• Connect with us on Linkedin

The New Heart of Mexico's Violence: Torreon

Christ statue in Torreon, Mexico Christ statue in Torreon, Mexico

A new article examines the dilemmas stemming from the recent increase in violence in Torreon, a northern Mexico city emblematic of the nation's struggles.

Linkedin
Google +

As reported by Reuters, Torreon, once a beacon of peace and development in Mexico's blood-soiled north, is now second only to Acapulco in its annual murder rate. The metropolitan region known as La Laguna -- which spans Torreon and Matamoros in the state of Coahuila, as well as Gomez Palacio and Lerdo in Durango -- suffered 830 murders through the first nine months of 2012, according to newspaper reports. Torreon, the largest of the cities in La Laguna, had been the site of 606 murders this year as of October 10.

[See InSight Crime's coverage of Mexico]

The reason for the increase in violence is simple: the arrival of the Zetas in 2007, after years of the local drug trade having been controlled by more subdued capos from Sinaloa. As detailed in "Cronicas de Sangre," by Ricardo Ravelo, and numerous other sources, upon their arrival, the Zetas attacked the Sinaloa-backed boss who had controlled the region, and embarked on a campaign of intimidation of local business and political leaders. The intervening years have brought to the region some of the worst manifestations of Mexican criminal violence: decapitations, mass killings, attacks on government officials, and accusations of police infiltration.

[See InSight Crime's Zetas Profile]

As a result of the Zetas operations in Torreon, crimes like extortion, kidnapping, and carjacking also skyrocketed, as the new gang used activities beyond drug trafficking to supplement their income. Furthermore, the local rivals of the Zetas did not disappear from the scene. For the most part, they merely retrenched on the other side of the dried riverbed of the Rio Nazas, in neighboring Gomez Palacio. The existence of two rival territories bordering one another inevitably served as a motor of violent activities.

The Reuters piece describes the current situation as one in which the election in 2010 of Eduardo Olmos, a mayor bent on attacking the Zetas, has served as the primary driver of Torreon's violence. What's more, the sudden spike in violence has boosted support for a "pact" with the criminals.

The idea of a pact is a significant oversimplification and is largely contradicted by the reporting within in the piece. The most obvious issue is that no one quoted in the piece voices support for a pact with the narcos. The article has quotes from politicians and businessmen musing on the potential of a narco-pact, and cites an unspecified poll from Chihuahua in favor of such a truce. However, with one partial exception, no one quoted in the article, much less a representative sample of the population, advocated a truce. As the author points out, large majorities have rejected a truce time and again across Mexico. Modern Torreon seems to be no different, despite its unusually high levels of violence.

Furthermore, the metropolitan area's decline began long before Olmos' arrival to Torreon's city hall. As mentioned above, the group arrived in 2007, and murder rates began to jump shortly thereafter. According to Inegi, Mexico's statistical agency, the number of murders in Torreon more than tripled from 2007 to 2008, the first full year after the Zetas' arrival, from 26 to 91 killings. This represents the biggest jump in violence in the city’s recent history.

The Zetas also aren't the only traffickers subjecting the city to acts of terror. As mentioned above, the Zetas' enemies have continued to operate across the river on the Durango side of La Laguna, and these groups were behind the series of machine-gun attacks on customers in bars during the first months of 2010, among the most blatant recent examples of terrorist-style acts involving Mexican organized crime.

In short, the article describes the situation as one in which the honest citizens of Torreon suddenly face a stark choice between an unholy peace and an unacceptably violent struggle. The reality, of course, is far more complicated.

The Reuters piece does, however, demonstrate something very important about the nature of Mexican violence: it is no longer a simple issue of drug trafficking groups warring with one another. According to officials quoted in Torreon, the Zetas have suffered a series of significant blows in recent months, and have been virtually cleared from the city. Even allowing for some official exaggeration, what is striking is that in a context where the Zetas are gravely weakened, Torreon remains increasingly violent.

The rise in violence despite the Zetas' decline suggests that local criminals -- whether taking advantage of the widespread lawlessness with a more aggressive approach to petty crime or merely filling the vacuum in drug trafficking by the weakened Zetas -- are making up the difference. It also means that an improvement to life in Torreon is much more complicated than removing one gang from stage.

Linkedin
Google +

---

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We also encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, provided that it is attributed to InSight Crime in the byline, with a link to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

InSight Crime Search

The Complete Organized Crime Database on the Americas

InSight Crime Social

facebooktwittergooglelinkedin

InSight Crime Special Series

The Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

Los Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

After the capture of Zetas boss "Z40," Nuevo Laredo is bracing itself for the worst. This investigation breaks down what makes the city such an important trafficking corridor, and what it will take for the Zetas to maintain their grip on the city.

See entire series »

 

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill

Uruguay: Marijuana, Organized Crime and the Politics of Drugs

Uruguay is poised to become the first country on the planet to regulate the production, sale, and distribution of the drug.

See entire series »

El Salvador's Gang Truce

El Salvador's Gang Truce

The truce between El Salvador's two largest gangs -- the MS-13 and the Barrio 18 -- opens up new possibilities in how to deal with

See entire series »

Juarez After The War

Juarez After The War

As a bitter war between rival cartels grinds to an end, Ciudad Juarez has lost the title of world murder capital, and is moving towards something more like normality.

See entire series »

The Zetas And The Battle For Monterrey

The Zetas and the Battle for Monterrey

InSight Crime delves into the Zetas' battle for Mexico’s industrial capital, Monterrey, getting to the essence of a criminal gang that defies easy definition.

See entire series »

Slavery in Latin America

Slavery in Latin America

InSight Crime coordinated an investigation into modern slavery, looking at how Latin America’s criminal groups traffic human beings and force them to work as slaves.

See entire series »

FARC, Peace and Criminalization

FARC, Peace and Possible Criminalization

The possibility of ending nearly 50 years of civil conflict is being dangled before Colombia. While the vast majority of the Colombian public want to see peace, the enemies of the negotiations appear to be strong, and the risks inherent in the process are high.

See entire series »

Displacement in Latin America

Displacement in Latin America

InSight Crime coordinated an investigation into the new face of displacement in Latin America, where organized criminal groups are expanding and forcing people to flee.

See entire series »

Target: Migrants

Target: Migrants

The growth of organized crime in Mexico and Central America has led to an increase in violence and insecurity across the region, posing challenges to citizens, public security forces, and travelers.

See entire series »

Zetas in Guatemala

The Zetas in Guatemala

Mexico's Zetas have taken Guatemala by storm, and they are testing this country and the rest of the region: fail this test, and Central America sinks deeper into the abyss.

See entire series »

Most Read

Canada Drug Trafficking Groups Expanding Mexico Ties

Canada Drug Trafficking Groups Expanding Mexico Ties

After a spate of killings targeting Canadian drug traffickers in Mexico, there have been several indications that some of Canada's criminal groups have now stabilized their drug supply chain and expanded operations, even increasing cocaine...

Read more

Colombian Carpenter Nearly Extradited to U.S. By Mistake

Colombian Carpenter Nearly Extradited to U.S. By Mistake

A carpenter in Colombia has been released from prison after being wrongly accused of running a money laundering operation, a case that highlights issues in the way the United States and Colombia handle extradition cases...

Read more

'Italian Mafia Leader' Nabbed in Argentina

'Italian Mafia Leader' Nabbed in Argentina

Authorities in Argentina have confirmed the recent arrest of an alleged high-level member of the 'Ndrangheta mafia wanted in Italy for attempted murder, but it is unclear whether he was there for business or was...

Read more

Latest Criminal Profile