This week we bring you a report on the security situation in Mexico in April from HX-Harary Security. It offers a detailed look at incidents across the country and makes for useful, yet grim, reading.
Mexico Security Summary for April 2016
Date of Report: May 10, 2016
Perhaps the most widely-discussed topic related to public safety was the continuing scandal concerning the missing 43 students from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero. As previously discussed, the students disappeared on September 26 (2014) after municipal police in Iguala apparently handed them over to members of the Guerreros Unidos criminal organization. The complete lack of progress in the investigation over the last 20 months and what appears to be a cover-up by federal authorities continues erode public confidence in the federal government and in PRI.
Another scandal this month pertained to a video showing a federal police officer torturing a woman in Ajuchitlán del Progreso, Guerrero. The woman, who survived the incident, was a member of the Familia Michoacana, and is currently serving time for weapons trafficking in Nayarit. On one hand, some of the Mexican public has come to accept the idea that cartel members should be treated harshly. On the other hand, the incident demonstrated that law enforcement personnel frequently operate criminally; giving credence to the idea that the federal police or military were complicit in the Iguala incident not so far away. The Mexican military has also been accused of being too heavy-handled with non-violent protestors. For example, a pregnant woman was trampled to death when marines opened fire and used tear gas to disperse protestors in a grocery store in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz.
Finally, U.S. authorities also discovered a narco-tunnel more than 800 meters long between Tijuana and Otay Mesa, California. This is the longest tunnel discovered to date and demonstrates the continued ability of the major DTOs to smuggle goods across the border despite the capture of major leaders and subsequent conflict between these groups. This was actually the third tunnel found in the area in less than a month (including another one was more than 400 meters long).
Attacks against Governmental Authority
There were 43 attacks directed at government authorities reported during April. This figure is a slight drop from March, but still the second highest since August 2015. There were 9 assassinations of government or political party officials. This follows the 11 assassinations that occurred in March. One of the victims this month was the mayor and his two bodyguards who were ambushed and killed in Jilotzingo, Edomex. A city council member and his driver were kidnapped and murdered in Tecpan de Galeana, Guerrero. The municipal director of tourism was assassinated in Huatusco, Veracruz.
The former mayor of Cualac (Guerrero) was kidnapped. Despite payment of a ransom, his body was discovered later near Tlapa de Comonfort, Guerrero. The former mayor was murdered in San Felipe Xochiltepec, Puebla. A former city council member was assassinated in Sayula de Alemán, Veracruz.
Political party activists and leaders were also targeted. For example, the leader of the Sindicato de Transportistas de la Zona Oriente, who also worked with the Confederación Revolucionaria de Obreros y Campesinos (CROC), was murdered in Zitácuaro, Michoacán. Also, the leader of the Sindicato Único de Trabajadores Electricistas de la República Mexicana (SUTERM) was assassinated while driving near Tierra Blanca, Veracruz.
There were also four attempted assassinations reported this month. In one case, a convoy transporting the mayor was attacked by gunmen in Aquila, Michoacán. He was not injured in the attack. A mayoral candidate (Partido Renovación Social, PRS) was injured during an ambush in San José Tenango, Oaxaca. Also, gunmen fired on a vehicle transporting the mayor in San Rafael, Veracruz. He was not injured in the attack. Another failed attempt occurred in San José Cosolapa, Oaxaca.
Twelve police officers and soldiers were killed in attacks this month, and some of these occurred during assaults on patrols. Others were kidnap-executions which occurred in Baja California, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, and Veracruz.
Two military patrols were attacked this month. One was an army patrol in Reynosa, and the other was a marine patrol in Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, Tamaulipas. Two federal police patrols were attacked in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. Seven state police patrols were attacked in Guanajuato, Guerrero, and Tamaulipas (five attacks).
Six municipal police patrols were attacked this month; the highest number in almost two years. These incidents occurred in Edomex, Michoacán, Oaxaca, and Veracruz. In one case, a municipal police officer was killed and another injured by gunmen on a motorcycle in Tlalnepantla, Edomex.
Gunmen also launched attacks on three fixed targets. In one case, gunmen fired on a federal court building in Aguaruto, Sinaloa. However, the most notable incidents were in Guerrero where in a coordinated attack, gunmen attacked two hotels housing federal police officers in Acapulco. Reports indicate that several officers were injured during the attacks. More than 100 public and private schools were closed in the region as a precaution the following day.
