Mexico Security Summary: June 2017

11 July 2017
 


As noted in previous monthly reports, the overall security situation in Mexico continues to deteriorate. Although conditions appeared to have improved during the 2013-2015 time period, they took a serious turn for the worse during 2016. Public safety in many areas of the country has diminished as the major Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) continue to fragment due to the arrest of key leaders of these organizations over the last few years. This fragmentation has led to a surge in violence and other criminality.

While official data for June is not yet available, the Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública (SESNSP) revealed that there were 2186 homicidios dolosos (intentional homicides) across Mexico during May.  This is the highest number since data were nationally tabulated on a monthly basis way back in 1997, and this figure exceeded the previous record high of 2112 homicides recorded in May 2011.  The greatest number of homicides in May 2017 were in Edomex (225), followed by Guerrero (216), and Baja California (197).  In additional to these intentional homicides there were also 1404 homicidios culposos (negligent or accidental homicides) during May; for a total of 3590 homicides (SESNSP).

May also recorded the highest number of homicides in Puebla since 1998. Likewise, in Tamaulipas, the Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública (SESNSP) reported that the number of many crimes almost doubled in Tamaulipas from April to May.  These included homicides, robberies, and assault.  Also, the state of Veracruz has reported a 93% increase in homicides from 2016 to 2017.  Reports of kidnapping are up 44% and extortion has increased by 243% in the state.  Indeed, since January 2017, homicides have also surged in Baja California, Chihuahua, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Sinaloa, and Veracruz.

Much of this violence appears to be related to the gradual disintegration of the Sinaloa Cartel following the extradition of Joaquin “Chapo” Guzmán to the United States in January 2017.  As the remaining leaders in that organization attempt to consolidate their power, the overall strength of the cartel has continued to weaken.  As a result, other cartels such as the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG), Juárez Cartel, Gulf Cartel, and Zetas have each attempted to push into territories once controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel. These efforts have led to significant increases in violence, and also extortion, kidnapping, and armed robbery (as they attempt to exploit new territories).

Attacks against Governmental Authority

There were 40 attacks directed at governmental authorities during June.  This is the second highest number of incidents since February 2017.  Perhaps the most significant incident was when two federal police officers were gunned down in a restaurant in Cardel, Veracruz.  One of the victims was the chief liaison for federal and state police coordination for the state of Veracruz.  The other official was an inspector.  Both officers were involved in law enforcement efforts focused on fuel thieves and traffickers in the state.  In a separate incident, the regional director of the state police was gunned down in Morelia, Michoacán.  Also, the chief of police was kidnapped in Doctor Coss, Nuevo Léon.

With 8 reported victims, the number of assassinations of political figures during June was slightly higher than the previous month.  Among the victims was the former mayor (PRD party) who was assassinated in Tecpan de Galeana, Guerrero.  The former deputy mayor was kidnapped and murdered in Venustiano Carranza, Veracruz.  A municipal liquor licensing inspector was gunned down in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz.  Another municipal official was assassinated in San Jerónimo, Guerrero.  The manager of the Financiera Nacional de Desarrollo Agropecuario was gunned down in Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca.

The coordinator of the PAN-PRD alliance was kidnapped in Álamo Temapache, Veracruz.  Also, a campaign worker for Fernando Yunes Márquez (PAN legislator) was murdered in Veracruz, Veracruz.  A regional leader of the Unión Nacional de Cañeros (CNPR) was ambushed and killed in Tuxtepec, Oaxaca.
There were also 10 incidents in which the intended political target survived.  These attacks included a former mayoral candidate who was injured by gunmen in Xochistlahuaca, Guerrero.  Another mayor was injured during an ambush in Asunción Ixtaltepec, Oaxaca.  His police bodyguard was killed in the attack.  The former regional director of the state attorney general's office survived an attack in Zamora, Michoacán.  Gunmen fired on the home of a state prosecutor in Minatitlán, Veracruz.

A former Partido del Trabajo (PT) candidate for mayor was injured by gunmen in Filomeno Mata, Veracruz.  The MORENA party candidate for mayor escaped injury during an armed attack in Cosoleacaque, Veracruz.  The mayoral candidate of the MORENA party was intercepted, and severely beaten, and then released in Chicontepec, Veracruz.  Gunmen fired on the home of a mayoral candidate in Coxquihui, Veracruz.  The home of the Movimiento Ciudadano candidate for mayor was fired on in Tepetzintla, Veracruz.  A similar attack occurred on the home of the PVEM-PRI candidate for mayor in San Rafael, Veracruz.  Also, while not directly targeting a candidate, gunmen fired on a vehicle transporting PRD activists in Zongolica, Veracruz.

