In Mexico, cartels hunt down the police at home

MEXICO – The notoriously violent Jalisco Cartel responded to Mexico’s policy of “hugs, not bullets” with its own policy: the cartel kidnapped several members of an elite police force in the state of Guanajuato, tortured them to obtain the names and addresses of colleagues, and he now hunts and kills police in their homes, on their days off, in front of their families.

This is a type of direct attack on officers rarely seen outside of the most gang-affected Central American countries and poses the most direct challenge to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s politics to date. of avoiding violence and rejecting any war against cartels.

But the cartel has already declared war on the government, in a bid to eradicate an elite state force known as the Tactical Group that the gang accuses of treating its members unfairly.

“If you want war, you will have a war. We’ve already shown that we know where you are. We are coming for all of you, ”read a professionally printed banner signed by the cartel and hung on a building in Guanajuato in May.

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“For every member of our cabinet (CJNG) that you arrest, we will kill two of your tactics, wherever they are, in their homes, in their patrol vehicles,” the banner read, referring to the cartel by its Spanish initials. .

Officials in Guanajuato – Mexico’s most violent state, where Jalisco fights local gangs backed by rival Sinaloa cartel – declined to comment on how many members of the elite group have been murdered so far.

But state police have publicly acknowledged the latest case, an officer who was kidnapped from his home Thursday, killed and his body dumped on a highway.

Guanajuato-based security analyst David Saucedo said there had been numerous cases.

“Many of them (officers) have decided to desert. They have taken their families, abandoned their homes and they are fleeing and hiding, ”Saucedo said. “The CJNG is chasing the elite police force out of Guanajuato.”

The death toll is hard to find, but Poplab, a Guanajuato press cooperative, said at least seven police officers have been killed on their days off so far this year. In January, armed men came to the home of a state policewoman, killed her husband, dragged her, tortured her and threw her body riddled with bullets.

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Guanajuato has had the highest number of police officers killed of any Mexican state since at least 2018, according to Poplab. Between 2018 and May 12, a total of 262 police officers were killed, an average of around 75 police officers each year – more than those killed by gunfire or other assaults on average each year across all United States, which has 50 times the population of Guanajuato. .

The problem in Guanajuato has grown so serious that the state government issued a special decree on May 17 to provide an unspecified amount of funding for police and prison officer protection mechanisms.

“Unfortunately, organized crime groups have shown up at the homes of the police, posing a threat and increased risk of loss of life, not only for them, but also for members of their families,” according to the decree.

“They were forced to quickly leave their homes and move, so that organized crime groups could not find them,” it read.

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State officials declined to describe protective measures or say whether officers should be paid to rent new homes or whether there are plans to build special, secure housing for them and their families.

“This is open warfare against state government security forces,” Saucedo noted.

López Obrador has campaigned in an attempt to defuse the drug conflict, describing a “hugs, not bullets” approach to tackling the root causes of crime. Since taking office at the end of 2018, he has avoided openly confronting the cartels and even issued a capo to avoid bloodshed, saying he preferred a long-term policy aimed at solving social problems. such as youth unemployment which contributes to gang membership.

But former US Ambassador Christopher Landau said in April that López Obrador viewed the fight against the drug cartels “as a distraction … So he basically adopted an agenda of a rather laissez-faire attitude towards them, which is quite troubling for our government, obviously. ”

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