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Mexico Intelligence Report for October 2018

Date of Report: November 15, 2018

Overview

Most measures indicate that the primary threats to public safety across many areas of Mexico have remained consistent over the last few months. Indeed, most indices during October showed a slight change (increase or decline) when compared to previous months. Therefore, it is clear that President Peña Nieto will not be leaving office with an improvement in the security situation that he inherited in 2012. Interestingly, overall levels of violence and attacks directed at government authorities declined during the first few years of his administration, but both have increased since 2016. To be perfectly frank, there was probably little that Peña Nieto could do to effect serious change at the local level; where most of the criminality is occurring. The same may be true for incoming President López Obrador. Whatever the case, it will be interesting to see if anything changes for better or worse.

Attacks against Governmental Authority

There were 57 attacks reported against governmental authorities October. This figure is higher than the previous two months. Among these incidents were nine reported assassinations of current or former elected officials or party/union activists. For example, the municipal director of public works was murdered in San Agustin Loxicha, Oaxaca. A former mayor who currently worked as a customs official was executed in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. A former municipal official was assassinated in Apatzingán, Michoacán. A former deputy was intercepted and killed in Acuitzio, Michoacán. Gunmen killed a PRI party activist in Tuxtepec, Oaxaca. A member of the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE) was ambushed and killed in Yajalón, Chiapas. The local Comisariado Ejidal was killed in Xochitepec, Edomex. The local leader of the Alianza Sindical was gunned down in Agua Dulce, Veracruz. A former leader of the ejido was kidnapped and murdered in San Rafael, Veracruz. There were also several incidents in which the intended target was not killed. In one case, gunmen injured a former mayor in Rosario de Tesopaco, Sonora. Elsewhere, a former mayor was injured by gunmen in Huehuetlán, San Luis Potosí.

At least 24 police officers were killed in attacks this month; including the director of the municipal transit police, who was gunned down in Apaseo El Alto, Guanajuato. It was his first day on the job. Just one military patrol was reportedly attacked this month. This incident occurred in Matamoros, Tamaulipas. Four federal police patrols were attacked in Guerrero, Jalisco, and Veracruz. A federal police officer was killed, and another was injured during an attack on their patrol in Tala, Jalisco. Fragmentation grenades were used in an attack on federal police in Guadalajara, Jalisco. A federal police officer was killed during an attack near Zihuatanejo, Guerrero. Two federal police officers were injured by gunmen in San Andrés Tuxtla, Veracruz.

Thirteen state police patrols were attacked across Baja California, Chiapas, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Nuevo Léon, Oaxaca, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz. Four state police were killed in an attack on their patrol in Almoloya de Alquisiras, Edomex. A state police officer was killed during an attack on his patrol in Teuchitlán, Jalisco. Two state police officers were injured during an ambush of their patrol in Irapuato, Guanajuato. The subsequent brief battle extended into a nearby shopping center. In another incident, several gunmen attacked a state police patrol and stole their weapons in Bochil, Chiapas.

Six municipal police patrols were attacked in Guanajuato, Oaxaca, Sonora, and Veracruz. Four police officers were killed when gunmen attacked a municipal patrol in Guaymas, Sonora. Three municipal police officers were injured by assailants in Pénjamo, Guanajuato.

Gunmen launched several attacks against fixed targets of authorities this month. In one case, a state police officer was killed when gunmen fired on a security installation near the prison in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. Elsewhere, a fragmentation grenade was thrown into a police station in Tuxpan, Veracruz.

There were at least 17 additional incidents resulting in the death or injury of governmental authorities. These incidents occurred across Chiapas, Chihuahua, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Puebla, Sonora, and Veracruz. For example, a municipal police officer was killed in Chilapa de Álvarez, Guerrero. A state police officer was killed in Apaseo el Grande, Guanajuato. A former commander of the Instituto de la Policía Auxiliar y Protección Patrimonial para el Estado de Veracruz (IPAX) was gunned down in Xalapa, Veracruz.

Four police officers were injured by gunmen while dining in a restaurant in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. A Pemex security police officer was gunned down in Cosamaloapan, Veracruz. There was also a gun battle between Pemex security officers and huachicoleros (fuel thieves) in Juchitán de Zaragoza, Oaxaca.

There were also several attacks directed at the families of authorities. For example, the son of a former municipal official was kidnapped in Río Blanco, Veracruz. Gunmen entered a spa and killed the daughter of a PRI party activist in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo.

