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Mexico Security Summary for January 2018

Date of Report: February 14, 2018

Overview

As indicated by our Annual Report, the overall security situation in Mexico deteriorated considerably during 2017. The increase in violence was especially notable during the last half of the year. Unfortunately, January 2018 served as a continuation of the elevated threats to public safety across many areas of the country. Indeed, the number of attacks directed at authorities was the highest since June 2016. The number of battles also increased, as did the number of states impacted by them.

Attacks against Governmental Authority

There were 59 attacks directed at governmental authorities reported in January. This figure represents a significant increase over previous months. Among these incidents, there were 13 assassinations of governmental or party officials. For example, a mayoral candidate was assassinated in Atoyac de Alvarez, Guerrero. The municipal director of public safety was assassinated in Santiago Ixcuintla, Nayarit. A city council member (PAN party) was assassinated in Ciudad Mante, Tamaulipas. A city council member, who was also the president of the Comité Municipal del Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), was murdered in Celaya, Guanajuato. The former mayor was assassinated in Colipa, Veracruz. A former mayor and his son were executed in Mixquihuala, Hidalgo. A former mayor was ambushed and killed in Canelas, Durango. A former mayoral candidate was assassinated in Tenampa, Veracruz. A former state health department official was murdered in Oaxaca, Oaxaca.

The municipal director of the Partido Encuentro Social (PES) was assassinated in Petatlán, Guerrero. A Movimiento Regeneración Nacional (MORENA) party activist was executed in Chimalhuacán, Edomex. A community activist was murdered in Cherán, Michoacán. The director of an ejido and his nephew were killed in Atoyac de Álvarez, Guerrero.

Figure 1:  Attacks against Authorities by Month λ

Attacks against Authorities in Mexico by Month

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).

There were also several cases in which governmental officials survived attacks. For example, the mayor was injured during an armed attack in San Juan Evangelista, Veracruz. A convoy transporting a mayoral candidate was intercepted and threatened near Tepalcatepec, Michoacán. The municipal director of finance was kidnapped and then released in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz.

Twenty-four soldiers, marines, or police officers were killed in these attacks this month. Among these, the municipal chief of police and his bodyguard were kidnapped and murdered in Elota, Sinaloa.

There were 6 attacks on army or marine patrols. These incidents occurred in Baja California Sur, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz. In one case, a soldier was killed when gunmen fired on an army patrol in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. Three federal police patrols were attacked in Jalisco, Puebla, and Tamaulipas. A federal police officer was injured during an attack on his patrol in Esperanza, Puebla. Seven state police patrols were attacked in Edomex, Hidalgo, Michoacán, Quintana Roo, and Tamaulipas. A state police officer was killed during an attack in Naucalpan, Edomex. A fragmentation grenade was thrown at a state police patrol in Cancún. However, it failed to detonate.

Eight municipal police patrols were attacked in Baja California, Guanajuato, Oaxaca, Puebla, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz. In one incident, two shift commanders of the municipal police were ambushed and killed in San José Iturbide, Guanajuato. Two municipal police officers were killed during an ambush in Apaseo el Alto, Guanajuato. Another municipal police officer was killed during an ambush in Valle de Santiago, Guanajuato.

There were also several attacks directed at fixed targets. In one case, gunmen fired on a police checkpoint in Poza Rica, Veracruz. Elsewhere, an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was thrown from a moving vehicle towards the offices of the Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) in Zamora, Michoacán. The device exploded near a taco stand; injuring a woman.

Other attacks this month include the kidnap-execution of two municipal police officers in Ciudad Fernández, San Luis Potosí. In another incident, a police office and his son were kidnapped and interrogated in La Unión, Guerrero. The officer was decapitated and the killers then cut the heart out of his son. Video of the incident was uploaded to the Internet. A state government worker was executed and his body was placed in front of the offices of the Judicial del Estado in Xalapa, Veracruz. A former soldier was kidnapped and murdered in San Juan Cotzocón, Oaxaca.

The director of operations for the municipal police in Irapuato (Guanajuato) was intercepted and killed while driving in Abasolo, Guanajuato. A federal police officer was gunned down by two assailants in a parking lot in Delegación Miguel Hidalgo of Mexico City. A former army captain was gunned down in Ciudad Valles, San Luis Potosí. A shift commander with the state police was seriously injured by gunmen inside a Vips restaurant in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. Other fatal incidents occurred in Michoacán and Oaxaca.

