Most indices suggest a continued deterioration in public safety across many areas of Mexico. The number of homicides continues to rise in more than half the states. Although official figures for April are not yet available, March recorded the highest number of homicides since July 2011. The official figure for March was 2020 homicides, up 11% over February. Also, the first quarter of 2017 recorded a 29% increase when compared to the same period in 2016. In fact, most months since March 2015 have shown an increase over the previous month. The violence continues to surge in Baja California and Baja California Sur. For example, April, March, February, and December 2016 each exceeded 110 homicides in Tijuana, the highest number recorded in that city since December 2008. The number of homicides in Veracruz has grown as well from 114 in December 2016 to 181 in March 2017. April also saw a dramatic increase in assassinations of government officials as well as other attacks on authorities. Assaults on public venues rose this month as did the number of bodies deposited in prominent sites across the country. Authorities also reported a surge in extortions over the last few months as well; especially in Veracruz.
Attacks against Governmental Authority
There were 53 attacks directed at governmental authorities during April. This is the second highest number of attacks since March 2015 (matched only by September 2016). In particular, the number of assassinations of political leaders or candidates surged this month. It was the second highest number since July 2016. There were 12 assassinations in April.
The most prominent target was the secretary general of the Comité Ejecutivo Estatal (CEE) of the PRD party for the state of Guerrero, who was ambushed outside his home in Chilpancingo. Elsewhere, a party activist for the Partido Verde Ecologista de México (PVEM) was gunned down in José Azueta, Veracruz. Also, a PRI party leader was assassinated in Pungarabato, Guerrero. A human rights activist was beaten to death in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Oaxaca. Also, an official with the Fiscalía General del Estado de Jalisco (FGEJ) was ambushed and killed in Tlaquapaque, Jalisco.
A mayor was ambushed and killed outside San Bartolomé Loxicha, Oaxaca. A former mayor and a former state deputy were assassinated in Acapetlahuaya, Guerrero. A former mayor was kidnapped in Tecolutlá, Veracruz. The mayor of Zirándaro was kidnapped in Coyuca de Catalán, Guerrero. A former mayor was kidnapped in Yautepec, Morelos. A former mayor was ambushed and killed in Santa María Ozolotepec, Oaxaca. A former city council member was kidnapped and murdered in Jalapa de Díaz, Oaxaca.
There were also at least four non-fatal attacks on government or party officials. For example, a city council member survived an assassination attempt in San José Tenango, Oaxaca. A former mayor survived an assassination attempt in Villa Azueta, Veracruz.
The campaign manager of the Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional (MORENA) party candidate for governor was injured by gunmen as he travelled along Highway 40 between Saltillo and Monterrey. Gunmen fired on the home of a mayoral candidate in Orizaba, Veracruz. Also, Molotov cocktails in Banderilla, Veracruz, damaged the campaign office of the Partido Nueva Alianza. The incident occurred a few hours after a party member announced his candidacy for office.
Following a series of credible threats against his life, the mayor and his family fled the town of Teloloapan, Guerrero. Also, the media reported that at least 15 candidates with the MORENA party have been threatened with decapitation leading up to elections in Veracruz.
At least 24 police officers and military personnel were killed in these attacks this month. This figure is on par with the most of the last 15 months. Some of the fatalities occurred as the result of attacks on military and police patrols. Nine army or marine patrols were attacked in April. These incidents occurred in Chihuahua (2 attacks), Sinaloa, and Tamaulipas (6 attacks). No federal police patrols were reported attacked this month. However, five state police patrols were attacked in Michoacán (3), Sonora, and Tamaulipas. Three municipal police patrols were attacked in Edomex, Mexico City, and Michoacán. In one incident, two police officers were injured when a Molotov cocktail was thrown into their vehicle while on patrol in Delegación Cuauhtémoc of Mexico City. Also, three municipal police officers were killed when gunmen fired into a police station in Ixtapa, Guerrero.