Attacks against members of the media also continued. A journalist was murdered in Tuxtla Chico, Chiapas. An individual who worked at the Sistema de Radio y Televisión de Guerrero (RTG) was gunned down on a street in Acapulco, Guerrero. Two activists who maintained a Facebook page called “Vigilantes Orizaba” were killed at a fake checkpoint as they traveled along Highway 150D near Puente Colorado, Veracruz.

Figure 1:  Attacks against Authorities by Month λ


Note: Above 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 (above columns in red).

Geographic Pattern of Attacks

Attacks against governmental authorities occurred across 15 states (Chiapas, Chihuahua, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Mexico City, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, San Luis Potosí, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, and Veracruz). The majority of these incidents occurred in Veracruz. There was also a notable increase in attacks in Sonora. For example, a municipal police officer was gunned down in Hermosillo, Sonora. A municipal police officer was injured by gunfire in Esperanza, Sonora. Another municipal police officer was injured by gunmen outside a police station in Cajeme, Sonora. Two officers were injured by gunmen in Valle del Yaqui, Sonora.

Table 1: States Hit Hardest by Attacks on Authorities

States Number of Attacks
Veracruz 12
Sonora 7
Guanajuato 6
Tamaulipas 5

Progress?

Just two regional leaders of the Zetas were reportedly apprehended this month. This is the second lowest number since March. Emanuel Martínez “El Stich,” a regional leader of the Zetas, was captured in Orizaba, Veracruz. Juan Alfonso Vázquez Canto “El Gafe” or “Chucho,” a regional leader of the Zetas, was arrested in Guadalupe, Nuevo León.

Several corrupt officials were also arrested. For example, a municipal chief of police, a shift supervisor, a patrol officer, and four more individuals were arrested for robbing an armored truck of the Banco del Ahorro Nacional y Servicios Financieros (Bansefi) in Malinalco, Edomex. Nine municipal police officers were arrested in kidnapping charges in Coatzacoalcos.

Mexican authorities reported the seizure of weapons and munitions at eight sites across Guerrero, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas (at five sites), and Veracruz. Two armored vehicles and weapons were discovered in Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, Tamaulipas. Three armored SUVs and numerous firearms and munitions were seized in Petatlán, Guerrero. They also discovered six 40mm grenades. A moderately large cache of munitions was seized in Nueva Ciudad Guerrero, Tamaulipas. The seizure included hundreds of rifle magazines and several thousand rounds of ammunition. Several dozen rifles and 1500 rounds of ammunition were seized in Badiraguato, Sinaloa. Two fragmentation grenades and a Barrett 50-caliber sniper rifle were seized along with other weapons and munitions in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. A fragmentation grenade was discovered in a weapons cache in Matamoros (Tamaulipas), and another one was seized in Orizaba, Veracruz.

Street Battles (Enfrentamientos)

There were 48 street battles reported during October. This figure represents a slight increase over September. These incidents occurred in 13 states (Chihuahua, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Mexico City, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, Sonora, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz). Most of the incidents were in Tamaulipas and Veracruz.

Table 2: States Hit Hardest by Street Battles

States Number of Battles
Tamaulipas 13
Veracruz 12
Puebla 6
Edomex 4

Hazardous Overland Travel

There were numerous incidents reported this month along highways in Mexico. In one incident, gunmen used a fuel truck to block Highway 145 between Isla y Juan Rodríguez Clara, Veracruz. The blockade which was formed at approximately 3 am lasted for several hours. Elsewhere, gunmen operated a false security checkpoint in order to rob travelers along a highway near Cuacnopalan, Oaxaca.

Five people were killed when shots were fired into their vehicle as the traveled along Highway in Doctor González, Nuevo León. A woman and her daughter were injured by gunmen while driving near Cuitláhuac, Veracruz. Two vehicles chased a family’s vehicle as they traveled along Highway 2 between Nuevo Laredo (Tamaulipas) and Piedras Negras (Coahuila). The family was able to seek refuge at a state police checkpoint in Coahuila. In another incident, a vehicle chased a woman as she was driving along a highway near Medellín de Bravo, Veracruz. A commercial farmer was kidnapped while driving near Acayucan, Veracruz. A man was intercepted and kidnapped while driving near Catemaco, Veracruz. Two people were killed when shots were fired into their vehicle as they traveled along Highway 150 between Acultzingo and Puebla. Two people were killed when shots were fired into their vehicle near La Venta, Oaxaca. A 6-year-old boy and an 8-year-old boy were injured when shots were fired into their vehicle in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. A couple and their 4-year-old son were killed when at least 40 shots were fired into their vehicle in Zacatlán, Puebla. Two forensic accountants were injured during an attempted highway robbery near Tehuacán, Puebla.

