At least 26,105 people were killed from March to November 2020, a period in which restriction measures have been maintained due to the pandemic; In the same period, but from 2019, the figure was slightly lower with 26,082 victims.
Mexico – The insecurity crisis in Mexico that has dragged on since previous six-year terms did not stop despite COVID-19. Massacres, confrontations, murders of politicians, attacks on public security secretaries and police corporations, delivery of pantries by criminal groups, as well as cartels displaying their power in social media videos, evidenced that organized crime continued to extend its power and diversify its activities to maintain territorial control.
The United Nations (UN) “Global Synthetic Drug Assessment 2020” report concluded that global drug use increased despite the fact that COVID-19 did impact world drug markets. According to the study, the pandemic created a shortage of opioids, which could result in people turning to other types of substances, such as synthetic drugs.
“Border and other restrictions linked to the pandemic have already led to a shortage of drugs on the streets, leading to higher prices and reduced purity,” the report says.
The UN document also highlights that as a result of COVID-19 organized crime groups have been forced to find new routes and methods and that the methamphetamine trade in the United States, the largest consumer of drugs, is controlled by the Mexican cartels.
“Traffickers show their resilience by changing production routes and practices. Heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine traffickers have changed their routes and continue to adopt new business practices. In the United States, for example, methamphetamine manufacturing used to be carried out in small laboratories that supplied the domestic market. But at present, that type of production has become small next to the industrial-size laboratories of Mexico. The methamphetamine seized in the United States in recent years is, with increasing frequency, imported methamphetamine, and the trade-in that substance is controlled by the Mexican cartels ”.
An investigation by the Washington Post revealed that the drug cartels are increasingly expanding their tentacles in Mexico, but now they are not only satisfied with expanding their range of businesses, they are also seeking to extend their dominance in the territory.
In Mexico, there are 19 high-impact criminal groups that generate violence, corruption, and resources of illicit origin, the Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) acknowledged last September.
The violence did not stop despite the restriction due to the sanitary measures taken against COVID-19. At least 31,871 people were murdered from January to November 2020, 0.33 percent more than in the same period of the previous year, which registered a total of 31,764 victims of intentional homicide.
During the period of confinement, March to November 2020, at least 26,105 people were killed, slightly more than in the same period in 2019 – a year without a pandemic and classified as the most violent in recent history – with 26,082 victims.
70.70 percent (22,535) of the victims from January to November 2020 were deprived of life with a firearm, almost the same as the same period in 2019 with 22,429 victims.
Multiple high-impact violent episodes were recorded throughout 2020: from fierce attacks on police corporations, attacks on public security officials, assassinations of politicians and officials, massacres, and drug trafficking showing its power through social networks.
The assassination of the former governor of Jalisco, Aristóteles Sandoval, is one of the most recent high-impact violent events. The former president was shot and killed at dawn on December 18 in the bathroom of a restaurant in the tourist area of Puerto Vallarta, despite having a security team of 15 elements and armored vehicles.
The Jalisco state prosecutor’s office reported that when the former governor got up to go to the bathroom, he was attacked by an armed individual, who shot him in the back.
Other officials and politicians were also deprived of their lives throughout the year. The District Judge of the Federal Criminal Justice Center in Colima, Uriel Villegas Ortiz, who was in charge of a criminal proceeding against Rubén Oseguera, alias “El Menchito”, son of the leader of the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG), He was assassinated along with his wife inside their house on June 16 in Colima, Colima.
Luis Miranda Cardoso, former president of the Superior Court of Justice of the State of Mexico and father of the former secretary of Social Development, Luis Miranda Nava, was assassinated on August 11 in Toluca, State of Mexico.
Odeb Durón Gómez, mayor of Mahahual, Quintana Roo municipality, was assassinated on the night of April 6 while on his way to Xkalak. Carlos Ignacio Beltrán Bencomo, mayor of Temósachic, Chihuahua, was found dead on September 30 after being deprived of his liberty by an armed group. Abraham Cruz Gómez, mayor of Chenalhó in Chiapas, was ambushed by an armed group in the municipality of San Juan Chamula on July 7; he was wounded while his driver, Efraín Pérez, died after the attack.