Approximately 18 law enforcement personnel were killed in attacks near their homes, while dining in restaurants, or as a result of being kidnapped. These fatalities occurred in Baja California, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Puebla, Veracruz, and Zacatecas. For example, the chief and deputy chiefs of transit police were reported kidnapped in Boca del Río, Veracruz. Another officer was also kidnapped during the incident.
Also, the tortured bodies of two Veracruz state police officers were discovered in Guadalupe Sarabia, Puebla. Two municipal police officers were kidnapped and murdered in Calera, Zacatecas. A prison guard was murdered in Apodaca, Nuevo León. Finally, a physician at the air force base in Juchitán de Zaragoza (Oaxaca) was injured during an armed attack while driving to work.
The families of government officials are also frequently targeted. This month, gunmen fired into a vehicle driven by the wife of a municipal police officer in Cancún, Quintana Roo. The woman was killed and their three children were injured during the attack.
The brother of a city council member was murdered in Castillo de Teayo, Veracruz. The son of another city council member was executed in Papantla, Veracruz. The son of a municipal official was kidnapped and murdered in Minatitlán, Veracruz. Finally, the nephew of a city council member was killed in Cutzamala de Pinzón, Guerrero.
Continuing the pattern of previous months, journalists were targeted by either organized crime groups or the hit men of corrupt political figures. A crime reporter was gunned down in La Paz, Baja California Sur. Also, the Periódico Norte de Ciudad Juárez announced that it has ceased publication due to regional insecurity.
The attacks against governmental authorities in April occurred across 17 states (Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Edomex, Guerrero, Jalisco, Mexico City, Michoacán, Morelos, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and Zacatecas). This is the highest number of states since July 2016.
Possibly, the most newsworthy arrests this month were of two fugitive former governors wanted on a variety of corruption charges in Mexico. In one case, Guatemalan authorities apprehended Javier Duarte de Ochoa, the former governor of Veracruz. Also, the former governor of Tamaulipas (Tomás Jesús Yarrington Ruvalcaba) was captured in Italy after being on the run for five years.
With regard to key leaders or regional leaders of the major criminal organizations, just two were reported captured during April. This follows the relatively low number apprehended during March. Of those captured, the most important was Iván Margarito Esquivel García “Terry” or “El Terrible”, a regional leader of the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, who was captured in Colima, Colima. The other regional leader was Omar F. “El Gordo” of Los Viagras, who was apprehended in Apatzingán, Michoacán.
Perhaps more importantly, three regional leaders were killed this month. In one case, rivals in Guadalupe y Calvo, Chihuahua, killed Mario Eleno “El Cepillo”, a regional leader of the Sinaloa Cartel. In the other case, Juan Manuel Loaiza Salinas “El Comandante Toro”, a regional leader of the Gulf Cartel, was killed in a battle with authorities in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. Following his death, several rival factions began efforts to control the newly-leaderless territory. We expect violence to escalate in Reynosa and neighboring cities as these groups continue to compete for territory. Finally, Francisco Javier Zazueta Rosales “Pancho Chimal”, a key bodyguard of one of the sons of Joaquín Guzmán Loera “El Chapo”, was killed in a battle with authorities in Badiraguato, Sinaloa.
Mexican authorities seized relatively small weapons caches at 6 sites in Nuevo León, Oaxaca (2 sites in Tuxtepec), Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz. In addition to weapons, two armoured vehicles and fragmentation grenades were seized at both sites in Tuxtepec, Oaxaca. Also, three cloned state police vehicles were discovered in Coxquihui, Veracruz.
Street Battles (Enfrentamientos)
There were 49 battles reported across Mexico during April. This is the second highest number of battles since June 2016. However, the actual number of states impacted was slightly less than March (11 states). During April these battles occurred in Chihuahua, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and Zacatecas.
Several of these battles were especially violent; involving significant exchange of gunfire and they traversed multiple sectors of the impacted cities. Reynosa was rocked with several days of serious street battle activity between the military and organized crime groups. On April 21st the city was hit with widespread battles, street blockades, and fires. Reports indicate that more than 70 fires were set during the conflict; including nine businesses and scores of vehicles. Local residents looted several stores in the hours following the chaos. Three bystanders were also injured by gunfire during these battles.
