An investigation in Guanajuato, Mexico, has rooted out around 150 police officers with suspected cartel ties, potentially exacerbating a gang war that has made the state the most violent in the country.

In recent months, an undercover unit of around 30 former federal officers was embedded in the police force of Celaya, a city that has been the hotspot of much of the violence, according to an investigation by Mexican newspaper, Milenio, citing police sources. By late August, 150 municipal officers had been fired in Celaya for alleged ties to cartels. This is a continuation of a campaign which has seen officers similarly dismissed in nearby cities.

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They were accused of collaborating with the state’s two largest criminal groups, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG) and their rivals, the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel (CSRL). The two organizations have been at war for years, sending homicides skyrocketing in Guanajuato.

The officers were “collaborating with criminal groups by providing them with information, helping them escape, thwarting operations against them, and even forming part of the security of the cartels fighting for the territory,” members of the undercover group told Milenio.

InSight Crime Analysis

Police corruption has a long history in Mexico. But the extent of criminal infiltration inside the Celaya police force may be down to a mixture of both fear and greed.   

“We had no units, they would steal a vehicle practically in front of us. And if we wanted to run them off or try to catch them, they would go after our unit. The police were practically a joke,” one police officer lamented to Milenio.

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There is strong incentive for police to collaborate with criminal groups or to look the other way. In 2021, 53 officers were killed in Guanajuato, the most of any Mexican state. It has maintained this rank since 2018.

Officers have been shot dead in their homes, chased through the streets by assailants on motorcycles, and their personal information has been published openly on government platforms.

There have been some efforts to improve the situation of police. In 2021, their salaries in Celaya increased by 3.5 percent, reaching an average of just over 17,000 Mexican pesos ($850). While this is higher than the average police salary in Mexico, it has clearly not been enough to make up for assassinations, death threats, and a continuous lack of resources. 

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