The families of government officials were also attacked this month. For example, the mayor’s brother was kidnapped and executed in Santiago Tapextla, Oaxaca. The son of a state police commander was kidnapped and murdered in San José del Cabo, Baja California Sur. The son of a former mayor from Comondú (Baja California) was executed in Guadalajara, Jalisco. Two family members of an assassinated official with the attorney general’s office were later murdered in Pánuco, Veracruz. Shots were fired at the home of an ex-mayor’s sister in San Juan Evangelista, Veracruz. The wife of a municipal police commander was killed in Irapuato, Guanajuato. The brother of a former mayor was executed in Mazatlán, Sinaloa. The son of a state official was ambushed and killed in Huajuapan de León, Oaxaca.

In continued attacks on the media, an editor for the Servicio Universal de Noticias (SUN) de El Universal was gunned down in Delegación Coyoacán of Mexico City. A journalist was kidnapped while driving near the Oaxaca-Veracruz border. A journalist from Veracruz was gunned down while visiting Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. An announcer for the Grupo Novedades de Tabasco was murdered in Huimanguillo. Also, several assailants attempted to set fire to the home of the family of a reporter who had been killed in 2014 in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz.

Geographic Pattern of Attacks

Attacks on governmental authorities occurred in 19 states; which is the highest number of states since February 2013. These attacks occurred in Baja California, Baja California Sur, Durango, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico City, Michoacán, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and Zacatecas. There was also a notable increase in attacks on police in Guanajuato this month.

Table 1: States Hit Hardest by Attacks on Authorities

States Number of Attacks
Veracruz 9
Tamaulipas 8
Guanajuato 7
Michoacán 6

Progress?

Mexican federal authorities reported the capture of 3 regional leaders of the major cartels during January, plus the death of one leader in a battle. This combined number is slightly lower than the previous month, but significantly lower than the monthly average for 2017. Of those arrested, perhaps the most significant was David Ríos Suárez “El Junior”, a regional leader of the Gulf Cartel, who was captured in Oaxaca, Oaxaca. Also, Jorge Higashi Chávez “Higashi”, a regional leader of the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel, was captured in Mexico City. David Iván “El Zavala”, a regional leader of Los Rojos (faction of the Gulf Cartel) was arrested in Tlaquiltenango, Morelos. Finally, Humberto o Steven Loza Méndez, “El Comandante Betito”, a regional leader of the Gulf Cartel, was killed in a battle with authorities in Reynosa.

Various corrupt political leaders and police officers were also arrested on various charges. For example, several municipal police officers were arrested for kidnapping 12 girls and young women in Carichí, Chihuahua. The report indicates that the officers were contracted to supply the women to the Gente Nueva criminal organization. Elsewhere, the army seized a stolen vehicle from the property of a former mayor in Loma Bonita, Oaxaca.

Federal police temporarily disarmed the municipal police in Chilpancingo (Guerrero) because of their involvement in the death of two detainees. All 123 police officers including the chief are currently under investigation. The charges indicate that the officials had arrested 7 individuals, 3 of which were ultimately released, 2 of which were killed, and 2 who are still missing. In a related incident the wife of one of the detainees who had been executed, was later kidnapped and murdered in Chilapa, Guerrero.

Mexican authorities reported the seizure of weapons, munitions, and tactical equipment at 10 sites across Edomex, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa, Sonora (2 sites), Tamaulipas (3 sites), and Veracruz. A Barrett 50-caliber sniper rifle was seized at a site in Buenavista, Michoacán. Fragmentation grenades were seized at 6 of these locations. Indeed, media reports indicate that authorities seized more than 1900 fragmentation grenades in a shipment of 40 boxes at a delivery agency in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. The boxes were to be shipped to an address in Delegación Gustavo Madero in Mexico City, but were intercepted.

Street Battles (Enfrentamientos)

At least 57 street battles were reported during January. This figure is the largest since June 2017. These battles occurred in 21 states (Baja California, Baja California Sur, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico City, Michoacán, Nayarit, Nuevo León, Puebla, Querétaro, Quintana Roo, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, and Veracruz). More importantly, this is the largest number of states impacted since the initiation of the drug war in 2006. During an extended battle in Reynosa there were reports of narcobloqueos at 10 different sites across the city.