Erik Juárez Blanquet, a local deputy from Michoacán, was assassinated on March 10. Deputy Francis Anel Bueno Sánchez was found in a grave in Tecomán, Colima, on June 2 and Lucio Cruz Mora, president of the Municipal Committee of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in Tetela de Ocampo, Puebla, was killed on August 20.
Víctor Hugo Flores, director of the Comprehensive Care Center for Essential Health Services (CAISES) in Salamanca, Guanajuato, was murdered in a shopping center parking lot on September 5; José Raúl Martínez, IMSS chief of staff in Sinaloa, on September 30, and Heréndira Honorato Gabriel, director of the Guerrero Basic Community Hospital, died when they were attacked by an armed group on July 24 on the Tlapa-Puebla federal highway. in Huamuxtitlán, in the High Mountain of Guerrero.
CDMX IS NOT IMMUNE
One of the events that attracted the most attention was the unprecedented attack perpetrated against the Secretary of Citizen Security of the capital, Omar García Harfuch. The attack revealed the operational and weapons capacity of the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG) in Mexico City.
At around 06:35 a.m. on Friday, June 26, a group of men armed with grenades and .50 caliber rifles – weapons used in wars such as Iraq – ambushed the Secretary of Citizen Security and his team of bodyguards in the Lomas de Chapultepec, in the Miguel Hidalgo Mayor’s Office. As a result of the attack, two members of the Chief of Police’s security team and one civilian died; in addition, two people were injured.
The local, regional, and even federal authorities for many years denied the operational presence of the large drug cartels in Mexico City, the largest consumer market in the country, not only for illegal products but also legal ones. The most they recognized was the existence of criminal groups or criminal cells, however, various events, such as the murder of Mazahua minors last November and the attack on the police command, have exposed the operation of powerful drug cartels.
Among the weapons with which they attacked Secretary García Harfuch were a Barrett .50 caliber rifle. Photo: Cuartoscuro.
Víctor Manuel Sánchez Valdés, a doctor in Public Policy from the CIDE and specialist in public security, explained that an attack like the one that occurred against the head of the SSPC showed power because an operation like that is difficult to implement, especially in the capital with so much traffic, in an area with a lot of agglomeration, with so many cameras and police officers.
“The ability to operate was demonstrated by (the CJNG) and did something that had never been done in Mexico City.”, The researcher and public security specialist explained in an interview.
The specialist stressed that the large drug cartels have been in Mexico City for several years, however, he said that due to the characteristics of Mexico City the presence was not as noticeable as in other areas of the country, where there are several clashes.
“Practically all the important cartels in the country have representatives in the city and that is why sporadically you hear a murder of one and another person linked to a cartel,” he said.
The information now recognized by the Government of Mexico City is still conservative: at least six organized crime cells are those that operate in the country’s capital, according to the head of the Secretariat of Citizen Security of Mexico City (SSC -CdMx), Omar García Harfuch, on November 10. Most of these criminal organizations are dedicated to the sale and distribution of drugs, dispossession of property, murder charges, and extortion in the form of “drop by drop”.
Francisco Leónides Cruz, Secretary of Security for the Doctor Coss municipality in Nuevo León, was ambushed and killed along with one of the policemen who accompanied him on November 25.
Elihú Ojeda, the spokesman for the Guanajuato State Attorney General’s Office, was found dead on the free highway to Celaya on August 27 after a week of being missing. Tomás Charles Ortiz, delegate of the Reynosa State Police, was assassinated on October 31 in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas; Ernesto Gallardo Grande, commander of the Citizen Security system of the Union of Peoples and Organizations of the State of Guerrero (UPOEG), in Acapulco, Guerrero, on October 16; Guillermo Pérez Moreno, coordinator of the delegation of the Attorney General’s Office (FGR) in San Luis Potosí, on August 20; Edmos Sánchez Lizárraga, intelligence chief of the Baja California State Security and Investigation Guard, on July 29 at a shopping center in Ensenada and Martín Domínguez Santiago,
At least 489 police officers have been killed in the country from January to November 30, that is, in Mexico, they kill 1.45 police officers every day, according to the civil organization Causa Común.
The entities that concentrate the largest number of assassinated agents, according to the association, are Guanajuato (81), State of Mexico (38), Veracruz (38), Guerrero (35), and Chihuahua (33).