Also, three mayoral candidates were threatened in narcomantas (banners) placed at various locations across Tlapacoyan, Veracruz.  Finally, a PAN party activist was killed during an altercation with the mayor's bodyguards in Catemaco, Veracruz.  


At least 20 police officers or military personnel were killed in these attacks this month.  Three military patrols were attacked in Michoacán, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz.  Three federal police patrols were attacked in Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Tamaulipas.  In one attack, four officers were killed and seven were injured during an ambush on a federal patrol near San Miguel Totolapan, Guerrero.  Four state police patrols were attacked in Sinaloa, Tamaulipas (2), and Veracruz.  The incident in Veracruz resulted in the death of a state police officer.  Also, a state police officer was injured during an ambush of his patrol in Reynosa, Tamaulipas.

Other fatal attacks were directed at law enforcement personnel while they were on lunch breaks or while off-duty. For example, a state police officer was gunned down in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán.  Similar fates met municipal police officers in the cities of Jáltipan, San Andrés Tuxtla, and Tuxpan (all in Veracruz).  Three municipal police officers were kidnapped in Enrique Estrada, Veracruz.  A prison warden was kidnapped from his home in La Unión, Guerrero. His body was later discovered in nearby Coyuca de Catalán. A soldier was gunned down in Chalco, Edomex.

There were also several notable prison riots this month.  Four inmates were killed during a sustained gun battle with prison officials at the prison in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas.  There was another riot at a prison in Chetumal, Quintana Roo.

Journalists and other members of the media continue to be targeted by both organized crime groups and corrupt political leaders.   This month, an announcer with a local indigenous radio station was seriously injured during an ambush in Ometepec, Guerrero.  The body of a reporter for Canal 6, who had been kidnapped in May, was found near Nueva Italia (Michoacán) in late June.

Geographic Pattern of Attacks

The attacks directed at authorities occurred in 9 states (Edomex, Guerrero, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and Zacatecas).  Interestingly, the number of states impacted was the lowest since December 2015.  Indeed, they were focused primarily in Veracruz.

Progress?
Mexican federal authorities announced the capture of nine regional leaders of the major criminal organizations.  This is the highest number since July 2016.  The most significant arrest this month was likely one of the regional leaders of the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG); Abraham Cervantes Escareaga “El Babay”, who was captured in Tijuana.  Three regional leaders of the Zetas were arrested, including David Rodriguez Dominguez “El Cancer”, who was captured in Oaxaca, Francisco Javier “N” or “Tom Cabezón”, who was arrested in Ciudad Victoria (Tamaulipas), and Hernán Martínez Zavaleta “El Comandante H”, who was captured in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz.  A regional leader of the Gulf Cartel was captured in Zacatecas, and Ignacio Rentería Andrade “El Cenizo”, regional leader of the Caballeros Templarios, was arrested in Parácuaro, Michoacán.  

Two regional leaders were also killed by rivals or authorities this month.  They include Ricardo Pacheco Tello “El Quino”, a regional leader of the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG), who was killed in a battle in Chipilo, Puebla, and Óscar David Arellano “El Charmín”, the regional leader of the Zetas for Nuevo Laredo, who was gunned down in Mazatlán, Sinaloa.

Also, the U.S. Border Patrol arrested Lucero Sánchez Lopez at the Otay mesa crossing near San Diego.  She is a former Sinaloa state legislator who was affiliated with Chapo Guzmán, and who had been evading Mexican authorities.

Authorities also arrested several law enforcement personnel and other government officials this month.  For example, the mayor was arrested for involvement with organized crime in Jungapeo, Michoacán.  Three municipal police officers were arrested in kidnapping charges in Bermúdez Zurita, Veracruz.  The director of the Acuerdos del Juzgado was arrested in Cosamaloapan, Veracruz.  Also, the Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado (PGJE) of Tamaulipas revealed it is currently investigating 52 state police officers (including commanders) for corruption.

Federal authorities seized moderate-sized weapons and munitions caches at 12 sites across Chihuahua (2 sites), Guanajuato, Michoacán, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas (4), and Veracruz (2).  Forty-four people were arrested during one operation in Apatzingán, Michoacán.  Authorities also recovered a stockpile of 53 rifles, 11 handguns, 6 fragmentation grenades, a grenade launcher, and 540 kg of marijuana at that site.  Fragmentation grenades were also found in Chihuahua, while a 40mm grenade launcher was found in Tamaulipas, and several Rocket-Propelled Grenades (RPGs) were found at sites in Tamaulipas and Veracruz.  Also, federal customs authorities in San Emeterio (Sonora) intercepted a trailer transporting more than 55,000 of rounds of ammunition hidden in the ceiling panels. The trailer also contained fragmentation grenades, and firearms.  A cloned Mexican army truck was found in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas.  Finally, a backpack with several dozen fragmentation grenades was discovered inside a fenced electrical transmission facility in Reynosa.