A woman was a victim of a carjacking in Reynosa. A woman was killed during an attempted carjacking in Delegación Gustavo Madero of Mexico City. Another violent carjacking was reported in Ciudad Mendoza, Veracruz. Additional carjackings resulting in injuries were reported along Highway 150D between Mexico City and Puebla.

Other incidents were directed at buses. For example, shots were fired at a bus while it was traveling through Las Choapas, Veracruz. Gunmen fired into a rural transport in Islaltepec, Guerrero. A passenger was shot and killed on a bus in Cuautitlán Izcalli, Edomex. Gunmen boarded a bus and kidnapped a passenger as it traveled along Highway 185 between Minatitlán and Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz.

Narcobloqueos (Illegal Street Blockades)
  • October 9 – Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas (various locations)
  • October 29 – Reynosa, Tamaulipas (various locations)

Violence

While official homicide figures for October will not be available until late November, some of our measures suggest the overall levels of violence during October were similar to the previous two months. There were 37 attacks directed at civilians in public venues such as bars, restaurants, shopping areas, a bus station, a baseball game, and a funeral. These incidents resulted in at least 53 fatalities, and they occurred across 12 states (Baja California, Chihuahua, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, Veracruz). The number of incidents matches September, but the number of fatalities declined from the previous six months.

Eight people were injured when assailants tossed two fragmentation grenades into a bar, and one of them detonated in Tuxtepec, Oaxaca. A short time later two grenades were thrown into a nearby bar, but they failed to detonate. Five people were killed in an attack on a tianguis in Chicoloapan, Edomex.

As has been the pattern for several years, numerous families were executed inside their homes. For example, a man and woman were gunned down in front of their home in Irapuato, Guanajuato. Another couple was murdered outside their home in San Rafael, Veracruz. Assailants entered three residences and killed five people in Salamanca, Guanajuato. Three assailants gunned down a pregnant woman in her home in Guadalajara, Jalisco. A 2-year-old girl was killed when gunmen attacked her home in León, Guanajuato. Three people were killed inside a home in Salamanca, Guanajuato. A family (including a 1-year-old baby) were executed inside their home in Ayutla de Los Libres, Guerrero. Five people were executed inside a home in Purísima del Rincón, Guanajuato. An elderly couple was restrained and murdered by assailants inside their home in San Salvador Atenco, Edomex. The dismembered bodies of two women were discovered in a residence in Ecatepec, Edomex.

There were numerous attacks directed against women in public settings. For example, a woman was injured by gunmen outside a church in Irapuato, Guanajuato. A woman was gunned down on the street in Celaya, Guanajuato. Gunmen killed another woman on a street in Celaya. A young woman was shot and killed on a street in Perote, Veracruz. Gunmen injured a school teacher in Martinez de la Torre, Veracruz. A teacher was kidnapped and murdered in Acapulco. A female soccer player was kidnapped and murdered in Playas de Rosarito, Baja California. At least 75 additional women were kidnapped, tortured, and murdered in 19 different states (Baja California, Campeche, Chihuahua, Colima, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Mexico City, Michoacán, Morelos, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, Sonora, Tabasco, Veracruz, and Yucatán).

Other victims this month included a physician, who was murdered in Acapulco. A physician was kidnapped and murdered in El Rodeo, Oaxaca. The son of a former Mexican diplomat (consul of New York) was gunned down in Colonia San Miguel Chapultepec of Mexico City. A municipal employee was murdered in Salina Cruz, Oaxaca. A priest was gunned down in Playas de Rosarito, Baja California. Several gunmen entered an elementary school and shot a teacher in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. Another teacher was murdered while driving along Highway 200 between Acapulco and Zihuatanejo, Guerrero. A businessman was murdered in Acapulco. A commercial citrus farmer was murdered in Misantla, Veracruz. A teenager selling bread on a street was gunned down in Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca. A patient was gunned down inside the ER at a hospital in Minatitlán, Veracruz.

The bodies of at least 291 victims were left in 105 separate mass deposit sites. The number of victims was greater than September but still lower than the last quarter of 2018. The number of distinct sites was on par with previous months. These incidents occurred across 20 states (Baja California, Chihuahua, Colima, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Mexico City, Michoacán, Morelos, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz). In one case, six bodies were discovered in a field outside Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas. Six bodies (including two females) were left in another field in Tonalá, Jalisco. A body was hung from a bridge in Tijuana, Baja California. Another body was hung from a bridge in Rafael Delgado, Veracruz.