Elsewhere, following a protracted battle in Nochistlán (Zacatecas), authorities recovered approximately 1500 shell casings and the remains of six exploded fragmentation grenades. As a point of comparison, the number of rounds fired during this battle would be sufficient to fill 50 standard-capacity magazines for AK-47 or AR-15 rifles.
Hazardous Overland Travel
There were numerous reports of bus robberies during April; many involving violence or fatalities. The most widely-reported incident occurred in Chiapas, when a bus transporting approximately 25 German tourists was intercepted and robbed by armed individuals near Palenque.
In a separate incident, passengers were robbed when gunmen forced an Autobuses Unidos to the side of the road on Highway 980 near Teotitlán de Flores Magón, Oaxaca. A Sotaventos passenger bus was intercepted and robbed on Highway 185 near Oteapan, Veracruz. In another incident, gunmen robbed passengers on a bus travelling between Tuxtepec and Santa Cruz, Oaxaca.
Elsewhere, gunmen blocked the path of a bus transporting approximately 45 passengers near San Francisco del Rincón, Guanajuato. The assailants then fired into the vehicle killing three passengers and injuring several others. Passengers were robbed by an assailant who held a knife to their throats on a bus on Highway 175 near Ixtlán de Juárez, Oaxaca. A passenger was killed while resisting robbers on a bus travelling between Cuernavaca and Mexico City along Highway 95.
Individuals travelling in private vehicles were also attacked this month. For example, a businessman was intercepted and kidnapped while driving near Fresnillo, Zacatecas. Three cattle ranchers were kidnapped while driving near Sayula de Alemán, Veracruz. Several employees of the Programa de Inclusión Social (Prospera) were injured during an armed robbery on a rural highway near Coyutla, Veracruz. A teacher was intercepted and killed while driving near Tlapa, Guerrero.
Two men were killed when gunmen fired into their truck near Guevea de Humboldt, Oaxaca. Gunmen fired into a vehicle killing two people in San José Las Flores Mesones, Oaxaca. Assailants fired into a vehicle transporting a family near Apatzingán, Michoacán. A young boy was injured in that attack. In a similar incident, gunmen fired into a vehicle killing a man and a woman in Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca. Although injured, their 4-year-old boy survived that attack.
A report published this month by the Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH) revealed the staggering number of victims' bodies removed from mass graves sites in various states from 2007 through October 2016 (see Table 3). It is important to note that the figures for Veracruz do not include the skulls of 300 people found at the mass grave sites of Colinas de Santa Fe and Alvarado since November 2016. Nor does it include our own tabulations for an additional 228 bodies left at 87 additional sites within the state since December.
With regard to April, there were 66 sites where the bodies of 2 or more victims were deposited; often in prominent locations. Both the number of victims and number of sites are lower than March, but the figures are higher than each month from November through February. The remains of 174 individuals were found at these sites across 13 states (Baja California Sur, Chihuahua, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz). By far, most of these sites were in Veracruz, followed by Guerrero, Michoacán, and Sinaloa. Also, 22 new mass graves were discovered this month at Tihuatlán, Veracruz.
In addition, it was widely reported that the bodies of three men were thrown from a small aeroplane over Culiacán, Sinaloa. One landed on the roof of the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS) hospital. Damage to the bodies was so severe it was unclear if they were alive or dead when pushed from the aircraft.
Elsewhere, authorities discovered 8 bodies inside plastic bags in a truck in Chilpancingo, Guerrero. Two nude bodies were found inside a cave outside Acapulco, Guerrero. At least 31 people were decapitated or dismembered during April. These incidents occurred in seven states. In one case, the dismembered body of a 16-year-old boy was left in the middle of a busy street in Acapulco, Guerrero. In another case, a murder victim in Chalco (Edomex) had the skin peeled off his head.
