Extortion Reaches Record High in Mexico

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In May, Mexico saw the highest number of extortion reports filed for any month in the past seven years, offering one example of the effects of the increasingly fragmented nature of Mexican organized crime.

Statistics published on the Executive Secretariat of National Public Security System (SESNSP) website give a total of 737 reports of extortion filed with the Public Ministry in May, an increase of over 100 on last year’s May figure of 629, and a slight increase on the April 2013 figure of 721. Mexican media separately reported SESNSP figures to be 644 complaints for May and 565 for April.

The May 2013 number represents a 170 percent increase on extortion figures for May 2006, the year former President Felipe Calderon took office, when 272 extortion reports were filed. Cases reported thus far in 2013 already outnumber the total for 2006 — 3,936 for January to June 2013, compared with 3,157 for all of 2006.

Of the May 2013 cases filed, 134 were from Mexico state, 121 from Mexico City, 46 from Guanajuato and 42 from Morelos.

InSight Crime Analysis

As InSight Crime has reported previously, the growth of extortion is in part a product of the fragmentation of organized crime in Mexico. Under Calderon, many drug kingpins were captured and big cartels fractured, while various smaller organizations emerged. As these groups have fought for limited resources, they have branched out from drug trafficking and diversified into activities such as extortion, with the Zetas thought to be one of the principal perpetrators of this crime.

In addition, extortion thrives in a climate of insecurity — Mexicans pay extortion fees because they lack faith that government security bodies can protect them from criminal threats. This can also be seen across the region, in particular in Colombia, where it is a financial mainstay of both guerrilla groups and criminal organizations, and in Central America’s Northern Triangle, where extortion of bus drivers, residents and small businesses is rampant.

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