At least 74 of these victims had been decapitated or dismembered. These atrocities occurred in 13 states (Chihuahua, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Sonora, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Veracruz). In one case, six decapitated bodies and heads were displayed on a road in Creel, Chihuahua. Severed body parts were strewn along a street in Acapulco. Body parts were also scattered along a street in Ecatepec, Edomex.

As a macabre reminder of the times, the TGI Friday’s restaurant in Tijuana decorated for Halloween with a bloody life-sized embolsado (homicide victim wrapped in a plastic bag and duct tape) at the entrance to the facility. Faced with sharp criticism the management later apologized.

At least 20 taxi drivers were killed this month. These incidents occurred in Guanajuato, Guerrero (2 victims), Oaxaca, Sonora, and Veracruz (15 victims). As discussed in previous reports, taxi drivers are frequently extorted, and in some cases, they serve as halcones (lookouts) for criminal organizations.

Selected Vigilante Incidents
  • October 1 – residents attempted to lynch an accused sexual assailant in San Luis Potosí, San Luis Potosí.
  • October 1 – venders detained and beat an accused thief in Oaxaca, Oaxaca.
  • October 3 – residents severely beat an accused child molester in Mexico City.
  • October 3 – residents attempted to lynch two accused thieves in Nezahualcóyotl, Edomex.
  • October 5 – three accused thieves were beaten to death by residents in Santa María Asunción, Hidalgo.
  • October 7 – residents beat an accused thief in Reynosa.
  • October 9 – resident detained an accused thief in Boca del Río, Veracruz.
  • October 10 – residents overpowered police and facilitated the release of two prisoners in Tetelzingo, Oaxaca. Several police officers were injured by gunfire during the incident.
  • October 12 – an accused thief was severely beaten by residents in Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes.
  • October 12 – residents detained and beat an accused thief in Veracruz, Veracruz.
  • October 12 – residents tied an accused thief to a utility pole in Celaya, Guanajuato.
  • October 15 – an accused assailant was beaten to death by residents in Ecatepec, Edomex.
  • October 15 – residents attempted to lynch an accused thief in Martínez de la Torre, Veracruz.
  • October 18 – an accused thief was lynched in Puebla, Puebla.
  • October 18 – residents beat three accused thieves in Veracruz, Veracruz.
  • October 20 – residents detained an accused thief in Minatitlán, Veracruz.
  • October 22 – taxi drivers detained an accused robber in Xalapa, Veracruz.
  • October 27 – merchants detained an accused thief in the Central de Abastos in Oaxaca, Oaxaca.

Extortion, Kidnapping, and Armed Robbery

Extortion

There was an increase in fatal extortion-related attacks this month. Sixteen such incidents were reported in October. These incidents resulted in 17 fatalities, and they occurred across eight states (Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Tabasco, and Veracruz (8 incidents). In one case, a bus fare collector was executed in Coatzacoalcos and Veracruz. Other victims were the owners, managers, or employees of several bars, restaurants, and small stores. There were also several non-fatal incidents this month. For example, gunmen injured a waitress during an attack on a bar in Coatzacoalcos. Three urban transport buses and a taxi were destroyed by arson in Acapulco, Guerrero. Six extortionists were apprehended by police in Cancún, Quintana Roo.

Kidnapping

Authorities reported the disruption of 8 kidnapping operations this month. While this figure is higher than September, it is similar to most months of 2017 and early 2018. These incidents occurred in Edomex, Nuevo León (2 operations), Tamaulipas, and Veracruz (4 operations). Also, a couple was held responsible for the kidnapping and dismemberment of at least ten women in Ecatepec, Edomex. In addition, there were several victims who were rescued by police. For example, a woman was rescued by state police in Reynosa. Another woman was rescued by police in Comalcalco, Tabasco.

In other cases, the victims were seized for a short period of time. For example, Betty Monroe, an actress, was the victim of an express kidnapping in Delegacion Coyoacán of Mexico City. Other victims were able to escape kidnapping attempts. In one case, an individual was able to escape his captors in Juan Rodríguez Clara, Veracruz. In an apparent attempted kidnapping assailants chased a woman while she was driving in Boca del Río, Veracruz. A teacher narrowly escaped a kidnapping attempt in Tepetzintla, Veracruz.

State police were also able to frustrate an attempting kidnapping of a man and woman on a street in Tampico, Tamaulipas. Assailants attempted to kidnap the daughter of a shopkeeper in Ciudad Mendoza, Veracruz. A woman was shot and injured while trying to prevent the kidnapping of a male companion outside a bar in Coatzacoalcos.

