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14 armed civilians were killed in a gun battle with police on Monday. 14 armed civilians were killed in a gun battle with police on Monday.

Zacatecas a new cartel battleground as ‘dangerous alliances’ form

It's shaping up to be one of the five most violent states in Mexico

The security situation is deteriorating in Zacatecas due to a reorganization of “dangerous alliances” between large drug cartels and smaller criminal organizations, according to the state security minister.

Arturo López Bazán, who has only been in the job for just over a month, told the newspaper El Universal that two competing cartels have begun forming new alliances with smaller groups. The aim of the former is to control more territory while the motivation of the latter is survival, he said.

“All of the violence revolves around organized crime,” López said.

The security minister declined to name the criminal organizations to which he was referring but his predecessor, Ismael Camberos, said earlier this year that the main territorial dispute in Zacatecas was between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and the Sinaloa Cartel.

He also said that the Gulf Cartel, the Northeast Cartel and Los Talibanes operate in different parts of the state. All five criminal groups are involved in the trafficking of fentanyl and other illicit drugs, Camberos said.

He said in February that the CJNG’s involvement in the trafficking and transport of fentanyl and other narcotics is via a pact with the Gulf Cartel.

But López told El Universal that state police have since detected that there has been a reorganization of criminal groups and alliances.

He said the alliances are worsening the security situation in Zacatecas, where 14 armed civilians were killed and three police officers were wounded in a gun battle on Monday.

The situation could deteriorate further if the agreements between criminal groups break down, the minister said, likening the pacts to time bombs.

He added that the location of Zacatecas – it borders six states and the shortest route from some Pacific coast ports to Mexico’s northeast border with the United States passes through it – makes the security situation more complicated.

Governor Alejando Tello said earlier this year that the state’s geography provided both blessings and curses.

“Unfortunately, it places us in a position of great vulnerability,” because the state is on the way to the United States, which is the largest illicit drug consumption market in the world.

Homicides increased 64.1% in the first eight months of the year compared to the same period last year, according to National Public Security System data.

Security analyst Alejandro Hope said in an El Universal column published Wednesday that there were a total of 753 victims of homicide and femicide in Zacatecas between January and August. The figure represents an increase of 89% compared to the same period of 2019, he said.

“If this trend is maintained, the state will end the year with a homicide rate of 77 per 100,000 inhabitants, turning it into one of the five most violent federal entities in the country,” Hope wrote.

The analyst noted that the attack on Monday that left 14 dead was not an isolated incident of violence in Zacatecas. Among the other incidents he cited was the discovery in June of 14 bodies dumped on the side of a highway in Fresnillo.

As to the causes of what he described as a “blood festival,” Hope said it was possible that the arrival of the CJNG in Zacatecas was the “match that lit the fire.”

But there is also a “structural component that is worth exploring,” he wrote.

After noting that Zacatecas has the seventh lowest population density in the country, Hope said the state has large open spaces where the presence of police is “terribly” limited, giving criminal organizations free rein.

He told El Universal that there is an “abandonment of rural areas” by authorities and “almost widespread impunity.”

“In these circumstances, it’s not surprising that local, regional or national criminal groups resolve their differences with gun shots. After all there’s no one to stop it.“

In his column, Hope wrote that a census found there were 2,154 state police and 1,297 municipal police in Zacatecas last year but most were deployed to the state’s main urban centers.

“In this vacuum, the National Guard helps a bit but not so much,” he said, adding that most of its 2,054 members in Zacatecas are also deployed to urban areas. “In municipal areas there is only the presence of the army (if anything),” Hope wrote.

The analyst said that another factor in the worsening security situation is “terrible ineffectiveness” in the delivery of justice.

“According to the organization Cero Impunidad [Zero Impunity], impunity in homicides in Zacatecas was 91% in 2018, [a figure] above the national rate,” Hope wrote.

“As [is the case] in too many states, killing is cheap in Zacatecas. In these circumstances, it’s not surprising that irregular armed groups … commit atrocities without great obstacle. This is concerning for Zacatecas but also [for the country] because it is a microcosm of Mexico. It’s an example that we’re a country with more territory than state [control]. And that we’re doing very little to correct [the situation].”

Source: El Universal (sp) 

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