Street Battles (Enfrentamientos)

There were 63 street battles reported during June across 14 states.  This is the highest number of battles since June 2016, and the second highest since March 2015.  These battles occurred in Chihuahua, Edomex, Guerrero, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and Zacatecas.  This is the highest number of states since July 2015.

Hazardous Overland Travel

A recent report by the Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes (SCT) indicated that armed assaults against travelers are most prevalent along these highways:

  • Highway 2 - all sections
  • Highway 85 - between Ciudad Victoria and Ciudad Mante (Tamaulipas)
  • Highway 85D - between Mexico City and Pachuca (Hidalgo)
  • Highway 180 - between the Texas border and Tampico (Tamaulipas)
  • Highway 105 - between Pachuca and Tampico
  • Highway 145D - between Las Choapas (Veracruz) and Ocozocoautla (Chiapas)
  • Highway 150D - between Puebla and Veracruz
  • Highway 185 - between Coatzacoalcos (Veracruz) and Salina Cruz (Oaxaca)
  • Highway 186 - between Villahermosa (Tabasco) and Francisco Escárcega (Campeche)

The primary concern is that unwary travelers might be intercepted by gunmen who will force them to the side of the road to rob, kidnap, rape, or kill them.  Also temporary road blocks are often utilized to stop travelers with the goal of perpetrating similar crimes.  For example, during June authorities rescued 11 people who had been kidnapped from several vehicles at a fake highway checkpoint near Nopalucan de la Granja, Puebla.  The kidnappers were dressed in fake police uniforms and had stopped numerous vehicles and robbed passengers as well.  Elsewhere, two people were killed by armed robbers as they traveled along Highway 150D near Amatlán, Veracruz.  In another incident, a boy was shot in the head when gunmen fired on a vehicle during an attempted highway robbery on Highway 2 near Río Bravo, Tamaulipas.  A teacher with the Universidad Tecnológica del Centro de Veracruz (UTCV) was intercepted and killed while driving near Yanga, Veracruz.  

A driver was killed when gunmen fired into his vehicle near Popocatla, Tlaxcala.  A father and his son were killed when gunmen fired into their vehicle in Celaya, Guanajuato.  The manager of a furniture store was killed when gunmen fired into his vehicle in Acayucan, Veracruz.  Gunmen fired into a vehicle transporting a family in Tihuatlan, Veracruz.  Gunmen kidnapped at least 12 traveling salespersons as they travelled between Tlapehuala and Ajuchitlán del Progreso, Guerrero.  Authorities were later able to rescue them in Ajuchitlán del Progreso.

Also, as has been the case for most months of the last seven years, gunmen robbed passengers on several buses; including city buses.  For example, gunmen robbed passengers on a bus near Macuspana, Tabasco.  Gunmen boarded a bus and killed a passenger in Monterrey, Nuevo Léon.  Gunmen in an SUV attempted to force a passenger bus to the side of the road near Cosoleacaque, Veracruz.  The assailants fired several bullets into the windshield of the bus during the incident.  Assailants commandeered four passenger buses from the central bus station in Tuxtepec, Oaxaca.  They forced the chauffeurs to drive the busses to Tres Valles, Veracruz.  Authorities arrested several members of a highway robbery gang in San Jerónimo Caleras, Puebla.  This group had been responsible for multiple assaults on passenger buses in the region.  Some of these groups even target facilities with armed guards.  For example, gunmen robbed proceeds from the federal toll booth on Highway 70D in Tampico, Tamaulipas.

Violence

As discussed on the first page of this document, May recorded the highest number of homicides since 1997.  Official figures are not yet available for June.  However, based on the number of people killed across 20 states it is likely that the overall figure will be near that of May.  For example, the bodies of at least 190 people were left in mass deposits at 62 sites across 15 different states (Baja California, Chihuahua, Colima, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, Sinaloa, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and Zacatecas).  The majority of the sites and victims were in Veracruz, followed by Oaxaca and Tamaulipas.  This figure is the second highest number of victims since July 2016.  The number of sites and states is slightly higher than the last few months, but they are on par with most months of 2016.  At least 46 of these individuals had been decapitated or otherwise dismembered, with their remains scattered in prominent locations.  Indeed, their remains were left at 27 different sites across Baja California Sur, Edomex, Jalisco, Morelos, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz.

