Migrants are often susceptible to human smuggling networks

A recent report offers new insight into human trafficking in Mexico, and reinforces concerns about the role of organized groups in this criminal industry.

The report, "Up to Date: The Numbers Speak," from the Belisario Domínguez Institute (Instituto Belisario Domínguez - IBD) of Mexico's Senate found that 47 criminal groups are involved in human trafficking in Mexico, primarily in Mexico City and 17 other states. According to the report, 45.4 percent of trafficking victims in Mexico are captured by people they know, 49.1 percent by unknown assailants and 5.5 percent by organized crime groups.

Criminal networks have also increased their use of technology, primarily the internet, for recruitment, as a result of which the engagement of minors by this criminal industry is also growing. Increasingly, minors are being used as lookouts, smuggling mules, hitmen or kidnappers in Mexico's northern states and marginalized suburban areas east of Mexico City, said the report. 

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

Among the zones with the highest frequency of trafficking cases were Tijuana and Mexicali (Baja California); Nogales (Sonora); Ciudad Juárez (Chihuahua), Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros (Tamaulipas), Cancún (Quintana Roo), Tapachula (Chiapas), Acapulco (Guerrero), Mexico City, Tlaxcala, Puerto Vallarta (Jalisco), Los Cabos (Baja California Sur), Veracruz and Oaxaca, according to the report.

Human trafficking in Mexico, the report found, counts on collaboration between political and business powers with organized crime groups. According to the report, criminal groups can pay between 25,000 and 80,000 pesos (between $1,300 and $4,400) to police agencies to freeze investigations, and 800,000 pesos (around $44,000) to municipal authorities to stop enforcement operations. 

The report also notes that statistics and information on human trafficking in Mexico are still scarce and not organized or catalogued effectively.

InSight Crime Analysis 

This latest report sheds some new light on a dark trend that the entire region is struggling to combat. More than a third of the cities with the highest frequency of trafficking cases are located along the US-Mexico border. The investigation does not detail which criminal groups are most active, but some states have clear dominant criminal groups -- the Sinaloa cartel, for example, in the case of Sonora, the Zetas in Nuevo Leon and the Gulf Cartel in Tamaulipas. The Zetas were recently linked to a human smuggling case that killed 10 of an estimated 70 undocumented immigrants in San Antonio, Texas -- just north of the border town of Nuevo Laredo, Nuevo Leon. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Trafficking

And while the report found that Mexico has state, federal and international regulations on human trafficking, the fact that criminal groups are able to pay bribes to halt investigations and enforcement operations suggests that these legal mechanisms have so far amounted to little to curb this illegal industry.

The stakes are very high along the US-Mexico border. In the past, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have been accused of taking bribes to aid smugglers and traffickers working for Mexican cartels in the past. And a new hiring surge of border patrol agents may leave authorities susceptible to greater corruption from organized crime groups in Mexico.

Investigations

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