Mexico two years after the election: helpless against fear and terror

“Hugs instead of shots” – with this slogan, Mexico’s President Obrador won the election. Two years later, he surrendered to the cartels’ terror – March was the bloodiest month since he took office.

By Anne Demmer, ARD Mexico City Office

It was late in the morning, early in the morning, when heavily armed members of the Jalisco Nueva Generación cartel opened fire on the security chief’s car in Mexico City. The course of the attack can be seen on a surveillance video. The cartel had reached 28 men.

In Lomas de Chapultepec, a wealthy neighborhood where many embassy staff live, they blocked the street and sifted Omar García Harfuch’s car with ammunition. The security chief was hit by three bullets, but survived. Two of his bodyguards and a passerby died.

Since Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office, this form of massive intimidation of the state by organized crime has increased, says director of the Mexican non-governmental organization “Mexico – United Against Crime”, Lisa Sánchez. The situation is escalating. Police officers would be murdered.

“Last month a federal judge was murdered in Colima and now we had the Mexico City security chief assassinated. Of course, this is a further increase in violence that serves to intimidate the state. This threat is not only directed at the state, but to all Mexicans. It’s very clear that some criminal organizations want to use this message to demonstrate their power. “

Despite these massive attacks, the Mexican President himself, as so often, finds only cautious words.

“We are not cowards. We will achieve peace with justice, with an upright attitude. I call on everyone to behave properly – for a better society.”

López Obrador was elected Mexican President two years ago. “Abrazos, no balazos – hugs instead of shots”, this was the motto he had taken office for. He did not keep that promise.

On the contrary. The government has now lost control of entire regions of the country – for example in Guerrero, Michoacán, Veracruz. With 3,000 murders, March of this year was the bloodiest month since taking office.

Curb crime with social measures

“The Mexican president wants to curb crime with social measures and prevention programs,” explains Falko Ernst, Mexico expert at the International Crisis Group. However, the Mexican president lacks a coherent strategy. Just like his predecessors Enrique Pena Nieto and Felipe Calderón, he also relied on the military with the newly founded Guardia Nacional – the National Guard.

In addition, criminal groups have expanded their fields of activity – in addition to drug trafficking, they also focus on human trafficking, extortion of protection money, and theft of petrol. The structures of the cartels have become more confusing.

In 2006 there were six large cartels, but according to the International Crisis Group there are now 198 criminal groups that are active in Mexico and primarily focus on local markets. That is why it is important to focus on the most affected regions in order to curb violence, says Ernst.

A mammoth task. However, with the economic crisis threatened by the pandemic, the cartels that promise quick money are only becoming more attractive for young people.


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