In recent years, the Acapulco Metropolitan Zone (AMZ) has experienced some of the highest levels of criminal violence in Mexico. The AMZ presents an interesting case where two small criminal organizations have battled for territorial control of the city with the external support of much larger cartels operating at the national level.
The AMZ also provides a snapshot of how the criminal environment evolves as organizations adapt, and ultimately present a public security challenge that neither the Mexican government nor many international businesses are prepared to confront.
As a contribution to the ongoing conversation about the direction of public security in Mexico, Southern Pulse published in January 2012 its first ebook, Beyond 2012
, which presented a chapter on public security in Mexico. This chapter concluded with a consideration of a future when “super-empowered” street gangs will eclipse groups such as Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Federation:
As we theorized in 2005, the devolution of Los Zetas, of the Gulf Cartel, and the predictable dissolution of the Sinaloa Federation points to the formation of several criminal organizations, not a Mega Cartel. Whereas Mexico under the guise of six large, national-level criminal enterprises in 2006 could have been considered a sea of tranquility punctuated by islands of violence (less than 100 municipalities out of 2,000-plus with violence) the opposite may be proven true by early 2014, as the number of well-armed criminal groups jumps from the six significant groups we counted in 2006 - Sinaloa Federation, La Familia, Gulf Cartel, Beltra-Leyva Organization, Arellano-Felix Organization, Carrillo-Fuentes Organization - to over 10 in 2012 with a steady growth of new groups to bring the total number to possibly over 20 by the end of 2014.
By the end of 2014, the men organized by El Chapo and his principal rival Heriberto Lazcano will no longer be the principal drivers of violence across Mexico. At the hyper-local level, super-powered street gangs, armed with Twitter, You Tube, the weapon of fear, and an enviable armory will man-handle local politicians and municipal police.
We believe that while the above process continues forward beyond June 2012, there are certain cities in Mexico today that present an advanced case of how the criminal system in Mexico will evolve as street gangs become more powerful.
Acapulco lists among the top four, which include Monterrey (See Monterrey Street Gangs Report
), Guadalajara, and Juarez. A fifth city, Tijuana, will serve as a “control case,” where we see the historical dominance of one group to be a harbinger of less violence and little to no development of street gangs.
Within this brief report, we would like to present our assessment of the criminal environment in Acapulco from both a strategic and tactical viewpoint to support an understanding of how the evolving criminal system in Acapulco could impact the daily lives of those who live there, as well as the business, particularly in the tourism industry, operating in the area.
Just as we stated in our March 2012 city report on the Monterrey Metropolitan Area (MMA), we would like to add that in the best interest of time and space, this report on criminal activity in the AMZ makes some general assumptions: