executed across 13 states this month; with most of the victims in Veracruz.

Other victims this month include two Pemex employees who were killed by huachicoleros (fuel thieves) while doing fieldwork near Tres Valles, Veracruz. Another Pemex employee was gunned down in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. A dentist was shot in Poza Rica, Veracruz. A school teacher was gunned down on a street in Cuernavaca, Morelos. Another schoolteacher was executed in Papantla, Veracruz.

In addition to blatant attacks in public settings, the remains of 186 people were found in mass deposits of two or more bodies. This figure is lower than October, but exceeds the monthly average for 2017. The bodies were found at 63 sites across 16 states (Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Mexico

City, Michoacán, Morelos, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Sinaloa, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz). By far, most of these victims were in Veracruz, followed by Guerrero. Indeed, according to Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública (SESNSP), Veracruz has experienced the highest number of homicides in 2017 thus far than in any previous year.

At least 50 of these victims had been decapitated or otherwise dismembered in 11 states (Baja California, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Mexico City, Michoacán, Morelos, Oaxaca, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz). The majority of these victims were in Veracruz. In another incident, two heads were left outside the offices of Televisa in Guadalajara, Jalisco.

Selected Vigilante Incidents

  • November 3 – residents severely beat a purse-snatcher in Matamoros, Tamaulipas.
  • November 6 – three accused robbers were detained and beaten by residents in Ocuiltzapotlán, Tabasco.
  • November 11 – residents set fire to the hands and feet of an accused burglar in Hueyotlipan, Tlaxcala. He did not survive the injuries.
  • November 13 – three robbers who had beaten an elderly couple during a home invasion were captured by residents in Tlacolula, Oaxaca. The robbers were beaten and set on fire, but survived with burns over 50-70% of the bodies.
  • November 13 – residents threatened to take two accused burglars to the local trash dump and set them on fire in San Jerónimo Tlacochahuaya, Oaxaca.
  • November 17 – an accused thief was beaten by residents and tied to a post in Xalapa, Veracruz.
  • November 24 – residents beat two accused thieves in Manlio Fabio Altamirano, Veracruz.

Extortion, Kidnapping, and Armed Robbery

Extortion

There were 5 fatal extortion-related attacks reported this month. These incidents occurred in Nuevo Léon, and Veracruz (4 incidents). Among the confirmed victims were the owners or employees of several bars and mechanic repair shops.

The number of incidents is significantly lower than any month in 2017. However, there were numerous fatal incidents that appear to be extortion-related, but that have not been confirmed. At least 21 taxi drivers were murdered in November. These incidents occurred in Baja California, Chihuahua, Edomex, Nuevo León, Oaxaca (3 killed), Tamaulipas, and Veracruz (13 killed). A truck driver was intercepted by gunmen on a motorcycle and killed in Tlapacoyan, Veracruz. A truck driver was kidnapped and murdered in Villa Azueta, Veracruz. A truck driver was executed in Pánuco, Veracruz. Another driver was murdered in Cuitláhuac, Veracruz. An employee of a bus company was gunned down in Coatzacoalcos.

Kidnapping

Federal authorities announced the disruption of 8 kidnapping operations in Edomex, Michoacán, Puebla, and Veracruz (5 operations). This figure is slightly higher than October, but still low when compared to 2016 and the first half of 2017. In addition to these operations, authorities were able to rescue several individuals. Also, there were several cases where the victims were eventually released. The son of a physician was kidnapped and later released in San Rafael, Veracruz. The wife of a church pastor was kidnapped in Acayucan, Veracruz. She was released a few days later. A community activist was kidnapped and subsequently released in Papantla, Veracruz. In other cases, the victims were able to escape. In one incident, a female schoolteacher jumped from a moving vehicle to escape her kidnappers in Nogales, Veracruz.

Unfortunately, for the vast majority of cases, the condition of the victim remains unknown. In one case, a civil engineer with the Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes (SCT) was kidnapped in San Rafael, Veracruz. In separate incidents, three businessmen were kidnapped in Xalapa, Veracruz. One was an engineer who was affiliated with an elevator manufacturer, another was a sheet metal worker, and the other owned an unspecified business. A businessman was kidnapped in Orizaba, Veracruz. A commercial lemon farmer was kidnapped in Cuitláhuac, Veracruz. The owner of a furniture store was kidnapped in Sayula, Veracruz. The owner of a water purification plant was kidnapped in Acayucan. An engineer was also kidnapped in Acayucan. The owner of Ferremateriales Erika was kidnapped Tuxtepec, Oaxaca. A realtor was kidnapped in Orizaba, Veracruz. Another realtor was also kidnapped in Boca del Río, Veracruz. Her family paid a ransom of 6 million pesos, but she has yet to be released.

The daughter of a physician was kidnapped in Martínez de la Torre, Veracruz. The daughter of a businessman was kidnapped in Tuxpan, Veracruz. The daughter of a prominent hotelier was kidnapped in Tuxpan, Veracruz. The owner of a used auto parts business was kidnapped in Yanga, Veracruz. A schoolteacher was kidnapped in Papantla, Veracruz. Another schoolteacher was kidnapped in San Andrés Tuxtla, Veracruz. Gunmen kidnapped four people from inside a bar in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. The same evening another person was kidnapped from a different bar in the same city.

