Shootouts, Prison Break Draw Attention to Normally Calm Mexican Border State

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The Mexican government has promised to send more troops to Coahuila, where some 130 inmates recently escaped from prison, and heavy clashes between criminals and the security forces have been reported.

Mexican Marines engaged in shootouts with criminals in the Coahuila municipality of Piedras Negras on the night of September 26, causing panic among inhabitants, according to El Universal. The municipality was the site of the escape of some 130 prisoners from prison earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Coahuila Governor Ruben Moreira responded to President Felipe Calderon’s criticisms of the escape, pointing out that more than 1,600 people had disappeared in Coahuila due to organized crime, reported Proceso. He quoted the same figure in January, saying that there were 1,658 disappeared — 1,113 men and 545 women.

On September 25, Mexican Interior Minister Alejandro Poire traveled to Coahuila along with other representatives of the federal government to meet with state officials to discuss security. Poire pledged to increase the number of federal forces in Coahuila, according to Vanguardia.

InSight Crime Analysis

The turmoil in Coahuila draws attention to the shifting security situation in this normally relatively calm state.

Though Coahuila is nowhere near as violent as other border states — neighboring Chihuahua has a rate of 131 homicides per 100,000 people — the rate of violence has climbed dramatically in recent years. In 2008 the state registered a homicide rate of just 6.8 per 100,000 inhabitants. This shot up to 33.9 per 100,00 in 2011, with homicides increasing 62 percent between 2010 and 2011, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI).

Mexico’s National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH) reported that between 2006 and April last year nearly 5,400 people went missing in the country. If Moreira’s figure of 1,600 is accurate, and dates from a similar period, that would mean 30 percent of all disappearances since 2006 took place in Coahuila.

The promise to send more federal forces to Coahuila comes after it received some of the 15,000 troops who were deployed to seven states in August. The state is a key area of Zetas operations, and Mexican journalist Jorge Fernandez Menendez has reported that the repercussions of the split in that group can be felt in Coahuila.

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