​​​​​​​Another Look at Mexico | 3Q17

Clients in the mining, real estate, investment, and logistics sectors have all engaged Southern Pulse in 2017 to support the process of separating fact from fiction as observed across the country’s public security landscape. Our routine review of the country -- specifically ports, routes between cities, areas around mines, hotspots, and political intrigue -- certainly indicated that there would be rumble in the jungle post El Chapo’s extradition to the United States. Our clients felt the same tension. Some reached out pro-actively, which unfortunately is not normal, but most picked up the phone only after something had happened. Most of the time, a close one triggers that call. On two occasions a significant event galvanized attention.

Post Chapo’s extradition, Mexico’s criminal underworld began to convulse at a pace and rhythm we didn’t expect in 1Q17. El Chapo left El Mayo and his sons with keys to the kingdom, but it didn’t take long before his number two, aka “El Licenciado,” made a move against the sons. He made a deal with “El Mencho,” the head of the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) -- whom many think is literally the devil -- and remnants of the Beltran-Leyva Organization (BLO) to take a run directly at what was left of the Sinaloa Federation. That fight rages on and is responsible for much of the violence that erupts here and there across the country.

When we took a closer look at Baja California, we learned that Los Dámaso -- the cadre that chose to follow El Licenciado and his son before their arrest -- is itself splintering. Pressure from rivals is not the cause here; rather, it a desire to seize control of what local leaders have in hand. The battle between remnant Sinaloa Factions, broken pieces of Los Damaso, and the CJNG, which supports a Baja California group out of Tijuana -- the Cartel Tijuana Nueva Generación -- finds itself on the local news on nearly a weekly basis in September 2017.

This year, we’ve looked closely at a port Sinaloa, mining site and routes in Guerrero, manufacturing in Queretaro, and a broad-spectrum review of public security and politics in Mexico State. There is a similar thread woven through public security concerns in every state -- a tapestry colored by varying degrees of violence and different actors. But one question wraps these pieces together: what is the federal government going to do?

Not much. Here are a few data points:

During the first quarter of 2017, we took a close look at CJNG encroachment in Queretaro, a state that has perennially been quiet. Source work in Mexico City at the time confirmed that there is no federal plant to confront the CJNG. It is something left up to the states.

Work in Guerrero confirmed that lesson. When we looked at the Guerreros Unidos and their relationships with larger, national actors -- specifically the CJNG -- sourcing lined up with the above, and it went a step further. The state doesn’t have the resources to combat organized crime -- a ground truth echoed in the media.

Finally, our continued work on state politics has led to one strong conclusion: the federal government will not again approach public security until 1Q19. That’s right. Sometime in February or March of 2019 we’ll see a new policy, maybe a new federal police force (at least in name and logo).

The 1 July elections in 2018 have the PRI focused on, first, who their candidate will be -- Osorio Chong is currently polling well but he’s not assured the nod -- and then winning the national election. Winning doesn’t just mean presenting a polished, likable candidate. It also means winning the states. So the top-down focus of the PRI between now and the end of 2017 will be finding the right man -- or woman. Between January and July, the focus will then shift to winning states and the nation. The incumbent government will do very little between July and inauguration in December, and then Christmas holidays. Suddenly, the new government wakes up in early 2019 to focus on the most pressing concerns of the new administration, hoping to roll out attractive policies within the first 100 days of the new year.

If the Lopez Obrador team wins, pressure to improve public security will likely rub against large expectations for social inclusion policies. Among of the craziest ideas we’ve heard from his camp: outright legalizing community self-defense forces. Giving them training, supplies, and a little cash… More on that idea and the Lopez Obrador quest -- his third -- for the presidency in our next touch up on Southern Pulse work in Mexico.