Figure 1: Attacks against Authorities by Month‡ λ
‡ Note: These figures should be considered minimum counts as numerous incidents are not reported by the media or government officials.
λ President Peña Nieto took office on December 1, 2012 (columns in red).
Several family members of government officials were targeted this month as well. For example, the father of a Tamaulipas state legislator was killed during an attempted kidnapping in Pánuco, Tamaulipas. The son of a city council member was kidnapped in Saltillo, Coahuila. The son of the mayor of Monclova (Coahuila) was found murdered in Monterrey, Nuevo Léon. His girlfriend and their bodyguard were also killed. The wife of an investigator with the Subprocuraduría Especializada en Investigación de Delincuencia Organizada (SEIDO) was ambushed and killed in Delegación Gustavo A. Madero of Mexico City. Two sons of the state spokesperson of the Movimiento Magisterial Popular Veracruzano (MMPV) were gunned down in Las Choapas, Veracruz.
Organized criminal groups, along with corrupt political leaders, continue to also target the media as a form of censorship. This month a crime reporter for the El Foro de Taxco was gunned down outside his residence in Taxco,
Guerrero. He had published a report on the attack against federal police in Acapulco that night before. A radio announcer was murdered in Oaxaca, Oaxaca. The sister of a TV Azteca reporter was ambushed and killed by a gunman on a motorcycle in Córdoba, Veracruz.
Geographic Pattern of Attacks
These attacks occurred across 10 states (Baja California, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz). This figure is on par with the last seven months.
Table 1: States Hit Hardest by Attacks on Authorities.
|States||Number of Attacks|
Mexican federal authorities reported the capture of 4 regional leaders or key operatives of the major criminal organizations during April. This is the second lowest number since May 2015. Among the most significant was Pedro Enrique Ojeda Valenzuela “El Chihuas”, a regional leader of the Sinaloa Cartel. He was captured in Villa Ahumada, Chihuahua. Also, Honduran authorities arrested Franco Daniel Lombardi, a key financial officer of the Sinaloa Cartel. Marco Antonio Haro Rodríguez “El Toñín“, a regional leader of the Gulf Cartel, was captured in Altamira, Tamaulipas. Nicolás Nájera Salgado “El May“, the presumed leader of the Guerreros Unidos, was captured in Iguala, Guerrero. Finally, a key operative of the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel was captured in Los Cabos, Baja California.
In addition to the leaders of organized criminal groups, federal authorities arrested several government officials on various charges relating to corruption or association with organized criminal groups. For example, federal authorities arrested the mayor of Cuetzala del Progreso (Guerrero) for direct involvement with the Guerreros Unidos criminal organization. Elsewhere, several bodyguards of the mayor pursued and shot a newspaper reporter in Benito Juárez, Veracruz.
Two state police officers were arrested while transporting several 50-liter barrels of stolen fuel inside their police vehicle in Tezontepec de Aldama, Hidalgo. They were traveling in convoy with another truck transporting 4300 liters of stolen fuel.
Four state police officers were arrested for involvement with organized crime in San Luis Potosí, San Luis Potosí. Two federal police officers were charged for involvement in a kidnapping and extortion ring in Mexico City. Another two federal police officers were arrested for extorting Central American kidnap victims following their rescue (and prior to their transfer to immigration officials) in Delegacion Benito Juárez of Mexico City. Eight municipal police officers were convicted for the disappearance of three youths in Papantla, Veracruz.
Federal authorities seized weapons and munitions caches at 8 locations across the country. These sites were located in Chihuahua, Michoacán, Nayarit, Nuevo León (2 sites), and Tamaulipas (2 sites). Four individuals were detained while traveling in a cloned state police vehicle in Úspero, Michoacán. Authorities also dismantled a network of 35 radio antennas being used by the Gulf Cartel across the municipalities of Reynosa and Río Bravo, Tamaulipas.
Several 40mm grenade launchers were found in Tamaulipas. A Barret 50-caliber sniper rifle was found at the site in Nuevo Casas Grandes. Also of significance was the seizure of a Man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) at the same site. MANPADS is a shoulder-launched guided missile especially useful for shooting down helicopters.