There were 49 attacks directed at individuals in public venues such as bars, restaurants, stores, repair shops, a bus station, a soccer game, and a quinceañera celebration. At least 95 people were killed in these attacks. Both the number of attacks and the number of fatalities are significantly higher than previous months. Indeed, they are the highest since July 2016. These incidents occurred in 12 states (Baja California Sur, Chihuahua, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz). Most of the incidents were in Oaxaca and Veracruz. However, there was a notable increase in such violence in Guanajuato and Quintana Roo.
Ten people were killed in an attack on a quinceañera fiesta in Moris, Chihuahua. Seven people were killed and 13 were injured during an attack on spectators at a cockfight in Jerécuaro, Guanajuato. In the same state, six people were killed and four were injured outside a store in Tarimoro. Four women were gunned down inside a bar in Nezahualcóyotl, Edomex.
Five people were killed and four injured during an attack on a bar in Orizaba, Veracruz. Gunfire and fragmentation grenades were used during separate attacks on two bars in Celaya and Apaseo, Guanajuato. In both cases the grenades failed to detonate. Gunmen killed three people and two others were injured during a soccer game in Acapulco, Guerrero. In the same city, two people were killed and 6 were injured during an attack on a busy street.
There were also numerous attacks directed against individuals or families. In one incident, a family of three (including an 11-year-old boy) was killed when gunmen fired into their vehicle in Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca. A family of five was killed inside their home in Puebla. A mother and son were gunned down inside their home in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. An 8-year-old boy and a 1-year-old baby were killed when gunmen fired into their home in Chontalcoatlán, Guerrero.
Gunmen stormed a residence and executed four people in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas. Among the victims were two women and a 2-year-old boy (who was shot point-blank in his back and neck). A family of three was tortured and ultimately murdered by intruders in their home in Cuetzalan, Puebla. A woman was killed when gunmen fired into her home in Cárdenas, Tabasco. Gunmen burst into a home and shot a 14-year-old girl in the face in Apodaca, Nuevo León; she was killed instantly. Assailants shot a woman in the face outside her home in Alvarado, Veracruz.
A 14-year-old girl was injured by gunfire while playing on a street in Chinameca, Veracruz. The assailant escaped the scene.
Several men armed with knives entered a residence, attacked the homeowner, and kidnapped his wife in Coatzintla, Veracruz. She was then sexually assaulted and released several hours later. Elsewhere, gunmen pulled a woman from her home in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero. She was later found murdered.
Gunmen travelling in up to eight vehicles fired into numerous residences and businesses in Jalapa de Díaz, Oaxaca. Two people were killed as a result of the assault, and the attackers took several other men away. The mayor later called for a curfew.
Furthermore, organized crime groups killed at least 67 women across 13 states. Most of the victims' bodies were found in Veracruz and Edomex. However, both Oaxaca and Puebla had high numbers as well.
Other victims this month include the president of the regional cattle raiser's association (Asociación Ganadera), who was gunned down in Jamiltepec, Oaxaca. A businessman was murdered in Cuernavaca, Morelos. Another businessman was executed in Acultzingo, Veracruz.
An official with the Reparación de Pozos de la Sección 30 de Pemex was intercepted and killed while driving in Poza Rica, Veracruz. On the same day an engineer was kidnapped on his way to work in Poza Rica. An engineer with Pemex was gunned down in a restaurant in Tabasco. Another Pemex worker was killed inside a restaurant in Las Choapas, Veracruz. A Pemex employee was shot and killed while visiting a well site near Poza Rica.
Reports over the last few months indicate a surge in extortion demands against taxi and truck drivers in central Veracruz. Secondary evidence provided by the high frequency of murdered drivers in Veracruz appears to support these reports. During April at least 14 taxi drivers were killed in Veracruz. Overall, there were 28 taxi drivers killed this month across Mexico; in the states of Baja California, Guerrero (2 killed), Hidalgo, Michoacán (2), Oaxaca (5), Quintana Roo, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz (14).
Selected Vigilante Incidents
- April 1 - an autodefensa group facilitated the release of the kidnapped wife of a cattle rancher in Las Choapas, Veracruz.
- April 3 - the tortured body of an accused thief was found along the Villahermosa-Coatzacoalcos highway in Tabasco. Reports indicate that he had been involved in multiple armed robberies of travellers along that route.
