Cartel Clashes over Customs Escalate Violence in Tijuana

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As Mexico’s drug trafficking cartels continue vying for control over the customs operations in Mexican border cities Tijuana and Mexicali in the northwestern state of Baja California, reports of violence in the region have surged in turn, culminating in an average of five homicides per day in Tijuana during the month of May alone.

Military sources claim the main perpetrators are some of Mexico’s most notorious organized crime groups, including the New Generation Jalisco Cartel (CJGN), the Sinaloa cartel, the Arellano-Félix cartel, all of which aim to hold command over customs to facilitate the trafficking of narcotics – particularly fentanyl and methamphetamines – into the United States.

“The trafficking of narcotics is the main cause of violence,” a Baja California military official with knowledge of the state’s customs operations said. “There are other crimes that these groups use to guarantee a monthly income, but the main cause of this violence is the passage of drugs.” 

The situation has only been worsened by growing fractures in the alliance between the CJGN and the Arellano-Félix cartel, causing the inter-cartel tension to bleed out into Baja California – particularly in Tijuana, which makes up 80 percent of all of the state’s reported homicides.

“Tijuana has a significant amount of resources in circulation due to customs issues; it is a key area on the issue of human trafficking, factors that make the city a very lucrative space for different criminal organizations, generates a conflict between them and directly affects its citizens,” said former Tijuana Secretary of Public Security Alberto Capella, noting that federal government inaction against area’s violence has caused the issue to balloon out of control.

“There are rising numbers in homicides, not only dramatically but systematically, and I see several factors: Tijuana is a very lucrative area for the transfer of drugs to the United States and also for drug dealing,” continued the former police commissioner.

“It’s a perfect storm. More and more, the government authorities are becoming experts in giving justifications and not in giving results. And it is extremely unfortunate that the federal, state and municipal governments, all aligned under the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), are handling the situation with such a lack of coordination and daily political conflict.”

Just last year, information made public from the infiltration of the National Secretary of Defense (Sedena) by hacktivist group Guacamaya revealed a web of corruption throughout Baja California’s customs operations, spreading all the way to the region’s most senior customs and military officials, providing additional insight on just how the violence at the Baja California border was allowed to spin so far out of control.


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