MEXICO CITY – The notoriously violent Jalisco cartel has responded to Mexico’s “hugs, not bullets” policy with a policy of its own.
The cartel kidnapped several members of an elite police force in Guanajuato state, tortured them to obtain the names and addresses of fellow police officers, and are now pursuing and killing police officers at 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-prone Central American countries and is the most direct challenge to President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s policy 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 get war. We’ve already shown that we know where you are. We’re coming for all of you,” read a professionally printed banner signed by the cartel and hung in May on a building in Guanajuato.
“For every member of our society (CJNG) you arrest, we will kill two of your tactics, wherever they are, in their homes, in their patrol vehicles,” the banner said, referring to the cartel by its initials. Spanish. .
Officials in Guanajuato – Mexico’s most violent state, where Jalisco fights local gangs backed by the rival Sinaloa cartel – declined to comment on how many members of the elite group were murdered.
But state police have publicly acknowledged the latest case, that of an officer who was kidnapped from his home on Thursday and killed after his body was 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, an information cooperative in Guanajuato, said at least seven police officers have been killed on their days off so far this year. In January, gunmen came to a policewoman’s home, killed her husband, dragged her, tortured her and threw her body riddled with bullets.
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 officers were killed, an average of about 75 officers each year – more than the number of people killed by gunshots or other assaults on average each year in the entire United States. , which is 50 times that of Guanajuato. population.
The problem became 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 criminal groups have shown up at the homes of police officers, posing a threat and increased risk of death, not only for them, but for members of their families,” the decree said. “They were forced to quickly leave their homes and move, so that organized crime groups could not find them.”
State officials declined to describe the protective measures, or comment on 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 said.
Lopez 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 in late 2018, he has avoided openly confronting the cartels and even released a capo to avoid bloodshed, saying he preferred a long-term policy of tackling social issues. such as youth unemployment which contributes to gang membership.
But former US Ambassador Christopher Landau said in April that Lopez Obrador viewed the fight against the drug cartels “as a distraction … So he basically adopted a program of a rather laissez-faire attitude towards them, which is quite troubling for our government, obviously. “