The western Mexican city of Guadalajara has been hit by a wave of killings in recent weeks, which officials and academics have attributed to disputes between different cells of the local Jalisco New Generation Cartel and other rival gangs.
Guadalajara’s new mayor, Enrique Alfaro of the liberal Citizens’ Movement, has called for citizens not to panic and affirmed that his government has the situation under control.
“We want to send a message of unity and tranquility to the residents of this city,” he said last week. “We will do the necessary work to end this situation.”
Located in the western state of Jalisco, Guadalajara is Mexico’s second biggest city. It has generally been spared the worst of the drug-related violence experienced in Mexico’s most troubled states such as Tamaulipas, Guerrero and Michoacán, but there has been a notable increase in violence across the city and the state of Jalisco this year, mostly related to the New Generation Cartel.
Alfaro, who only took office in October, met with state government officials and the mayors of all the surrounding municipalities that comprise the greater Guadalajara metropolitan area in an emergency security meeting on Friday.
In a bid to safeguard the city against further violence, Alfaro announced that his government will increase its security budget by 84 million pesos ($5 million) next year to cover the costs of hiring 300 new police officers and equipping the force with 100 new patrol cars, 40 motorbikes and 25 new pickup trucks.
A relentless wave of killings
One of the most high-profile recent shootings came in late November when five men dressed in black stormed into a steak restaurant in a middle-class area of Guadalajara and opened fire at a group of men seated at one table. After killing three and injuring a fourth, they fled the scene before the police arrived.
Another 23 people were murdered across the city on December 1 and 2, including four young men that were shot dead in a working-class neighborhood, and a prominent hacker and cybersecurity expert who was gunned down while eating breakfast with his dad in a local café.
Such a high death toll is well above the normal homicide rate for the entire state, where on average 3.3 people were murdered every day from January through November this year.
The wave of killings has continued unabated this week, as an Uber driver was shot dead in his car on Sunday, another four people were murdered across the city on Monday, and yet another victim was shot to death in his car on Tuesday morning.
The state government’s secretary general tried to play down the violence this week, noting that daily life has continued as normal in Guadalajara.
Yet the Archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal José Francisco Robles Ortega, described the violence as “truly alarming and worrying” during Sunday Mass and urged the authorities to take measures to combat the root causes of the problem.
Officials link violence to local cartel
The majority of these killings have been gangland-style hits and Jalisco’s attorney general, Eduardo Almaguer, suggested last week that approximately 80 percent have been related to organized crime.
Almaguer attributed the violence to a dispute between rival cells of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, which dominates the criminal landscape in Guadalajara and the surrounding regions of western Mexico.
The organization has been weakened by the arrests of the alleged right-hand man and the brother of the cartel boss, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, who were both captured on the southern outskirts of the city in recent weeks.
Daniel Quintero Riestra, who is alleged to have overseen the cartel’s operations in Guadalajara, was also detained while relaxing on a boat just off the coast of Cancún in October.
Francisco Jiménez Reynoso, a professor from the University of Guadalajara, told Mexico’s Proceso magazine that the arrests have created a power vacuum in the area that rival groups are vying to fill, hence the recent upturn in violence. The gangs fighting the New Generation Cartel for control of the city include the Beltrán Leyva Organization, the Sinaloa Cartel and Los Zetas, he said.
Last week Jalisco authorities also discovered a ranch in the quiet lakeside town of Teuchitlán, which lies an hour’s drive west of Guadalajara, where they believe members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel had murdered nine to 12 people.