Street Battles (Enfrentamientos)
There were 39 street battles reported during April. This represents a 25% drop from March, but the figure is similar to most months of 2015. However, in a real departure from previous months, these battles occurred in just 7 states (Chihuahua, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz). This is the lowest number of states since July 2014. As usual, most of the battles occurred in Tamaulipas.
During one battle in Reynosa, a marine helicopter opened fire on fleeing sicarios (cartel gunmen) in a shopping center parking lot. Although numerous bystanders were nearby no one was injured during the careless air-to-ground attack. The marines eventually entered the shopping center in pursuit of the gunmen. In another incident, a teenager was killed by a stray bullet while playing Little League baseball during a battle in Reynosa. Also, six sicarios were burned alive when their SUV crashed and caught fire during a battle with federal police in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas.
Finally, members of the Gulf Cartel knocked down at least six utility poles that authorities had equipped with security cameras in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. One of the poles was located directly in front of the offices of the Procuraduría General de la República (PGR).
Table 2: States Hit Hardest by Street Battles.
|States||Number of Battles|
Hazardous Overland Travel
Armed robbers continue to target buses with great ease. This month, a group of six gunmen intercepted an ADO bus and robbed 38 passengers as it traveled between San Andrés Tuxtla and Santiago Tuxtla (on Highway 180 in Veracruz). The assailants used a taxi to force the bus to pull over. A few days later, another ADO bus was assaulted along the Córdoba-Orizaba highway in Veracruz. The driver was stabbed in that incident. Elsewhere, three robbers boarded a city bus and shot and killed a woman who resisted their intentions (her 5-year-old daughter was a witness to the murder).
Travel in personal vehicles also remains hazardous on key routes across the country; especially in Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa, and Tamaulipas. For example, two people were killed and four were injured when gunmen fired into their car along the Zamora-Uruapan highway in Michoacán. Another two people were killed when gunmen fired on their vehicle between Los Mochis and El Fuerte (Highway 32 in Sinaloa). A woman was ambushed and killed while traveling to her children’s’ school in Delegación Gustavo A. Madero of Mexico City. Another woman was intercepted and shot while driving in Santa Lucía del Camino, Oaxaca.
Three U.S. citizens of Mexican descent were kidnapped as they drove Highway 101 near San Fernando, Tamaulipas. They were rescued by Mexican authorities two weeks later at a camp operated by a Zetas-affiliated group. They were among the lucky few, as many people never survive kidnappings along this famed “Highway of Death” which should not be transited under any circumstances. Also, a 26-year-old U.S. citizen was reported missing while traveling in Oaxaca. She was last seen when she departed overland from the capital to Juchitán, Oaxaca.
Narcobloqueos (Illegal Street Blockades)
- April 11 – Chandío, Michoacán
- April 12 – Apatzingán, Michoacán
- April 13 – Apatzingán, Michoacán
- April 20 – Reynosa, Tamaulipas
- April 27 – Reynosa, Tamaulipas
According to Semáforo Delictivo, there was a 15% increase in the number of homicides during the first quarter of 2016 when compared to the same period in 2015. Furthermore, at least 50% of the 4240 homicides reported during this period of 2016 can be attributed to organized crime; resulting in a monthly average of 700 victims. There were 1536 homicides reported in March, with almost 60% the result of organized crime. The highest rate of per capita murders occurred in Baja California, Colima, Edomex, Guerrero, Morelos, Sinaloa, Tabasco, and Tamaulipas. In addition to the traditionally-high levels of violence in Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz, there has also been a notable uptick of violence in Oaxaca and Veracruz.
The number of people killed as a result of organized crime during April is not yet available. However, preliminary estimates suggest that at least 700 people were killed as a result of organized crime this month. Deposits of multiple bodies were left at over 37 sites across Mexico; amounting to at least 120 victims. These “wholesale” deposits were found in 16 states (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Colima, DF, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and Zacatecas). Most of the sites were located in Guerrero, Michoacán, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz.
There has also been a slight increase in the number of victims being decapitated or dismembered; similar to the especially violent 2009-2011 period. For example, a severed head was left in the bus station in Ecatepec, Edomex. The severed heads of two women and a man were found inside an ice box placed at an elementary school in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas. Two more heads were found a few days later in the same city. A 20-year-old woman was found decapitated on a plaza in Saltillo, Coahuila. A decapitated woman was discovered on a street in Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila. The body of a woman with her face burned away was discovered in Mazatlán, Sinaloa. The dismembered body of a woman was found in two suitcases in the downtown area of Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo. Another head was found in León, and a dismembered body was discovered in Guanajuato. Two dismembered bodies appeared in Acapulco, and a mutilated body was found stuffed inside a storm drain in Xalapa, Veracruz. Finally, the mutilated body of a pregnant woman was found at the bottom of a canyon in Michoacán.