The massacres and the discovery of corpses en masse have not stopped, despite the pandemic and even when President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said during the Second Government Report that “in terms of security, organized crime no longer commands as it was before. There are no more torture, disappearances or massacres ”.
A few hours after the national president assured that organized crime was no longer in command in the country and there were no massacres, an armed group attacked those attending a wake, causing the death of at least six people and leaving 15 injured in the streets of the Colonia Antonio Barona, in Cuernavaca, Morelos.
The president’s statements generated outrage among victims of violence, defenders, and specialists, as they affirmed that both massacres, extrajudicial executions, and forced disappearances persist in the country.
Eleven people were killed in the nightclub ‘La Cabaña del Toro’. The events occurred at dawn on Sunday, September 27, at the nightclub located at the Cortázar exit. Photo: Free Zone.
Massacres, considered as acts in which a group of people who are unarmed or defenseless are killed with treachery and advantage, are not criminalized in the country, so there is no official figure on the number of killings.
However, according to the Common Cause organization, which documented in the report “Gallery of Horror”, the main atrocities recorded in the media during the first ten months of 2020, documented at least 160 cases of massacreS from January to October. The report also indicates that the atrocities included the desecration of corpses, especially in Jalisco (where 237 victims were registered); torture, mainly in Chihuahua (with 89 victims); dismemberment, especially in Guanajuato (with 112 victims); and calcination, particularly in Baja California (with 63 victims).
COVID-19 forced organized crime to diversify its activities, not only to have new income but to maintain territorial monopolies and gain control of the local population, according to specialists in security and criminal policy.
Images of men armed with assault rifles while delivering boxes with food or in front of them, as well as various videos of calls for supply, also circulated continuously on social networks to expose the actions of these groups in the country. Meanwhile, national media also revealed in April and May the offer of loans to merchants in Mexico City as part of the activities of criminal cells during the pandemic.
Dr. Sandra Ley, a research professor at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE), explained that the distribution of pantries and monetary loans are elements included in the activities of organized crime in a forced diversification in the face of the pandemic; These actions are part of the phenomenon called Criminal Governance.
“This is how we see that different actors in the social, economic, and political fields have had to consider new survival strategies, the same is happening with organized crime groups,” said the academic in one of the interviews conducted by SinEmbargo.
This situation, he added, makes clear the reality where crime has “non-violent” tools at its disposal to strengthen and to generate loyalty and discipline at the local level.
Federal authorities located in May at least 11 states where food was distributed by six different drug cartels: Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel, Gente Nueva de Parral (linked to Sinaloa), Gulf Cartel, Los Zetas, Los Viagras and The Michoacan Family.
Dozens of hooded men, with tactical equipment, bulletproof vests, high-powered weapons (assault rifles, grenade launchers, barrets, and even bazookas) and armored trucks equipped with turrets, hatches, and pivots for machine guns, are part of the military paraphernalia that is It is shown in various videos broadcast throughout the year by the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG), which impacted and became viral due to the scope of the weapons displayed.
A video released on July 17, where the alleged elite force of the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG) shows its “loyalty” to its leader “El Mencho”, allegedly related to the criminal leader’s birthday, caused that three days later the Federal authorities, such as the head of the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena), General Luis Cresencio Sandoval, and the former secretary of Security and Citizen Protection, Alfonso Durazo issued a report. Such video impacted the population that even some citizens parodied the images.
The alleged members of the CJNG show their arsenal in videos to demonstrate their power. Photo: Screenshot.
The videos of the drug cartels, with an increasing level of production and frequency, showed that criminal organizations have gained ground in territorial control and in the field of communication, according to experts.
Edgar Guerra Blanco, a research professor of the Drug Policy Program of the Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE) and Doctor Arturo Alvarado Mendoza, sociologist specialized in crime and organized crime at El Colegio de México (Colmex), in previous interviews with this writing, recalled that the use of videos by criminal organizations to flaunt their lethal force, their weapons capacity, financial and organizational power is not something new.
Doctor Arturo Alvarado explained that they are part of a propaganda strategy, but not the only one. Other forms are blankets and the use of bodies as a form of pedagogical expression of the violence that they can exert on people.
The specialists warned that it is necessary for the governments, both Federal and state, to carry out a serious and clear analysis of what happens behind the videos and to act on the effect they have on the population and on the violation of laws.
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