Disappearance Statistics Highlight Turmoil in Tamaulipas, Mexico

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Tamaulipas has some of the highest missing persons rates in Mexico due to major migrant routes that traverse the border state and an ongoing territorial battle between the Zetas and Gulf Cartel organized crime groups.

Data released by Mexico’s National Security System (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública) show that Tamaulipas has the highest number of reported disappearances of any Mexican state with 5,583 missing persons. Following Tamaulipas were the states of Mexico state and Jalisco, with 2,830 and 2,390 disappearances respectively.

A small percentages of cases are reported to federal courts, which provide a breakdown of disappearances by nationality as well as location. Tamaulipas accounts for the third highest number of those cases, with 149, behind the states of Guerrero, with 273, and Veracruz, with 190. The data represents the number of disappearances brought before state and federal courts up to April 30, 2016.

A majority of the missing persons reported are Mexican, but there is a significant number of missing persons from various other nations. Federal court filings include reports of missing people from nations as varied as Poland and India. In Tamaulipas, the federal court system reported missing persons from Guatemala, Colombia, Brazil, Honduras, the United States and Peru. The publicly available data can be downloaded here.

InSight Crime Analysis

The high number of missing persons in Tamaulipas is disturbing, but unsurprising. Given that the state is both a major route for migrant traffic heading to the United States and a key battleground between two organized crime groups, the number of people who have gone missing in Tamaulipas could possibly be much higher than the cases reported to state and federal officials.

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Currently, both the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel are vying for control of Tamaulipas. The Zetas, who in 2014 operated in 5 federal jurisdictions, are now only present in Tamaulipas according to a government assessment, and the Gulf Cartel is reportedly contesting their control.

Migration through Tamaulipas has long been dangerous, with multiple actors taking advantage of migrants. The issue made international news in 2010 with the infamous “San Fernando Massacre” of 72 migrants. As the Mexican government continues to crack down on migration in coordination with United States policy, migrants are being further squeezed by criminal actors.

As long as Tamaulipas remains both a contested territory for highly aggressive organized crime groups and a major migration route, the number of disappearances will remain high.

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