Government information indicates that 12 mayors across Guerrero, Mexico may have criminal ties -- suggesting that a dynamic pushed into the public eye by the case of 43 missing student protesters in Iguala is worrisomely widespread in this state and likely others.
According to intelligence reports from Mexican security bodies accessed by Milenio, these current and former mayors, concentrated primarily in southwest and central Guerrero (see map), are investigated for links to the Familia Michoacana, the Guerreros Unidos, Los Rojos, the Knights Templar, and a group called Granados - Beltran Leyva. The last of these allegedly works on behalf of the larger Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) and the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG).
Two mayors have already been arrested for events related to these ties. Jose Luis Abarca, the former mayor of Iguala, was recently captured along with his wife for allegedly ordering attacks on student protesters that were perpetrated by the Guerreros Unidos. Meanwhile, Feliciano Alvarez Mesino of Cuetzala del Progreso was arrested in April for alleged ties to the Familia Michoacana and kidnapping allegations.
Of the rest, some have apparently been coerced into supporting criminal groups. Others, like the mayor of Taxco -- which neighbors Iguala -- and the mayor of Chilapa de Alvarez, located further south, are accused of actively protecting and working with criminal groups, partly through maintaining highly corrupt local police forces.
InSight Crime Analysis
The alleged abduction and gruesome murders of 43 student protesters in Iguala this past September -- a case that has received tremendous international attention but has yet to be resolved -- helped bring to light numerous links between the local government and municipal police with the Guerreros Unidos. As Milenio's information reveals, Iguala is far from a unique case in this regard.
By developing local government ties, Mexico's smaller criminal groups are guaranteed a measure of protection for their activities. Unlike Colombia, Mexico has municipal and state police forces that operate independently from the national force, meaning that mayors and governors can have significant influence over their activities. Corruption among local security forces has been a widespread and recurring problem in Mexico, and Guerrero is the state with the 6th highest proportion of municipal police that have failed confidence tests as part of an ongoing reform process.
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A similar dynamic as Guerrero's has been seen in neighboring Michoacan, where various mayors and councilmen -- as well as the former interim governor -- have been detained for alleged ties to the Knights Templar.
These links -- which as Milenio indicates are not always a choice for the mayors -- are perhaps a natural byproduct of the fracturing of organized crime in Mexico, and the increasing trend toward smaller, more regional groups that need to maintain contacts and influence in their area of operation, without the capacity to corrupt politics on a national scale.