Mexico City's urban sprawl offers lucrative criminal opportunities

Officials in Mexico say four cartels are battling for the state of Mexico, spurring violence on the outskirts of the national capital as they seek control of lucrative drug markets and other criminal activities.

State of Mexico attorney Miguel Angel Contreras and Citizen Security Secretary Salvador Neme Sastre said the presence of operatives from La Familia Michoacana, the Knights Templar, the Zetas, and the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG) had been documented in the state, which encompasses a large portion of the suburbs of Mexico City, reported El Siglo de Torreon.

According to the officials, La Familia Michoacana maintains control of extortion, kidnappings, and drug dealing in zones to the west and east, and in the Valle de Toluca to the northwest. The Knights Templar reportedly controls parts of the state's southern territory up to the border areas with Michoacan. The Zetas and CJNG are distributed in sections of Valle de Toluca and the neighboring Valle de Mexico.

Karim Carvallo Delfin, mayor of the Mexico state town of Cuautitlan Izcalli, said national cartels were fighting one another as they entered the area hoping to align with local drug trafficking groups. As a result, violence in the state has escalated, with around 100 execution style killings in the first two months of 2014 and 15 murders on February 28 alone, reported El Siglo de Torreon.

InSight Crime Analysis

While Mexico City and its suburbs have largely been spared the high levels of violence witnessed during the country's battles with drug cartels over the past decade, rising violence in the state of Mexico over the last year has led to concerns the capital may be losing its relative immunity from the nation's organized crime conflicts. Violence in Mexico State presents a direct threat to the Federal District, given the two regions are only nominally separated.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

Mexico City is home to a thriving underworld trade in the likes of drugs and prostitution. Local gangs have tended to control criminal activities there and in surrounding areas, focusing on micro-trafficking and other criminal enterprises, yet the lucrative opportunities offered by this heavily populated center have also attracted larger, more powerful Mexican criminal organizations.

The incursions into the state of Mexico indicate major groups are looking to get more involved in domestic markets as organized crime continues to atomize and shares of drug trafficking profits become stretched. It is therefore possible the state is just at the beginning of a bloody episode, and that the capital could be caught in the middle.

Investigations

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