Table 2: States Hit Hardest by Street Battles

States Number of Battles
Tamaulipas 16
Veracruz 8
Chihuahua 5
Michoacán 3

Hazardous Overland Travel

There were numerous reports of criminals targeting travelers. There were several reports of robberies directed at travelers along Highways 180 and 185 near Acayucan, Veracruz. In a possibly related incident, gunmen fired into a family’s vehicle as they drove along Highway 145 near Acayucan. Four people were killed in a highway attack near San Juan Cacahuatepec, Oaxaca. Two people were injured when shots were fired into a vehicle traveling along a rural highway near Tecali de Herrera, Puebla. A child was killed when gunmen fired into a vehicle transporting a family along Highway 37D north of Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán.

Also, a family of six disappeared while driving near Miguel Alemán, Tamaulipas. In another incident, the director of security for a bus company was intercepted and robbed while driving his personal vehicle near Yanga, Veracruz. A businessman was intercepted and kidnapped while driving near Fortin, Veracruz. Five traveling merchants were reported kidnapped while driving near Chilapa, Guerrero. Three women were the victims of a carjacking as they drove along Highway 54 near Ciudad Mier, Tamaulipas.

Armed robbers also victimized passengers on several buses this month. For example, a passenger was killed during a bus robbery in Naucalpan, Edomex. Passengers were robbed on a bus in Oaxaca, Oaxaca. Passengers on another bus were robbed while traveling Highway 190 near Jalapa del Marqués, Oaxaca. Another bus robbery occurred on Highway 180 near Minatitlán, Veracruz. Passengers were robbed on a bus on Highway 180 between Campeche and Champotón. Another bus robbery occurred in Tlalnepantla, Edomex.

Assailants in a taxi intercepted a bus as it drove along Highway 180 near Santiago Tuxtla, Veracruz. A passenger was injured by the gunmen during the robbery. The taxi driver was later discovered tied-up in the trunk of his taxi and he reported that the robbers had hijacked his vehicle to perpetrate the robbery. In a separate incident, two gunmen killed a bus driver, robbed the passengers, and set the bus on fire in Delegación Gustavo Madero of Mexico City.

Three accused bus robbers were arrested by state police in Santa Cruz Huatulco, Oaxaca. Federal police arrested members of a gang that was perpetrating armed robberies of travelers along Highway 185 near Cosoleacaque, Veracruz.

Narcobloqueos (Illegal Street Blockades)

  • January 24 – Reynosa, Tamaulipas
  • January 29 – Petaquillas, Guerrero

Violence

As indicated in our Annual Report, 2017 recorded the highest number of total homicides and felony homicides on record. The staggering number of homicides has overwhelmed authorities across many areas of the country. Indeed, the Servicio Médico Forense (Semefo) reports that 15 states have inadequate or obsolete morgue facilities. The number of felony homicides has not yet been reported for January, however it is likely that the figure will closely match those of October, November, and December. In other words, it will likely be near 2200 for the month.

There were numerous attacks on civilians in public venues such as restaurants, bars, shopping areas, market areas, repair shops, and a pelea de gallos. There were 35 such incidents, resulting in 90 fatalities. The number of distinct incidents was on par with most months in 2017. However, the number of fatalities is the highest since July 2016.

Perhaps, the most notable incident occurred when 3 people were killed and 15 were injured when gunmen opened fire in a restaurant in Cancún, Quintana Roo. Elsewhere, a Chilean tourist was killed when gunmen opened fire inside a disco in Acapulco, Guerrero. Also, 9 people were killed when gunmen attacked fans watching a soccer game on a television in San Nicolás de los Garza, Nuevo León. These attacks occurred across 14 states (Baja California, Baja California Sur, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Colima, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz)

There were numerous additional incidents in which gunmen attacked families inside their homes. For example, a family of three (including two women) were gunned down inside their home in Santa Catarina, Nuevo León. Five family members were executed in La Paz, Baja California Sur. In a separate incident, five people, including two women and a 4-year-old girl, were injured by gunmen who attacked them in their home in Acayucan, Veracruz. A family of five was killed inside their home in Cortazar, Guanajuato. Elsewhere, assailants stormed a residence, and killed a father and his daughter in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas. One of their family members was also kidnapped from the residence during the incident. Gunmen chased a woman into her home and killed her in Acapulco, Guerrero.

Two adults and a 3-year-old girl were gunned down on a street in Fresnillo, Zacatecas. Two children and their father were killed when gunmen fired into their vehicle in Cuernavaca, Morelos. A father and his 5-year-old son were seriously injured when shots were fired into their vehicle in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas. Also, at least 67 women or girls were killed in these incidents across 20 states. In one case, a female school teacher was gunned down in Culiacán, Sinaloa.

