Rise in Tamaulipas Kidnappings Points to Lack of Mexico Govt Control

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Mexico’s Tamaulipas state was the site of nearly 60 percent of the country’s kidnappings in July and saw a drastic spike in the crime compared to previous months, highlighting the government’s inability to secure the embattled state.

According to a report published by Mexico’s Interior Ministry (SEGOB) (pdf), the country registered a total of 204 kidnappings in July, of which 121 occurred in the northeastern border state of Tamaulipas — more than twice the number that occurred in the state in any other month this year. In comparison, the highest number registered in any other state during the same month was 14.

Between January and July 2014, a total of 340 kidnappings were reported in Tamaulipas, representing 29 percent of the national total.

Insight Crime Analysis

The deteriorating security situation in oil-rich Tamaulipas, fueled both by fighting between the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas and internal power struggles, prompted Mexico’s government to deploy federal troops to the state earlier this year. However, the recent SEGOB figures are one indication that this move has not helped the government gain control over the situation. The central government’s challenges in the region have also been highlighted by reports of ongoing cartel control over major highways in Tamaulipas, as well as other violence-plagued parts of Mexico.

SEE ALSO: Gulf Cartel Profile

Part of the reason for the rise in kidnappings may be the fracturing of the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, both of which have suffered a loss of leadership in recent years. As criminal groups fracture, they tend to seek alternative sources of revenue — like kidnapping and extortion — which require less logistical organization than international drug trafficking. 

North-bound migrants are also often targeted for kidnapping by criminal groups, making it plausible the large exodus from Central America this year could have had an impact on Tamaulipas kidnapping numbers. 

Widespread corruption among the state’s security forces has likely exacerbated the government’s inability to secure Tamaulipas. In May, local authorities announced that around 50 percent of the state’s police had failed confidence tests, with a large portion of these cases reportedly due to organized crime ties.

Tamaulipas’ security problems are a major thorn in the government’s side. The state is home to extensive oil and gas reserves, which have made the oil industry a lucrative target for drug cartels. Criminal groups reportedly control up to 15 percent of the gasoline business in Tamaulipas and have developed a sophisticated illegal gasoline distribution system. With Mexico in the process of opening the country’s oil industry to the private sector, Tamaulipas’ deteriorating security situation could make companies wary of investing in the state.

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