Zetas Fuel Veracruz Security Crisis in South East Mexico

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Rising kidnappings, the discovery of mass graves and security force shootouts with alleged Zetas members have created a security storm in the state of Veracruz in southeast Mexico, but what lies behind this streak of violence?

On July 2, authorities discovered a clandestine grave containing at least eight bodies in a southern municipality of Veracruz, reported Animal Politico. This followed the June discovery of 12 mass graves in which at least 31 bodies were unearthed.

Accompanying these chilling finds has been a series of shootouts in urban areas of the state, reported Proceso. On July 5, security forces killed six alleged criminals in the city of Veracruz, while three alleged members of the Zetas criminal organization were killed in nearby Orizaba. A day earlier, police killed four suspected Zetas near the coast, including the group’s alleged Veracruz plaza chief — the local leader in charge of that territory. 

Meanwhile, the state has seen an upward trend in extortion and kidnappings in 2014, reported SDP Noticias.

The wave of crime and violence has prompted Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte de Ochoa to admit the state is facing a security crisis, and the government recently reinforced security in the north of the state. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Veracruz has traditionally been a relatively peaceful Mexican state, with a murder rate below the national average. However, in 2011 the state saw a sharp uptick in violence as the Zetas — who had established a strong presence in the gulf state — were challenged by the “Zetas Killers,” a splinter group of the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (JCNG). During September and October of that year, authorities discovered over 60 bodies believed to be victims of the Zetas Killers in the city of Veracruz.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of the Zetas

The resulting insecurity led the government to resort to what has become a common security tactic — sending in military troops to restore order. Officials attributed this 2011 security surge to a drop in homicides in the following months.

However, such moves generally fail to address root causes of violence and insecurity, permitting a resurgence of violence in the future. In the case of Veracruz, one of these underlying problems has been pervasive police corruption and ties to the Zetas, with thousands of police removed since 2011 in an attempt to clean up the force.

Meanwhile, Veracruz Security Minister Arturo Bermudez has claimed the recent spike in violence in the state’s northern neighbor, Tamaulipas — resulting from clashes between elements of the Zetas and Gulf Cartel — has contributed to insecurity by pushing criminals to migrate into Veracruz.

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