- April 6 - six police officer were injured while attempting to recover 20 vehicles being held by protesting Purépecha Indians in Nahuatzen, Michoacán.
- April 6 - residents detained an accused robber in Tampico, Tamaulipas. The woman was armed with a knife and a small container of chloroform.
- April 7 - residents rescued a kidnapped child in Papantla, Veracruz.
- April 12 - a passenger shot and killed an attempted bus robber near Tlalnepantla, Edomex.
- April 13 - residents beat an accused thief in Veracruz, Veracruz.
- April 18 - residents detained two accused burglars in Ciudad Madero, Tamaulipas.
- April 24 - an accused thief was tied to a post in Morelia, Michoacán.
- April 27 - residents detained an accused thief in Veracruz, Veracruz.
- April 27 - residents attempted to lynch an accused robber in Reynosa, Tamaulipas.
- April 27 - frustrated family members paraded the remains of a woman (in her open casket) along a busy street in Delegación Cuauhtémoc of Mexico City. They were protesting the release of the accused murderer.
- April 28 - residents detained an accused thief in Boca del Río, Veracruz.
- April 29 - in San Pedro Acoquiaco (Puebla) as many as 200 residents attacked a residence in which several accused kidnappers were staying. They set fire to the home, threw rocks and bottles at municipal police and firefighters, and ultimately killed one of the accused kidnappers. Three female adolescents were pulled from the premises and returned to their families.
- Mid-April - in order to limit incursions by criminals an autodefensa group established checkpoints on roads leading into La Chinantla, Oaxaca.
Extortion, Kidnapping, and Armed Robbery
There were 14 confirmed fatal extortion-related attacks this month; a figure slightly higher than March. These incidents occurred in Chiapas, Edomex, Oaxaca (5 incidents), Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz (4). The victims included owners, managers, or employees of several bars, repair shops, an athletic gym, and cafes. There were also several non-fatal extortion attacks. For example, during the night of April 15th assailants set fire to six bars, a small shop, and a residence in Acapulco, Guerrero.
Authorities reported the disruption of 14 kidnapping operations during April. This number is a slight increase over March. These operations were located in Baja California, Oaxaca, Puebla, Tamaulipas (4 operations), and Veracruz (6). In one case, authorities arrested two Colombians who were part of a group that had kidnapped a woman and her 3-year-old boy in Salina Cruz, Oaxaca. Authorities also discovered a kidnap victim's body in a dilapidated structure at the scene of one of the disrupted operations in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas. An accused kidnapper held at a prison in Nezahualcóyotl recently revealed that his gang fed their kidnap victims to starving pigs in Chimalhuacán, Edomex. The veracity of his story has not yet been confirmed.
There were also several reports of victims being released following ransom payments, or being rescued by authorities. For example, a physician was rescued in Minatitlán, Veracruz. She had been held for several days.
Elsewhere, municipal police rescued a woman who had been kidnapped for 52 days in Tijuana, Baja California. She had been sexually assaulted multiple times during the ordeal. In another case, a kidnapped woman survived being set on fire after being dumped along a highway on the outskirts of Guadalupe, Nuevo Léon. Her kidnappers had also beaten her.
A woman was pulled into a vehicle while walking her children to school in Córdoba, Veracruz. Fortunately, a few moments later a police vehicle passed by and she yelled for help. Her would-be kidnappers crashed the vehicle and they fled on foot, and the police rescued her.
However, there were many more cases of kidnappings in which the victims were either killed, or their whereabouts remain unknown. For example, two cattle ranchers were kidnapped and murdered in Santiago Sochiapan, Veracruz. Gunmen kidnapped two pineapple farmers from their homes in Loma Bonita, Oaxaca. This incident follows the murder of another pineapple farmer in the same region a few days earlier.