In addition to these kidnap-executions, there were at least 29 attacks on civilians in public venues such as restaurants, bars, small businesses, shopping areas, and a soccer field this month. At least 62 people were reported killed and dozens injured in these attacks during April. Although the number of attacks is significantly lower than March, it similar to most months of 2015.
These attacks occurred across 12 states (Baja California, Colima, DF, Guerrero, Michoacán, Morelos, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz). Most of the attacks were in Guerrero, Michoacán, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz. In one incident, ten people were killed during an attack on a gated community in Apodaca, Nuevo Léon. Three people were injured by a fragmentation grenade during an attack on a casino in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas. One person was killed and another injured during an assault on a veterinarian clinic in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. Gunmen also fired on a group of farmers working in a field in Puebla; killing one worker.
A 7-year-old boy was gunned down while shopping with his parents at a bakery in Chinameca, Veracruz. A few days later an 8-year-old boy and an adult were killed when gunmen fired into a small corner store in Las Choapas, Veracruz.
Aside from the abovementioned attacks, hundreds more people were murdered by organized criminal groups across Mexico. Notable examples include the director of a municipal slaughterhouse who was gunned down inside a restaurant in Zamora, Michoacán. A physician was shot and killed while driving in Ixtaczoquitlán, Veracruz. A pediatrician was gunned down in Tlapacoyan, Veracruz. A physician was murdered in Guerrero. An attorney was gunned down in Morelia, Michoacán. A school teacher was executed in San Agustín Loxicha, Oaxaca. Another teacher was murdered in Veracruz. A mother and daughter were executed in Lampazos, Nuevo Léon. In Saltillo (Coahuila), several armed men dressed in state police uniforms stormed a residence, tied up family members, and raped a teenage girl. Six people were kidnapped and tied up in a residence in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. Their attackers set fire to the home; killing five of them. Elsewhere, the bodies of four people were discovered in a burning vehicle in Las Briseñas, Michoacán.
At least 13 taxi drivers were reported killed this month. These incidents occurred in Guerrero, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, and Veracruz (five separate attacks). In one case, gunmen fired into a taxi; killing the driver and injuring a female passenger in Amatlán, Veracruz. Two bus drivers were also murdered in Chihuahua, and a truck driver was killed in Guerrero. Furthermore, three taxi drivers survived being kidnapped and tortured in Chilpancingo, Guerrero. They were stripped naked and left in a Sams Club parking garage.
Selected Vigilante Incidents
- April 2- an accused child molester was kidnapped in Pijijiapan, Chiapas. He was subsequently found dead with his genitals mutilated.
- April 10 – municipal police officers protesting against the chief of police blocked a highway in Ciudad Ixtepec, Oaxaca. They were supported by protesting taxi drivers.
- April 19 – five people were injured by gunfire and 12 homes were burned during a land tenure conflict between residents in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo.
- April 21 – an accused burglar was forced to stroll naked through a neighborhood by local residents in Morelia, Michoacán.
- April 25 – residents attempted to lynch an accused thief in Soconusco, Chiapas.
- Mid-April – More than a dozen new autodefensa groups formed in Guerrero, Michoacán, Morelos, and Sonora.
Extortion, Kidnapping, and Armed Robbery
There were 12 confirmed cases of fatal attacks related to extortion operations during April. This is half the number reported in March. These incidents occurred in 8 states (Baja California, Chihuahua, Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz). Among the victims were employees or owners of several restaurants, shops, and other small businesses. In one case, a security guard was killed when gunmen fired on a bakery in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas. Also, a rancher was killed in Colima.
There were numerous non-fatal attacks as well this month. Three Pemex stations were set ablaze in Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán. Two stores and two restaurants were destroyed by arsonists in Apatzingán, Michoacán. Several other businesses were damaged by arson in the cities of Chilchota, Parácuaro, Uruapan, and Zamora (all in Michoacán). A tractor-trailer rig was damaged by a Molotov cocktail in Quiroga, Michoacán.
