Murder in Arizona Rare Case of Spillover from Mexico’s Drug War

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A Mexican man has pleaded no contest in a US court to beheading a man believed to have stolen a drug shipment, in a brutal but isolated case that serves to underline how rarely drug war violence crosses the border.

In 2010, Crisantos Moroyoqui-Yocupicio killed Martin Alejandro Cota-Monroy in the city of Phoenix, Arizona, in the southern United States.

According to police, Cota-Monroy had stolen 180 kilos of marijuana and some methamphetamine from a drug trafficking organization linked to Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel, reported the Associated Press. Cota-Monroy, who had been transporting the shipment, lied to the cartel, telling them Border Patrol agents had seized the drugs. When the traffickers discovered the truth, they ordered a hit on Cota-Monroy, who fled Mexico for Arizona.

Police believe there were three other men with Moroyoqui-Yocupicio when he carried out the killing, but that they escaped to Mexico.

Moroyoqui-Yocupicio now faces 10-16 years in prison and will be sentenced in May.

InSight Crime Analysis

The brutal murder of Cota-Monroy is exactly the sort of case conjured up by excitable US politicians — especially those looking to justify tougher immigration policies and border controls. However, the murder actually serves to reinforce just how rare cases like this are and how fears of a drug war violence “spillover” from Mexico into the United States are largely unfounded.

Just a month before the murder, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer tried to bolster support for hardline immigration policies by claiming headless bodies were being found in the Arizona desert as a result of Mexico’s drug war — a claim she later withdrew.

Similarly, Texas Governor Rick Perry was forced to back down from his 2010 comments that there were “bombs exploding in El Paso,” claiming he was referring to an incident in El Paso’s Mexican sister city Ciudad Juarez. He nevertheless referred to the border as a “war zone” and called for tighter security.

In reality, according to experts cited by the Associated Press, Arizona has not seen a cartel killing in several years, and there have been no other cartel-related beheadings recorded in the United States.

Meanwhile, El Paso has the lowest crime rate of any large US city, according to rankings compiled by Congressional Quarterly. At the peak of the drug war on the Mexican side of the border in 2010, Ciudad Juarez registered over 3,000 murders. In the same year, El Paso registered five.

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