Violence in Mexico

Violence in Mexico

Escalation of drug-related violence in Mexico

 

Mexico continues to experience high levels of violence as a result of illicit drug trafficking organizations and efforts to counter them. Criminal cartels—which traffic 95 percent of the cocaine consumed in the United States—have killed an estimated sixty thousand Mexican soldiers, police, politicians, and civilians since 2006. Upon taking office in 2012, President Enrique Peña Nieto promised to combat the cartels by improving law enforcement and public safety. Though official statistics show a 12.5% drop in homicides since 2012, Peña Nieto’s claims to success are tempered by an increase in kidnappings and extortion cases.

Early 2014 saw the arrests of several major cartel leaders, including most-wanted kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. The United States has recently expanded military cooperation with Mexican armed forces, building upon the Merida Initiative partnership to battle organized crime. Still, Mexican law enforcement and criminal justice institutions remain deeply corrupt, leaving Mexico vulnerable to increased violence and the expansion of cartel-controlled areas. Vigilante autodefensas, or illegal self-defense groups originating in rural areas, have attempted to compensate for ineffective local police forces, but some are concerned that these groups could become predatory forces themselves.

A deeply embattled Mexican state could undermine U.S. efforts to halt the flow of Mexican migrants and contraband across the border. Moreover, the expansion of Mexican criminal networks into Central America and the Caribbean poses a grave threat to the already fragile region.

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    • Shannon K. O'Neil

      Senior Fellow for Latin American Studies

    • Julia E. Sweig

      Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies and Director for Latin America Studies