The Comisión Nacional de Seguridad Nacional reports that the highest number of kidnappings have occurred in Chihuahua, Coahuila, Guerrero, Michoacán, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas. Indeed, Tamaulipas ranks highest in this crime. Also, the Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública recently reported a 40% increase in the number of kidnappings in Veracruz for the first quarter of 2016 when compared to the same period of 2015.
Authorities reported the disruption of 13 kidnapping operations in April. This figure is almost double that of March, but on par with the previous four months. These occurred in Edomex, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Puebla, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz. Most of the dismantled kidnapping rings operated in Tamaulipas and Veracruz.
In addition to the dismantling of kidnapping rings, authorities were able to rescue kidnapped individuals at various locations across the country. For example, a pastor was rescued by authorities in Tuxtepec, Oaxaca. Interestingly, one of the kidnappers arrested during that operation was an EMS/ambulance driver. Another kidnapper worked as an announcer for rodeos across the region.
A kidnapped businessman was rescued by authorities in Venustiano Carranza, Puebla. State police were also able to rescue four teenagers (ages 15 and 16) who had been kidnapped in Reynosa. Reports indicate that they had been held for ransom for more than a week. Forty-nine Central American migrants being held by traffickers were also rescued by authorities in Reynosa, Tamaulipas.
In Valle de Chalco (Edomex), the director of a kindergarten was arrested for her involvement in the kidnapping of girl. The kidnappers had demanded a payment of 20 thousand pesos and were arrested while collecting the ransom.
There were also notable cases of kidnappings this month. For example, the director of the General Hospital was kidnapped from her vehicle in Minatitlán, Veracruz. She was the third doctor kidnapped in the city in less than a month.
An employee of Cervecería Modelo in Nava (Coahuila) was kidnapped from his office in Piedras Negras. The son of a prominent hardware store chain was kidnapped in Martínez de la Torre, Veracruz. The son of a businessman was kidnapped in Tuxtepec, Oaxaca. A Spanish citizen involved in retail of arts and crafts was kidnapped in Acayucan, Veracruz. Assailants attempted to kidnap the owner of a pizza chain in Veracruz, Veracruz. A 20-year-old student was released following a ransom payment of 800 thousand pesos in Saltillo, Coahuila.
An 11-year-old boy was kidnapped off a street in Cuernavaca, Morelos. A 15-year-old girl was kidnapped outside a church by men traveling in a car in Boca del Río, Veracruz. Two teenage girls were reported kidnapped in the Amecameca area of Edomex. A 16-year-old girl was kidnapped, raped, tortured, and then murdered in Chiapas. Her grandfather was the former mayor and the president of the local cattle raisers’ association.
Armed robbery is widespread across Mexico and can impact businesses and residents in any sector of the country and at any time. Cargo theft and truck hijacking continue to impact transport as well. A truck driver was shot during an attempted hijacking on Highway 150 between Córdoba and Veracruz (near Mata Clara). The driver of a Sabritas truck was shot and injured during an armed robbery in Cuitláhuac, Veracruz. This follows an attack on a Bimbo truck in the same area in late March. A trailer transporting Nestlé products was hijacked in Nogales, Veracruz. Two trucks transporting sugar were hijacked along the Tezonapa-Omealca highway in Veracruz. Five armored vehicles were stolen from a business in Monterrey, Nuevo Léon.
At least two banks were robbed in Veracruz. Gunmen also robbed the offices of the municipal water utility and briefly held employees hostage in Ciudad Ixtepec, Oaxaca. Eight gunmen robbed restaurant patrons in Salina Cruz, Oaxaca.
Assailants armed with machetes robbed camera equipment and other valuables from a Noticieros Televisa camera crew in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. The TV crew had just completed its broadcast over the explosion at the Pajaritos chemical plant and was in the process of breaking down the equipment.
A woman was killed by an armed robber on a street corner in Ecatepec, Edomex. Another woman was killed during an armed robbery in front of a butcher shop in Guadalajara, Jalisco. She reportedly yelled for help during the assault and was subsequently shot in the head. Elsewhere, an elderly woman was also killed during an armed robbery in Cuilapan de Guerrero, Oaxaca. A musician was killed during an armed robbery of a bar in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. Each of these incidents demonstrate that victims of armed robberies risk injury or death if they resist.
Attacks on Authorities (April 2016)
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