What’s Behind Rising Violence in Colima?: A Brief Look at 2016’s Most Violence Mexican State

expert I (2)The Expert Take, By Eric L. Olson & Gina Hinojosa

May 2017 was Mexico’s deadliest month on record.[1] 2,200 people were reportedly murdered nationwide that month, bringing the country’s death toll to nearly 10,000 since the beginning of the year. If the violence continues at this pace, 2017 will become Mexico’s most murderous year since the federal government began releasing homicide data in 1997, surpassing its previous annual homicide record of 23,000 murders in 2011.

Mexico has struggled with elevated violence for over a decade since the government launched an aggressive campaign against the country’s drug cartels in 2007. Deploying federal troops to communities particularly affected by drug violence has done little to stem criminal organizations’ drug trafficking operations[2] or curb violent crime. In fact, by 2011, Mexico’s murder rate had more than doubled, and while homicides declined moderately between 2012 and 2014, violence picked up once more in 2015 and has continued to rise since (see Figure 1).

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VIDEO & ARTICLE | Rethinking U.S.-Mexico Security Strategy

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“And so we have an initiative underway where the senior members of the Mexican Government will be coming up here on May the 18th to participate in an interagency process with us to see if we can get at transnational organized crime and begin to break these organized crime units up.“  Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson speech to Department of State employees, May 3, 2017. 

U.S. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson’s maiden speech before U.S. Department of State employees on May 3rd forms the backdrop for an important meeting he will host with his Mexican counterpart today.  It will be an opportunity to redefine U.S.-Mexico security cooperation for the foreseeable future.  The question is whether that opportunity will be used to define new and effective ways to address the vexing problem of organized crime, corruption, and extreme violence, or whether it will simply result in a doubling down on what has already been tried and mostly failed.  In other words, will the new plan look a lot like the old plan with both sides simply trying harder?

Secretary Tillerson’s words are reassuring in part because they signal a willingness to work together with Mexico to address serious problems of insecurity.   It goes without saying that nothing is more important to the immediate safety and security of the United States than its relationship with its neighbor Mexico.  But the President’s own statements about Mexico, Mexicans, and their security forces during the campaign and after his election raised concerns that he might undermine decades of work to reduce tensions between the two countries and to address common security threats through a framework of “shared responsibility.”

But cooperation is not an end in itself, but a means to an end and what must be examined is whether the strategy being pursued is appropriate.  The Secretary’s suggestion that the focus of security cooperation should be “transnational organized crime and (to) begin to break these organized crime units (OCU) up,” raises significant questions.

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VIDEO & OP-ED | America & Mexico to Tackle Increasing Drug Violence

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Secretary of State Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary Kelly meet their Mexican counterparts on May 18 to discuss the fight against organized crime and drug smuggling. This is a positive sign in a relationship that has been shaken by U.S. criticisms this year. Both countries need good—and better—cooperation against drugs and cartels. The United States is suffering an epidemic of opioid overdoses fueled by the abuse of prescription drugs and heroin and synthetic opioids smuggled from Mexico. Mexico is suffering a surge in homicides fueled in part by the criminal gangs that feed U.S. drug demand and reap billions of dollars in profits.

Mexico and the United States have improved cooperation. However, that progress has not been sufficient to stem the smuggling of deadly drugs or the drug-related violence in Mexico. More progress will require higher levels of trust, commitment and investment by the two governments, and creative thinking to find better ways to address illegal drug use and flows.

Launching a reinvigorated effort against international criminal groups will also depend on the state of U.S.-Mexico relations and, specifically, if the governments find a way to work for mutually acceptable outcomes on two other important topics: trade (NAFTA) and migration. It is hard to imagine that the two governments can forge the confidence needed to reach a new level of collaboration against criminal networks without bilateral relations moving beyond the recent high-profile tensions. Mexican domestic politics, for one, won’t allow it.

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Mexico’s war on drugs: what has it achieved and how is the US involved?

12/8/2016 The Guardian 

drug warWhy did Mexico launch its war on drugs?

On 10 December 2006, the newly inaugurated president, Felipe Calderón, launched Mexico’s war on drugs by sending 6,500 troops into his home state of Michoacán, where rival cartels were engaged in tit-for-tat massacres as they battled over lucrative territory. The surge in violence had started in 2005, and a string of police and military operations by his predecessor Vicente Fox had failed to stem the bloodshed.

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Drug tunnel equipped with lights, ventilation discovered at US-Mexico border

10/26/16 Reuters

Sarajevo_tunnel_3.jpgA long cross-border drug tunnel has been discovered running beneath Mexico towards the US. Starting at a house, the tunnel was well equipped for transiting loads of drugs which were allegedly bound for buyers in America. The tunnel was found 23 feet (7 meters) underground, according to Mexican prosecutors. It measured nine feet (3 meters) wide and four feet (1.2 meters) tall, and was 1,689 feet (514 meters) long. It was equipped with ventilation and lighting, and had rails for pushing packages of drugs through the passageway.

It began at a house in Tijuana, Mexico, where prosecutors found more than “two metric tons of marijuana,” AP reported. Prosecutors originally estimated that five tons of marijuana could be inside the house, but were unable to enter the premises without court permission.

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Hundreds rescued from drug rehab center in western Mexico

5/19/16 CNN

Jalisco_in_Mexico_(location_map_scheme).svg(CNN)Hundreds of children, women and men who had been living at an overcrowded drug rehabilitation shelter in western Mexico were rescued in a police operation carried out Tuesday night, according to authorities.

Police found 271 people at the shelter, called “Spiritual Awakening, Alcoholics and Drug Addicts of the West,” in the city of Tonalá in the western state of Jalisco. The alleged victims were living in what authorities described as “inhumane conditions.” Police found 68 women, 91 men and 112 minors crammed into the facility.
“We’re still in the process of completing the operation. We found very serious conditions of overcrowding. We also found that people were being fed in a subhuman and inappropriate way,” Jalisco State’s Attorney Jesús Eduardo Almaguer said in a statement.
Almaguer said his office was alerted to the problem after a complaint from a woman who says she was beaten and kept from leaving the facility until she paid 1,500 Mexican pesos (U.S. $81.83) after she went there to visit a patient.

Drug-Smuggling Tunnel, Found in San Diego, Is Longest Yet

4/21/2016 The New York Times

For all the talk about a wall between the United States and Mexico, the problem with border security continues to be as much below ground as above. On Wednesday, officials in San Diego announced the discovery of another cross-border tunnel built by drug smugglers — the longest one found yet, at about half a mile.

The tunnel had rails, lighting, ventilation and even a large elevator leading to a closet in a modest house in Tijuana, United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy said. On the San Diego side, where the tunnel emerged in an industrial park in the Otay Mesa neighborhood, the authorities arrested and charged six people last week and confiscated more than a ton of cocaine and seven tons of marijuana that they said had been smuggled through the passage — the largest drug seizure associated with a tunnel….

[…]“A package of cocaine or heroin is much easier to move and hide than a person, and the profit it represents is far greater,” said Christopher Wilson, deputy director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a policy research group. “Working with terrorists would bring a huge amount heat on the cartels, and that’s bad for business.”

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