Mexico's wave of violence in the midst of the pandemic

The violent death of a judge last week and the attempted assassination of Mexico City's police chief this Friday are evidence of the inability to curb organized crime
A Mexican Army soldier guards the crime scene after the attempted murder of Mexico City police chief Omar Garcia Harfuch

REUTERS/LUIS CORTES  -   A Mexican Army soldier guards the crime scene after the attempted murder of Mexico City police chief Omar Garcia Harfuch

Not even the pandemic has managed to stop the escalation of violence in Mexico. Last week, federal judge Uriel Villegas, who had resigned the escort accompanying him for several years, was murdered outside his home in Colima. But the biggest blow came this Friday. An organized crime commander from Jalisco armed with military weapons tried to assassinate Mexico City police chief Omar Garcia Harfuch. Two security guards were killed during the attack. This type of attack, in the heart of the capital and in one of the most affluent neighborhoods, is a new challenge for the Mexican state.  

The 38-year-old police chief was shot in the shoulder, collarbone and knee during the attack, although he is out of danger and has pledged to keep working. "Until recently, many denied that big drug cartels operate in Mexico City, and it's just not true," security expert Erubiel Tirado told Reuters. Up to 20 suspects have been arrested in the attack, including the alleged perpetrator.  

Jefe de Policía
AFP/YURI CORTEZ - Mexico City Police Chief Omar Hamid Garcia Harfuch

The attack took place on Paseo de la Reforma. Security camera footage showed the heavily armed and hooded hitmen getting out of a truck after blocking the street and firing hundreds of shots at Garcia Harfuch's armoured truck. Analysts have described the coup as a sign of the advance of the drug gangs in the Mexican capital. The Jalisco cartel is considered the strongest criminal group in Mexico, along with the Sinaloa cartel, which was led by Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán. The cartel has successfully infiltrated poorly paid and ill-trained police departments nationwide to cover up the trail of its crimes.  

While the above-mentioned crimes have been the most widely reported, in recent weeks organized crime has also killed a candidate for governor of Tamaulipas and a former prosecutor was ambushed outside a restaurant in Guadalajara. After two years of Andrés Manuel López Obrador's mandate, violence continues to be a scourge for Mexicans, despite the current president's promises to put an end to it. López Obrador has not only failed to contain the number of homicides, but it has increased. 2019 was a record year for homicides since they began to be counted in 1997. In 2020, there have been 5% more violent deaths up to May. In March, despite the restrictions of the pandemic, another record was set: 2,585 murders in a single month.  

Andrés Manuel López Obrador
REUTERS/HENRY ROMERO - Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador gives a press conference at the National Palace in Mexico City

López Obrador stated on Saturday that his government will not make a deal with crime or allow itself to be intimidated. The president has assured they will try to prevent further attacks like the one on the Mexico City police chief.  “We are not going to make any agreement with organized crime, as it was before; there is a border, there is a limit, a painted line,” the president said in a message posted on his social network account. 

Unlike his predecessors, López Obrador has sought a new approach to tackling violence. He has identified poverty and youth unemployment as the catalyst for crime and has launched major investment in social spending. The current crime wave is likely to put more pressure on the president and force him to change course in his fight against violence. Security expert Erubiel Tirado believes that militarization will be the state's response, although he believes that this will not prevent the Jalisco cartel from continuing to grow stronger and to engage in further deadly shootings, he told Reuters.