There were also reports of victims who were ultimately murdered following a kidnapping. For example, the owner of a telecommunications business was kidnapped and executed in Santa Catarina, Nuevo Léon. His secretary had been kidnapped and murdered a few days prior. A physician was murdered despite his family having paid 250,000 pesos in ransom in Tamuín, San Luis Potosí. Another physician was kidnapped in Gomez Farías, Chihuahua. The owner of a tow truck company was kidnapped and murdered in Minatitlán, Veracruz. A well-known woman who owned a restaurant was kidnapped and murdered in Acayucan, Veracruz.

There were also numerous reports of girls and young women being kidnapped. For example, a schoolteacher was kidnapped by several assailants near her school in Cárdenas, Tabasco. Another schoolteacher was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered in Zacapoaxtla, Puebla. A young woman was kidnapped off a street by individuals traveling in a vehicle in Omealca, Veracruz. They discharged the weapons into the air during the incident.

A 15-year-old girl and her boyfriend were kidnapped off a street in Papantla, Veracruz. The boy was released, but the girl’s condition is unknown. A woman was kidnapped while she was walking with her children in Loma Bonita, Veracruz. Several men kidnapped a small girl from her grandmother’s arms in the parking lot of Office Depot in Veracruz. A teenage girl was kidnapped of a street corner in Xalapa, Veracruz.

A nurse was kidnapped and murdered in Nogales, Sonora. A 15-year-old girl was kidnapped and murdered in Chihuahua, Chihuahua. A 15-year-old girl was kidnapped and murdered in Delegación Iztapalapa of Mexico City.  A 16-year-old girl was kidnapped and decapitated in Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán. Another 16-year-old girl was kidnapped and murdered in Naucalpan, Edomex. Failing a ransom payment, the kidnappers sent a video of her execution to her family.

Finally, it is important to note that the vast majority of kidnappings are not reported to authorities because families fear it will complicate the release of their loved-ones. The numerous cases mentioned above exceed the official tally recorded for an average month.

Armed Robbery

Gunmen kidnapped four security guards and two truck drivers transporting alcohol near the Puerto de Veracruz. Gunmen hijacked a truck transporting hams and sausages as it traveled along Highway 185 near Minatitlán, Veracruz. A Maseca truck was hijacked in Tihuatlán, Veracruz. Authorities later recovered the vehicle and cargo, and found the driver beaten. A truck driver was assaulted on Highway 150 near Cuitláhuac, Veracruz. The driver of a delivery truck was injured by gunmen during an attempted hijacking in Cotaxtla, Veracruz. The assailants fled after learning the truck was empty. Also, the Confederación de Transportistas Mexicanos recently issued a warning about increased truck hijacking cases in northeast Tamaulipas. The Procuraduría General de Justicia (PGJ) also reported a sharp increase in vehicle robberies in Tamaulipas this year.

Seven state police officers were injured during a battle with train robbers in Acultzingo, Veracruz. Another battle between train robbers and state police erupted in Veracruz, Veracruz. A battle between train robbers and the army occurred in Emiliano Zapata, Tlaxcala. Indeed, according to the Sistema Ferroviario Mexicano de la Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes (SCT) there were 1032 train robberies reported from January to September this year.

These incidents occurred in 28 states, but were primarily concentrated in Guanajuato, Puebla, Querétaro, and Veracruz (see Table 3). The data shows a trend to higher frequency as the year progressed.

Six gunmen stormed a Liverpool store in Plaza Américas and robbed electronics in Xalapa, Veracruz. Several gunmen robbed the cash registers in a Chedraui store in Veracruz. A similar robbery occurred in a Coppel store in Tulteplac, Edomex. Several gunmen burst into a hospital and stole computers and money from the administrative offices in Oaxaca, Oaxaca. Gunmen robbed a primary school and a high school while children and teachers were in attendance in Veracruz. Gunmen robbed televisions and other electronics from a trailer that was unloading at a Bodega Aurrerá in Delegación Iztacalco of Mexico City. The dock workers were locked inside the trailer. Gunmen attempted to rob one million pesos being transported in a meat supply company truck in Delegación Iztacalco of Mexico City. The truck was armored and the assailants failed to rob the cash. At least 7 banks were robbed in Oaxaca and Veracruz (6 reported). ATMs were stolen at several locations across Tamaulipas and Veracruz.

An accountant was shot during an armed robbery in Ciudad Isla, Veracruz. Two employees of the Volkswagen plant in Puebla were murdered after conducting a private investigation into the robbery of one of their personal vehicles. The general director of izzi Telecom (owned by Grupo Televisa) was killed during an apparent armed robbery as he rode his bicycle near Acolman, Edomex.

Table 3: States Hit Hardest by Train Robberies (January-September, 2017)

States Number of Train Robberies Reported
Veracruz 171
Puebla 109
Guanajuato 67
Querétaro 64
Tlaxcala 60
Edomex 58
Hidalgo 50
Jalisco 49
Coahuila 49
San Luis Potosí 48
Aguascalientes 31
Sonora 29
Tabasco 28

Source: Sistema Ferroviario Mexicano de la Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes (SCT)

Attacks on Authorities (November 2017)

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