What Is Behind the Recent Wave of Violence in Mexico City?

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The discovery of two dismembered bodies in downtown Mexico City, the most recent in a series of violent acts, contradicts official declarations denying the presence of organized crime in the capital and reveals details about the city’s new criminal dynamics.

Early on June 17, two dismembered bodies were discovered on Avenida Insurgentes, one of the most heavily traveled routes in Mexico City. A “narcomanta” — a banner used by criminal groups to make announcements and threats — was also found on the scene.

The banner contained a message threatening Jorge Flores Concha, alias “El Tortas.” Flores is the alleged leader of Fuerza Anti-Unión, an organization responsible for killing several people linked to Unión de Tepito, which is one of the most notorious criminal groups in the city.

Newspaper El Universal reported that seven security cameras monitor the location where the remains were found from different angles. However, none of them were able to capture the moment when the bodies were placed and the narcomanta was hung up, which has motivated local authorities to investigate the possible participation of officials from the city’s Public Security Secretariat (Secretaría de Seguridad Pública – SPP).

Two days after the appearance of the banner, shootings and executions occurred at various points throughout the city, leaving at least seven dead.

In a press conference, Mexico City’s head of government José Ramón Amieva confirmed that a dispute between Unión de Tepito and Fuerza Anti-Unión has been causing the recent violence in the capital. He added that cartels operating in other states such as Jalisco, Guerrero and Morelos are providing the rival groups with weapons and drugs.

Unión and Anti-Unión

While Mexico City authorities have traditionally denied the presence of large organized criminal groups in the capital, evidence demonstrates the contrary. Many local groups tied to organizations present in other Mexican states are operating in the city.

The center of the capital has been La Unión territory for several years. As InSight Crime reported in 2013, La Unión was initially formed with old members from the Familia Michoacana and the Beltrán Leyva Organization as a defense against the then Tepito Cartel and other groups linked to the Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel.

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The number of bars, nightclubs, stores and street vendors that abound in the center of Mexico City make it the perfect place for La Unión to thrive, given that it specializes in microtrafficking, extortion and even human trafficking.

Journalist Carlos Acuña, who covers this area of the capital, told InSight Crime that the increase in organized crime has been intertwined with the rapid and uncontrolled proliferation of bars and nightclubs.

Petty drug dealers operate in many of these businesses, and the owners are often threatened and extorted by members of La Unión. Acuña said that there have been cases where employees at the establishments are hired by the criminal group as lookouts known as “halcones” (literally “falcons”) or dealers.

“Many can’t report [these crimes] because they don’t even have a license to operate,” the journalist said.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Microtrafficking

The recent entrance of the Fuerza Anti-Unión in Mexico City’s underworld has been explained by two theories.

One is that the organization came about as a vigilante group to violently combat the Unión de Tepito’s extortion of business owners.

Another posits that Fuerza Anti-Unión splintered off from Unión de Tepito, that the former has ties to the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG), and that the two groups are disputing microtrafficking and extortion territory in the city.

What is known is that, since the conflict began in December 2017, there have been at least seven executions of members from both gangs in which the bodies were placed on public roads.

Exhibition of Violence: A Future Trend?

Violence between criminal groups in Mexico City is not new, but it is unusual for it to be displayed in such heavily traveled areas as Avenida Insurgentes, which is regularly monitored and has state presence.

El Universal journalist David Fuentes, who covers organized crime in Mexico City, told InSight Crime that criminal groups have gained strength in the city because capital authorities have been soft-pedaling the issue.

“If a criminal group manages to place dismembered bodies and a narcomanta in such a heavily-guarded area without being caught, it’s because it has already reached another level,” he said.

However, security analyst Jaime López thinks it is still too early to say whether this exhibition of violence in Mexico City can be considered a trend, though he does not rule out the possibility.

“It’s possible that a new form of stronger and more public organized crime is growing in Mexico City,” he told InSight Crime.

“The problem is that, as opposed to other states in the country, the response to the violence in Mexico City is stronger and more immediate,” he said. “So continued public violence is not a good strategy [for criminal groups]. If it becomes a trend, it would be bad news [for them].”

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