Mexico’s powerful Jalisco cartel is hunting down and killing members of an elite police force in their homes

Mexico oil refinery sign Salamanca Guanajuato
A sign at Mexican national oil company Pemex’s refinery in Salamanca, in Guanajuato state, September 19, 2017.

  • The Jalisco New Generation Cartel is targeting and killing police officers at their homes in Mexico’s most violent state.
  • The cartel has declared war on the Guanajuato state police’s elite Tactical Group, which it says treats its members unfairly.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) is targeting and killing police officers at their homes in Guanajuato, Mexico’s most violent state and the most dangerous for police.

According to a report by the Associated Press (AP), the cartel abducted several members of an elite police force in Guanajuato and tortured them to obtain names and addresses of other officers.

Now CJNG members are showing up at officers’ homes on their days off and murdering them in front of their families, the news agency said.

According to Poplab, a news cooperative in Guanajuato, at least seven officers have been murdered on their days off in 2021.

AP said the offensive against the state police officers – members of a force known as the Tactical Group – poses “the most direct challenge yet” to President López Obrador’s so-called “hugs, not bullets” policy, which is characterized by the desire to avoid conflict with cartels and instead focus on addressing the root causes of crime through government welfare and social programs.

However, the CJNG – generally considered Mexico’s most powerful and violent criminal organization – doesn’t share the desire to avoid conflict, having declared war on the Tactical Group, which it says has treated its members unfairly.

Mexico Guanajuato police
Police stand guard behind sandbags at the entrance to Santa Rosa de Lima, birthplace of a local cartel that goes by the same name, in Guanajuato state, Mexico, February 12, 2020.

“If you want war, you’ll get a war. We have already shown that we know where you are. We are coming for all of you,” read a professionally printed CJNG banner that was hung on a building in Guanajuato this month.

“For each member of [the CJNG] that you arrest, we are going to kill two of your Tacticals, wherever they are, at their homes, in their patrol vehicles,” the banner said.

AP said that officials in Guanajuato – where the CJNG is engaged in a turf war with the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel and other local gangs supported by the Sinaloa Cartel – refused to comment on how many members of the Tactical Group have been killed.

State police did, however, publicly acknowledge the latest case in which an officer was kidnapped from his home last Thursday and killed. His body was dumped on a highway.

Without offering an exact figure, Guanajuato-based security analyst David Saucedo said there have been many cases of cartel violence against police.

“A lot of them [the elite police officers] have decided to desert. They took their families, abandoned their homes and they are fleeing and in hiding,” he told AP. “The CJNG is hunting the elite police force of Guanajuato. … This is an open war against the security forces of the state government.”

Cartel gunmen went to the home of a policewoman in January, where they kidnapped her and killed her husband. The female officer was subsequently tortured and shot dead.

Tactical Group officers are among the 262 police who have been killed in Guanajuato between 2018 and May 12. According to Poplab, more police have been killed in Guanajuato than in any other state since at least 2018.

The average since that year of about 75 killings of police per year in Guanajuato is higher than the annual average of officers killed in the entire United States, which has a population 50 times that of the Bajío region state.

Violence against police in Guanajuato, Mexico’s worst state for homicides in recent years, has become so bad that the state government published a special decree on May 17 in which it pledged to provide an unspecified amount of funding for mechanisms to protect police and prison officials.

Mexico Guanajuato police
A policeman drives past town hall in Apaseo El Alto, Guanajuato state, February 10, 2020.

“Unfortunately, organized crime groups have shown up at the homes of police officers, which poses a threat and a greater risk of loss of life, not just for them, but for members of their families,” said the decree issued by Gov. Diego Sinhue.

“They have been forced to quickly leave their homes and move so that organized crime groups cannot find them.”

AP said that state officials refused to describe the protection measures offered to police. They also declined to comment on whether officers would receive financial assistance to rent new homes or whether there were plans to build secure housing compounds for police and their families.

Federal security forces are deployed in Guanajuato but have failed to stem the violence or put any significant dent in criminal activity.

The federal government argues that its “hugs, not bullets” approach to security will result in a reduction in violence, but 2 1/2 years after it took office, homicide numbers remain extremely high, declining just 0.4% in 2020 from the record set in 2019 despite the coronavirus pandemic and the deployment of almost 100,000 National Guard troops.