A prominent businessman was kidnapped in Pánuco, Veracruz. Another businessman was kidnapped in Tuxtepec, Oaxaca. A businesswoman was kidnapped and murdered in Acayucan, Veracruz. Another businesswoman met the same fate in San Juan Evangelista, Veracruz. A woman who worked for Pemex was kidnapped and murdered in Minatilán, Veracruz. A teacher was kidnapped in Tuxtepec (Oaxaca), and another one was kidnapped in Las Choapas, Veracruz. Three teachers and a 6-year-old boy were kidnapped and murdered in Tantoyuca, Veracruz.
An architect was kidnapped and murdered in Cuauhtémoc, Chihuahua. The body of a notary public was found in Presa Vicente Guerrero in northern Tamaulipas. Also, in a brazen assault in front of dozens of witnesses, gunmen stormed a public swimming facility and kidnapped three people in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz.
Organized criminal groups as well as sexual predators continue to kidnap girls and women. This month, a 14-year-old girl was kidnapped off a street while walking to school in Ciudad Mendoza, Veracruz. A 17-year-old girl was kidnapped in Loma Bonita, Oaxaca. Men travelling in a black SUV in Veracruz, Veracruz, kidnapped two teenage girls off a street corner. Several men travelling in a red SUV kidnapped a young girl off a street near her elementary school in Atzacan, Veracruz.
A woman was shot and killed when she resisted getting pulled into a vehicle in Naucalpan, Edomex. A young woman was kidnapped and murdered in Tihuatlán, Veracruz. A 19-year-old woman was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered in García, Nuevo León. Three nurses were kidnapped and murdered since late March in Martínez de la Torre, Veracruz. A woman was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered in Tlalnepantla, Edomex. Another woman was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered in Candelaria Loxicha, Oaxaca.
The body of a woman was found in a trash can in the middle of a busy boulevard after being kidnapped in Ecatepec, Edomex. A woman was kidnapped and decapitated in Tuxtepec, Oaxaca. The burned body of a teenage girl was found in the trunk of a car in Tejamen de Nuevo Ideal, Durango.
Dozens of pharmacies, small stores, restaurants, grocery stores, banks, Pemex stations, and a Walmart were robbed this month. There has been a surge in armed robberies in Tamaulipas. Four banks were robbed in Veracruz, and another in Tampico, Tamaulipas. Several ATMs were extracted and robbed in Veracruz. Also, a security guard and two criminals were killed as a result of an exchange of gunfire during an armed robbery of an ATM while it was being accessed by a security company at the Bodega Aurrera in Tecamac, Edomex. Police killed an armed robber at the Plaza Meave in Delegación Cuauhtémoc of Mexico City.
Gunmen stormed a ranch, sexually assaulted a woman, shot an employee, and stole items of value near Coatzintla, Veracruz. A man was shot while resisting armed robbers in Monterey, Nuevo Léon. An elderly man was injured during a robbery outside a bank in Veracruz, Veracruz. Two local tourists enjoying the beach were severely injured by robbers wielding machetes in Alvarado, Veracruz. A man was killed while resisting a carjacking in Ecatepec, Edomex. A pregnant woman was injured during a bag-snatching outside a bank in Colonia Polanco of Mexico City. There are also reports of individuals pretending to be Jehovah’s Witnesses in order to rob homes in Juchitán de Zaragoza, Oaxaca.
A truck transporting industrial equipment containing radioactive Iridium-192 was stolen in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. Another truck was hijacked and the driver severely beaten on a highway near Cotaxtla, Veracruz. A milk delivery drive was killed during an armed robbery in Tecamachalco, Puebla. Truck drivers were killed during separate assaults in Nezahualcóyotl and Toluca (both in Edomex).
Individuals who had loaded a cargo truck with oranges stolen from a plantation were pursued by police in Martínez de la Torre, Veracruz. The truck overturned on the highway during the pursuit and the thieves fled on foot.
A truck hijacking operation was dismantled by authorities near Xalapa, Veracruz. Several kidnapped truck drivers were rescued and trucks were recovered at the site. Two stolen tractor-trailer rigs were recovered in Altamira, Tamaulipas. Authorities also disrupted an extortion ring which preyed on transportation companies in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas.
This Mexico situation report is provided by the HX Security Group on behalf of Security Exchange