Other victims this month include the director of security for a Pemex plant, who was gunned down in Salamanca, Guanajuato. A delegate of the Bolsa de Trabajo del Hospital del ISSSTE was gunned down in a parking lot in León, Guanajuato. Two construction workers were shot and killed by sicarios (cartel gunmen) in Cancún, Quintana Roo. Gunmen fired on an ambulance in Cuautla (Morelos), killing a paramedic. In a separate incident, sicarios forced a medic to attend to one of their wounded colleagues in Jesús Carranza, Veracruz.

A Spanish businessman was gunned down in front of his home in Cuautlancingo, Puebla. An attorney was killed inside his office in Salvatierra, Guanajuato. Another attorney was shot and killed on a street in Delegación Gustavo Madero of Mexico City. A cattle rancher was murdered in Jesús Carranza, Veracruz. A butcher delivery driver was killed by gunmen while making deliveries in Boca del Río, Veracruz. Gunmen entered a hospital and killed a patient who had been the victim of an attack the previous evening. The incident occurred in Salvatierra, Guanajuato, and it resulted in three fatalities.

At least 15 taxi drivers were killed in January; closely matching previous months. These fatalities were in Baja California, Oaxaca (2 killed), Tlaxcala, and Veracruz (10 killed). Also, a bus driver was executed in Tututepec, Oaxaca.

Media reports indicated that at least 311 bodies were left in groups across 96 sites during January. These collections of victims’ bodies are usually the result of kidnap-execution by rival cartels. The number of bodies deposited under these circumstances was the highest reported since at least 2006. However, it is important to note that 48 of these victims were found in just two sites. For example, 33 bodies were pulled from a mass grave in Xalisco (Nayarit), and 15 bodies were found in Chihuahua, Chihuahua. Overall, these mass deposits were located across 24 states (Baja California, Baja California Sur, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico City, Michoacán, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Querétaro, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz).

At least 72 of these victims across 12 states had been decapitated or otherwise dismembered. For example, 9 dismembered bodies were found in a vehicle in Xalapa, Veracruz. Also, a decapitated head was left in a shopping cart at a Walmart in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas. In Veracruz, one decapitated victim had also been disemboweled prior to his death. The decapitated bodies of 6 men and 2 women were found in Chilapa de Álvarez, Guerrero.

A section of human skin and a handwritten sign were placed on a vehicle in Xochitepec, Morelos. The victim’s headless body was inside the vehicle, and his head was in a muchilla (backpack).

Selected Vigilante Incidents

  • January 4 – an accused thief was captured by market vendors and turned over to authorities in Oaxaca, Oaxaca.
  • January 5 – armed residents attempted to defend the small community of San Felipe del Ocote against attacks from the Familia Michoacana in the municipality of Apaxtla de Castrejón, Guerrero. They subsequently sought refuge in the municipal capital.
  • January 10 – an individual who had just robbed bus passengers was chased and severely beaten by the victims. He was later turned over to authorities in Mexico City.
  • January 18 – residents beat a thief and then turned him over to authorities in Veracruz, Veracruz.
  • January 22 – residents beat an accused robber to death in San Martín Texmelucan, Puebla.
  • January 24 – residents severely beat an accused thief in Huejotzingo, Puebla.
  • January 29 – residents beat an accused kidnapper in Tres Cruces, Puebla.

Extortion, Kidnapping, and Armed Robbery

Extortion

There were 12 confirmed fatal extortion-related incidents reported during January; resulting in 18 fatalities. This figure is similar to December, but lower than the monthly average for 2017. These incidents occurred in Baja California, Edomex, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, and Veracruz. The victims included the owners or employees of bars, restaurants, shops, and the manager of a soft drink distributor. In another case, a bus driver was set on fire inside his bus for failing to meet extortion demands in Tecámac, Edomex.

There were also several non-fatal incidents. For example, 18 stalls were damaged by arson at the tianguis (market) in Acapulco. Finally, in a bit of good news, four extortionists were arrested while trying to collect payments from a shopkeeper in Xalapa, Veracruz.

Kidnapping

Mexican authorities reported the disruption of 6 kidnapping operations this month. The figure is the second lowest since October 2015, and it is 40% lower than the monthly average for 2015. These operations were located in Morelos, Nuevo León (2 operations), and Veracruz (3 operations).