The whereabouts or condition of numerous other kidnap victims remains unknown. For example, an attorney was kidnapped in Boca del Río, Veracruz. A physician was kidnapped while driving between Papantla and Poza Rica, Veracruz. A physician and his wife were kidnapped in Acayucan, Veracruz. A woman who worked as a lab tech at the IMSS was kidnapped from her neighborhood in Córdoba, Veracruz. A businessman was kidnapped in Mariano Escobedo, Veracruz. Another businessman was kidnapped in Río Blanco, Veracruz. A Pemex union member was reportedly kidnapped in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. A teacher was kidnapped in Camerino Z. Mendoza, Veracruz. Another teacher was kidnapped in Acayucan, Veracruz. As an indication of the widespread nature of these incidents, the federal government’s Sistema Nacional de Búsqueda de Personas recently reported that there are over 37,000 persons reported missing in Mexico.

Other kidnap victims were killed by their captors. For example, a businessman was kidnapped and ultimately killed in Hueyapan de Ocampo, Veracruz. A businessman was kidnapped and murdered in Monterrey. The body of a kidnap victim was discovered after his family was unable to pay the 3 million peso ransom in Misantla, Veracruz.  The body of a physician who had been kidnapped in early September was discovered in early October in Córdoba, Veracruz. Another physician was kidnapped while driving between Oaxaca and Cuacnopalan. His body was found under a bridge a week later.

Numerous women and girls were kidnapped in apparent sexual assault cases. For example, assailants in a car kidnapped a 13-year-old girl off a street in Monterrey, Nuevo Léon. A 15-year-old girl was kidnapped in Xalapa, Veracruz. Masked assailants kidnapped a 12-year-old girl from her father’s vehicle in Amatlán, Veracruz. Two teenage girls were kidnapped in Tlapacoyan, Veracruz. A 16-year-old girl was kidnapped and murdered in Merida, Yucatan. A 15-year-old girl was kidnapped and murdered in Salinas Victoria, Nuevo Léon. A 12-year-old girl was kidnapped and murdered in Cuautitlán, Edomex. The body of a 6-year-old girl with a bullet wound to the head was discovered near Chiconcuautla, Puebla. Reports indicate she had been kidnapped a few days earlier. A 7-year-old girl was kidnapped and killed in San Diego de Alcalá, Chihuahua. Two young women were kidnapped in Veracruz. A young woman was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered in Chalco, Edomex.

Armed Robbery

Armed robbery and cargo theft continue to be widespread and frequent across Mexico. For example, a truck driver evaded gunmen in a pickup that were attempting to stop his rig near Tecamachalco, Puebla. A security guard was killed during an attempted hijacking near Acatzingo, Puebla. A truck driver was injured by gunfire as he drove along Highway 45D between León and Aguascalientes. Another truck driver was injured by gunmen along Highway 150D between Puebla and Orizaba. Cargo thefts were reported in Poza Rica (Veracruz), Tuxtepec (Oaxaca), and near Córdoba (Veracruz). Five trucks were hijacked soon after they left the port facility in Veracruz.

Numerous large retail stores such as Soriana and Coppel were robbed in Tamaulipas and Veracruz. Several gunmen robbed the offices of the Cruz Roja Mexicana (CRM) in Veracruz, Veracruz. Several banks were robbed in Veracruz. Also, nine million pesos were stolen from an armored transport vehicle in Mexicali, Baja California. Two armored truck guards were killed during a robbery while they were making a stop at a Soriana in Playa Del Carmen, Quintana Roo. ATMs were stolen from several locations in Tamaulipas and Veracruz. Bank customers were robbed inside or near banks in Mexico City, Oaxaca, and Veracruz (7 incidents were reported in 6 different cities).

There were numerous reports of individuals becoming the victim of armed robbery. For example, a group of eight men entered a school and robbed students and teachers in Puebla. A homeowner was killed during a robbery of his residence in Tampico, Tamaulipas. An individual was shot and killed during an armed robbery in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz.

Reports indicate that approximately 70 tourists were robbed by gunmen at the Cascadas de Las Hamacas near Coatzala, Puebla. Two armed robbers were shot by a bodyguard of a political party activist in Guadalajara. The incident appears to have been an attempted robbery. In another incident, one assailant was killed, and another was injured by a security guard protecting a businessman in Cancún, Quintana Roo. The particular assailant who was killed was accidentally run over by an ambulance after being shot.

ATTACKS ON AUTHORITIES (OCTOBER 2018) 

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