Politics: The geography of political violence, Part 3

MEXICO - Report 22 Feb 2021 by Guillermo Valdes and Francisco González

As we continue our series documenting how cartels and gangs are stoking all manner of criminal activities throughout the country and the political threat such violence poses to governance in this key election year, we turn our attention to the trends that have led to the pulverization of the once dominant drug cartels in the last decade and the new challenges that fragmentation poses.

The efforts that began under Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) to combat the six drug trafficking cartels that had consolidated enormous financial and political power in the first years of the 20th century, and the intense infighting that ensued, led to a process of fragmentation. From those highly centralized enterprises descended hundreds of highly armed and extremely violent gangs that have diversified their initial focus on drug trafficking into other criminal enterprises such as fuel theft, migrant trafficking and contraband, and above all, extortion and protection rackets, stoking heightened levels of violence throughout the country.

While the demise of the once mighty Tijuana, Gulf, Zetas, Beltrán Leyva and Juárez cartels was a positive development given the control they once exerted over vast territories and state institutions, it was one that has been largely squandered by the failure of successive administrations to follow it up with a profound process of rebuilding and bolstering security and criminal justice institutions at the state and municipal levels. The government of President Peña Nieto never even seriously considered such an option as part of its security policies. Neither has that of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, with the aggravating factor that he immediately proceeded to dismantle the Federal Police and fully militarized public security, abandoning municipal and state civil police forces to their fate.

Amid this fragmentation, two major groups continue to wield enormous violence and political power in the country: the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels. This week we also look at how the frequency of selected crimes has evolved in six states in which gubernatorial races are scheduled this year, and how each ranks and is trending relative to national averages.

Now read on...

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