There were also several cases in which authorities were able to rescue kidnap victims shortly after being taken. For example, a kidnapped physician was rescued by police in Ciudad Madero, Tamaulipas. In another case, a kidnapped taxi driver was rescued in Zacatlán de las Manzanas, Veracruz.

In another incident, several workers for a moving company were able to frustrate an attempted kidnapping of an individual in León, Guanajuato. A man was killed during an attempted kidnapping in front of his home in Chilpancingo, Guerrero. A businessman was killed while trying to evade his kidnappers in Guanajuato. A school teacher was injured by gunfire during an attempted kidnapping in Tlapacoyan, Veracruz.

In other cases, kidnap victims were released. For example, the wife of a prominent businessman was kidnapped and later released in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. Her husband is a nephew of a former mayor of the city.

There were also numerous kidnappings reported in which the condition of the victim is currently unknown. For example, a teacher who was also a union activist was kidnapped in Juchitán de Zaragoza, Oaxaca. A shopkeeper was kidnapped in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. Another businessman was kidnapped off a street in Jáltipan de Morelos, Veracruz. The son of a businessman was kidnapped in Huatusco Veracruz. A businessman was kidnapped in Minatitlán, Veracruz. A businesswoman was kidnapped in Boca del Río, Veracruz. A Pemex field worker was kidnapped in Agua Dulce, Veracruz. A school teacher was kidnapped in Pánuco, Veracruz. In front of witnesses, several gunmen kidnapped a couple from inside a gym in Nanchital, Veracruz.

In other cases, the victims were murdered by their kidnappers. For example, the daughter of a mayoral candidate was kidnapped and murdered in Tecámac, Edomex. Reports indicate that her family was unable to pay a ransom of 15 million pesos. A salesman and his assistant were kidnapped and murdered in Papantla, Veracruz. A cattle rancher was kidnapped and murdered in Tuxpan, Veracruz. A school teacher was kidnapped and murdered in Manlio Fabio Altamirano, Veracruz. A university Ph.D. student was kidnapped and murdered in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas.

Dozens of young women and girls were kidnapped in January. For example, a woman was kidnapped in Loma Bonita, Oaxaca. A nutritionist was kidnapped in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz.  A woman was kidnapped and murdered in Huimanguillo, Tabasco. Another woman was kidnapped and murdered in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas. Another women was murdered following her kidnapping in Ensenada, Baja California. Several gunmen kidnapped a woman from her home in Loma Bonita, Oaxaca. A young woman was forced into a vehicle in Acuitlapilco, Tlaxcala. Her dismembered body was later discovered. A 17-year-old girl was kidnapped and murdered in Ixtaczoquitlán, Veracruz.

Armed Robbery

Trucks transporting commercial cargo and fuel continue to be targeted by organized crime groups. There are no official figures for January yet, but the Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública (SESNSP) reports that there were 320 highway robberies across Mexico during December; and 60% of these involved commercial vehicles. The final numbers for January will likely be similar.

With regard to incidents during January, armed robbers stole 273,000 pesos from the offices of the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) in Tampico, Tamaulipas. Armed robbers also stole in excess of 3 million pesos worth of merchandise from an Elektra store in Agua Dulce, Veracruz. In a separate incident, 54 people were arrested while looting a Bodega Aurrerá in Zumpango, Edomex. Media reports indicate the robbery was organized via social media. Other large department stores in shopping centers were robbed in Edomex, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz. The body of a security guard was found tied-up inside a guard booth at the Universidad Interamericana para el Desarrollo Social (UNID) in Chalco, Edomex.

Federal police arrested five suspected train robbers in Acultzingo, Veracruz. Federal police rescued a truck driver who had been kidnapped in San Luis Potosi.

At least 5 banks were robbed in Oaxaca, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz. In one incident, a businessman was killed during a bank robbery in Oaxaca. Also, a customer was robbed of 347,000 pesos after departing a bank in Orizaba, Veracruz. Numerous ATMs were robbed in Veracruz.

This month, there were numerous additional reports of armed robbery across Mexico. In one case, a woman was stabbed during an armed robbery in broad daylight on the plaza in Xalapa, Veracruz. Another robbery victim was injured by a machete during an armed robbery in Fortín, Veracruz. Another victim was shot during a robbery inside an Oxxo in Boca del Río, Veracruz.

Attacks on Authorities (January 2018)

Attacks on Authorities in Mexico (January 2018)

 


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