Despite a campaign promise to withdraw the military from the nation’s streets, López Obrador has continued to use the armed forces for public security tasks but given them a clear directive to avoid direct confrontations with cartels wherever possible.

Former United States ambassador to Mexico Christopher Landau said last month that the president sees combating cartels as a distraction from his political agenda and has adopted a laissez-faire attitude toward them.

“He sees the cartels … as a distraction from focusing on his agenda. So he has basically adopted a pretty laissez-faire attitude towards them, which is troubling to our government, obviously. I think it’s a big problem for Mexico,” he said.

Source: AP (en), Infobae (sp)

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Mexico still has the most violent cities in the world, but new hotspots are emerging

Mexico Guerrero homicide crime scene
People and soldiers at the scene of a homicide in Chilpancingo, in Mexico’s Guerrero state, November 15, 2017.

  • For the fourth consecutive year, Mexico has dominated a list of the most violent cities in the world.
  • But smaller towns have risen in the rankings, reflecting new hotspots where criminal groups are fighting for control.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

For the fourth consecutive year, Mexico has dominated a list of the most violent cities in the world but smaller towns have shot up the rankings, reflecting new hotspots where criminal groups are fighting for control.

The most violent place in the world in 2020 was Celaya, a city of around half a million people in the central state of Guanajuato, according to the report by a Mexican non-governmental organization, the Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice (Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Pública y la Justicia Penal).

The Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel and the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG) have been battling around Celaya over control of oil theft, drug trafficking and other criminal economies,

A few years ago, Celaya wasn’t even on the list. But since 2018, it has shot up more than thirty places, with 699 killings in 2020, or a homicide rate of over 109 per 100,000 habitants.

The situation is similar in nearby Irapuato, also in Guanajuato, which has gone from newcomer to fifth-most violent city in the world, with 823 homicides last year.

Located only a few hours away from Celaya and Irapuato, the city of Uruapan has climbed to eighth in the rankings, with a homicide rate over 72 per 100,000 habitants. It is the deadliest place in the state of Michoacán, which has seen regular clashes between the CJNG and about a dozen other criminal factions, all seeking control of key cocaine and fentanyl trafficking routes.

And the city of Zacatecas, in central Mexico, only appeared on the list in 2019 but broke into the top 15 most violent cities in 2020. This coincided with the CJNG invading 17 municipalities in Zacatecas state in April 2020, during the country’s first lockdown and clashing with the Sinaloa Cartel and other groups throughout the year.

Latin American and Caribbean cities made up the overwhelming majority of the list, claiming 46 of 50 spots. But notably, some of the most murderous cities of past years, such as Kingston, Jamaica or Caracas, Venezuela, have dropped below smaller Mexican newcomers.

InSight Crime analysis

Guadalajara Mexico crime scene homicide murder
Forensic technicians at the scene of a homicide on the outskirts of Guadalajara, Mexico, January 10, 2018.

Bloodshed in Mexico has reached such a level that continued outbreaks of violence in individual, medium-sized cities can register on a global scale, due to larger cartels with a national presence facing smaller but entrenched adversaries.

In August 2019, InSight Crime reported that Irapuato, an important industrial and trade center in central Mexico, had become an unfortunate model for similar cities in the country. At the time, clashes between the CJNG and the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel had already been raging since 2018.

Despite the arrest of Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel leader, José Antonio Yépez Ortiz, alias “El Marro,” in August 2020, shocking acts of violence have not stopped.

The fighting is brutal but fragmented, having broken down into neighborhood- and street-level feuds that appear endless.

With the fall of Yépez Ortiz, his group began to internally fracture, with smaller groups claiming pieces of the illicit oil economy, leading to additional violence at the same time that the government was executing a plan to militarize the area.

Uruapan tells a different story as the climb in homicides there has been more sudden. While located in the western state of Michoacán, which has consistently been a patchwork of rival clans, Uruapan saw violence spike in late 2019 when the CJNG moved in and faced off against Cárteles Unidos.

The latter is an alliance between members of Los Viagras and Cartel del Abuelo, two Michoacán-based groups, who have teamed up to defend their control of drug trafficking routes.

Similarly, Zacatecas had actually seen homicides drop by 9% in 2019 before they spiked again in 2020 after the CJNG moved in.

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