In addition to these individuals who had been kidnapped, tortured, and murdered, there were 33 armed attacks directed against civilians in public venues such as restaurants, bars, shopping areas, and parties.  At least 62 people were killed in these attacks in Chihuahua, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz.  By far, most of these incidents were in Veracruz, but Oaxaca experienced a troubling high number as well.  The number of attacks and victims are significantly higher than the previous month, but they are similar to the monthly averages for 2016.

Six people were killed and 21 were injured during an attack on a bar in de Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, Chihuahua. Elsewhere, 6 people were killed and 10 were injured when gunmen opened fire in a bar in Apaseo el Alto, Guanajuato.  Reports indicate a fragmentation grenade was used in the attack.  In another incident, gunmen in a vehicle opened fire and killed a pregnant woman as she walked along a street in León, Guanajuato.  Three other people (including a baby) were injured during the attack.  Finally, for unknown reasons, several heavily-armed gunmen entered a hospital in Reynosa.  They left without causing injuries or damages.

Women and families continue to be targeted by organized crime groups.  This month, at least 55 women were killed in 49 separate incidents across 16 states (Baja California, Baja California Sur, Chihuahua, Edomex, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Mexico City, Morelos, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz).  The vast majority of victims were in Veracruz (23).  In one incident, gunmen stormed a residence and  killed six family members in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz.  Among the victims were four children (3 year, 4 year, 5 year, and 6 year old).  Also, several gunmen killed an elderly couple in their home in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas.

Other victims this month include a prominent attorney who was gunned down in Zamora, Michoacán.  Also, Rafael “El Borrego” Chávez, the brother of the well-known boxer Julio César Chávez, was murdered during a home invasion in Culiacán, Sinaloa.

Finally, 29 taxi drivers were killed this month.  This is the highest number ever recorded, and is more than double the average for most months of the last seven years.  These incidents occurred in Nuevo Léon, Oaxaca, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz (26 killed).

Selected Vigilante Incidents

  • June 7 - residents stripped and tied a thief to a post in Emiliano Zapata, Veracruz.
  • June 9 - residents detained an accused child kidnapper in Martìnez de la Torre, Veracruz.
  • June 12 - residents severely beat two accused robbers in Teapa, Tabasco.
  • June 13 - two accused thieves were beaten in Irapuato, Guanajuato.
  • June 15 - residents beat two accused thieves in Zaragoza, Veracruz.
  • June 15 - residents beat a thief in Minatitlán, Veracruz.
  • June 19 - an accused thief was beaten by residents in Oaxaca, Oaxaca.
  • June 20 - residents detained a car thief while he was breaking into a vehicle in Oaxaca, Oaxaca.
  • June 22 - various shoppers detained a shoplifter inside a Bodega Aurrerá in Delegación Azcapotzalco (Mexico City). The shoplifter suffered a heart attack and died. In retribution a few hours later his family vandalized the store.
  • June 26 - a would-be armed robber was shot and killed by employees at a Pemex station in Nacajuca, Tabasco.
  • July 22 - five accused burglars were partially stripped and forced to walk 10 km wearing "I am a thief" signs in Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo.
  • June 25 - an accused thief was stripped by residents and tied to a post in Morelia, Michoacán.
  • June 26 - residents caught a home burglar in the act and detained him for authorities in Matamoros, Tamaulipas.
  • June 27 - residents detained two robbers in Cárdenas, Tabasco.  Also, during a confrontation with authorities over the detention of these individuals, residents destroyed two police cars with arson.
  • June 30 - residents severely beat an individual they found burglarizing a residence in Atlixco, Puebla.
  • Late June - reports indicate that a group of businessman have organized a regional autodefensa group against organized crime in Quintana Roo.

Extortion, Kidnapping, and Armed Robbery

Extortion

There were 23 confirmed fatal extortion-related attacks reported in June.  This is the highest number of reported incidents since May 2016.  These incidents occurred in Edomex, Guerrero, Oaxaca (2 incidents), Puebla, Quintana Roo, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz (16).  Victims included owners, managers, or employees of several bars, restaurants, shops, and two funeral homes.  Also, a bus driver and his assistant were murdered in Acapulco, Guerrero.  

