‘Coming for all of you:’ Mexican drug cartels hunt, kill police in front of their families

A policeman drives past the town hall in Apaseo El Alto, Guanajuato state, Mexico. The notoriously violent Jalisco cartel has responded to Mexico's “hugs, not bullets” policy with a policy of its own: the cartel kidnapped several members of an elite police force in the state of Guanajuato in May, tortured them to obtain names and addresses of fellow officers, and are now hunting down and killing police at their homes, on their days off, in front of their families.
Caption
A policeman drives past the town hall in Apaseo El Alto, Guanajuato state, Mexico. The notoriously violent Jalisco cartel has responded to Mexico's “hugs, not bullets” policy with a policy of its own: the cartel kidnapped several members of an elite police force in the state of Guanajuato in May, tortured them to obtain names and addresses of fellow officers, and are now hunting down and killing police at their homes, on their days off, in front of their families.

Credit: Rebecca Blackwell

Credit: Rebecca Blackwell

Cold-blooded executions carried out at homes while deputies are off duty

Mexican drug gangs are now using names and addresses obtained from abducted law enforcement officers to hunt down and kill their fellow deputies and their families, according to numerous reports from inside the country.

The brutal and systematic tracking method is the latest escalation in the war declared last month by crime syndicates, including Mexico’s Jalisco New Generation Cartel, in an effort to tighten its grip on the once-peaceful state of Guanajuato.

ExploreWife of drug lord ‘El Chapo’ arrested on trafficking charges

The cold-blooded executions being carried out on a team of elite state police officers known as the Tactical Group come by way of surprise — at homes and in front of family members while the deputies are off duty, reports say.

The Jalisco cartel, one of Mexico’s most powerful and violent drug gangs, declared war on the state police force in May, even as Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador continues to maintain a nonconfrontational approach toward the syndicates. Critics say the hands-off strategy by Obrador, who came to power in 2018, has done little to curtail the ongoing bloodshed throughout the country.

The government has conducted some clandestine operations to keep the cartels in check but have often been met with tragic results.

In March, gunmen believed to be members of drug cartels opened fire on a police convoy near Mexico City, killing eight deputies and five investigators in the worst mass slaying of law enforcement officials in the country since 2019.

That ambush occurred in the badlands of Mexico State, a treacherous region overrun by gangs and desperadoes, just south of Mexico City, where 13 officers from Mexico State were ruthlessly ambushed while conducting surveillance meant to crack down on criminal activity.

In a June 2020 ambush blamed on the Jalisco cartel, Mexico City’s chief of police was shot three times in an assassination attempt that left two of his lieutenants and an innocent woman dead.

In October 2019, cartel gunmen ambushed and killed 14 state police officers in the neighboring state of Michoacan.

The following month, drug cartel gunmen opened fire on a family caravan leaving nine women and children dead near La Mora in northern Mexico. Three American mothers and six of their children were among the dead.

Mexican police officers are now being captured and tortured until personal information about their compadres is cultivated and used to catch them off guard.

Officials in Guanajuato — Mexico’s most violent state, where Jalisco is fighting local gangs backed by the rival Sinaloa cartel — refused to comment on how many members of the elite group have been murdered so far, but “a lot of” officers have abandoned the police force and gone into hiding, according to David Saucedo, a security analyst in Guanajuato.

“This is an open war against the security forces of the state government,” Saucedo said.

Numbers of victims are hard to come by, but Poplab, a news cooperative in Guanajuato, said at least seven police officers have been killed on their days off so far this year.

The body of one police officer was found dumped on a highway last Thursday after he had been abducted from his home and murdered.

“If you want war, you’ll get a war,” read a banner that was hung this week from a building in Guanajuato, according to a report by The New York Daily News. “We have already shown that we know where you are. We are coming for all of you.”

The cartel vowed to match every arrest of its members by executing two Tactical Group police officers “wherever they are,” the report said.

More than a half-dozen officers have been killed already this year, including a female officer whose husband was also murdered, according to reports citing Mexican news agencies. More than 260 officers have been killed since May 2018.

Guanajuato has had the highest number of police killed of any Mexican state since at least 2018, according to Poplab.

The problem in Guanajuato has gotten so bad that the state government published a special decree on May 17 to provide an unspecified amount of funding for protection mechanisms for police and prison officials.

“Unfortunately, organized crime groups have shown up at the homes of police officers, which poses a threat and a greater risk of loss of life, not just for them, but for members of their families,” according to the decree.

“They have been forced to quickly leave their homes and move, so that organized crimes groups cannot find them,” it reads.

State officials refused to describe the protection measures, or comment on whether officers were to be paid to rent new homes, or if there were plans to construct special secure housing compounds for them and their families.

López Obrador campaigned on trying to deescalate the drug conflict, describing a “hugs, not bullets” approach to tackle the root causes of crime. From the beginning of his term, he has avoided openly confronting cartels, and even released one capo to avoid bloodshed, saying he preferred a long-range policy of addressing social problems such as youth unemployment that contribute to gang membership.

But former U.S. Ambassador Christopher Landau said in April that López Obrador views the fight against drug cartels “as a distraction ... So he has basically adopted an agenda of a pretty laissez-faire attitude toward them, which is pretty troubling to our government, obviously.”

Information provided by The Associated Press was used to supplement this report.