There were numerous non-fatal incidents as well; mostly involving arson.  For example, several businesses at distinct locations were destroyed by arson on June 17th in Río Bravo, Tamaulipas.  A Pemex station was damaged by arson in Loma Bonita, Oaxaca.  Also, in order to protest governmental inaction against widespread extortion operations more than 400 business owners closed their establishments in the cities of Güémez, Hidalgo, Padilla (all in Tamaulipas).

Kidnapping

Mexican authorities reported the disruption of 10 different kidnapping operations during June.  This figure matches the previous month and is similar to most months in 2017.  These operations were located in Guerrero, Michoacán,  

Sinaloa, Tamaulipas (2 operations), and Veracruz (5).  In one case, 44 people were arrested during an operation in Apatzingán, Michoacán.  At another site, 11 kidnap victims were rescued by authorities in Veracruz.

There were also several notable releases, rescues or escapes reported this month.  In one case, a woman of U.S. and French citizenship was released by her kidnappers after three months in captivity in Guanajuato.  Reports indicate that she may have been kidnapped by the same group that several years ago had kidnapped Diego Fernández de Cevallos (the PAN candidate for president in 1994).  

Following a brief gun battle with several gunmen, authorities were able to rescue a woman who had been kidnapped in Cárdenas, Tabasco.  Another kidnapped woman was rescued by authorities in Tuxpan, Veracruz.  A businessman escaped his kidnappers in Papantla, Veracruz.  Also, a kidnap victim shot and killed three of his kidnappers and escaped in Escobedo, Nuevo León.

The ultimate fate of many other victims remains unknown this month.  For example, a physician was kidnapped and has not yet been released in Orizaba, Veracruz.  The owner of a tortilla factory was kidnapped in Amatlán de los Reyes, Veracruz.  A Pemex employee was kidnapped by several assailants in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. A commercial coffee farmer was kidnapped in Atzalan, Veracruz.  Gunmen kidnapped eight people from a restaurant in Culiacán, Sinaloa.

Other kidnap victims were killed.  In one case, a businessman was kidnapped and murdered in Ixcatepec, Veracruz. An employee of an electrical power plant was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered in Chiconcoa, Veracruz.  The son of a transport company owner was kidnapped and ultimately murdered after a ransom was not paid in Tabasco.

There were also numerous reports of young women and girls who were kidnapped.  For example, an 11-year-old girl was kidnapped, raped, and murdered in Nezahualcóyotl, Edomex.  In another incident, several men traveling in a taxi kidnapped a teenage girl off a street in Mexico City.  A 17-year-old girl was kidnapped by men in a taxi in Monterrey, Nuevo Léon.  Her body was later found on a vacant lot.  Individuals traveling in another vehicle kidnapped two women and raped them in Tuxpan, Veracruz.

Armed Robbery

Trucks transporting commercial cargo and fuel continue to be targeted by organized crime groups.  There are no official figures for June yet, but the Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública (SESNSP) reports that there were 363 highway robberies across Mexico during May; and 209 of these involved commercial vehicles.  The final numbers for June will likely be similar.

With regard to incidents during June, armed robbers killed the driver of a Jumex delivery truck near Santo Domingo Tehuantepec, Oaxaca.  Another Jumex truck was hijacked and its cargo stolen near Tierra Blanca, Veracruz.  The driver was missing.  A truck driver was murdered during a robbery in Altamira, Tamaulipas.  Another truck driver was killed in Cuitláhuac, Veracruz.
Stolen trucks and trailers were also recovered by authorities at various locations across the county.  A hijacked tractor-trailer rig was recovered in Río Blanco, Veracruz.  Another trailer was recovered in Yanga (Veracruz), and another trailer was recovered in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz.  Authorities recovered more than 30 trucks containing stolen fuel in Purísima de Texmelucan, Puebla.  Nine stolen fuel trailers were recovered in González (Tamaulipas), and two stolen fuel tankers were recovered near Minatitlán, Veracruz.  In a side note, two people were burned, and 16 homes and 15 vehicles were damaged when a fuel theft operation caught fire in a residential area of Río Bravo, Tamaulipas.

At least six banks were robbed in Oaxaca and Veracruz.  In another incident, a state police officer was shot by several gunmen who were attempting to kidnap a customer from the front of a bank in Santa Catarina, Nuevo Léon.  Also, several gunmen stormed the ADO bus station in Catemaco (Veracruz) and forcibly removed the ATM from the building.

Armed robbers shot and killed a security guard at a Pemex facility in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz.  Finally, thieves used harvesting equipment and cargo trucks to steal a sorghum crop before the commercial farmer could harvest the crop near Matamoros, Tamaulipas.

This Mexico situation report is provided by the HX Security Group on behalf of Security Exchange