Five years ago, the central-west states of Jalisco and Zacatecas were a relatively peaceful backwater in Mexico‘s battles with organized crime, but today the region is the site of growing violence as criminal groups compete for territory.
The region is appealing to drug traffickers for a number of reasons, but one in particular stands out: the two states offer a valuable passageway from the Pacific Coast, where two of the country’s more important ports are located, to the northeast, home to several of the busiest U.S. border crossings.
It’s no surprise, then, that two of the main groups fighting for Zacatecas and Jalisco — the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas — are based in northeastern Mexico. While these two groups are locked into a battle for control of the remote sierra at the border between the two states, further south into Jalisco the competition is more complicated.
The Sinaloa Cartel has long been dominant in coastal region of Jalisco, but with the death of local Sinaloa boss Ignacio Coronel in 2010, the group’s monopoly has been challenged. The Zetas had been making inroads into the region since even before Coronel died, and in the months since, other groups — some old, like the Milenio Cartel, others new, such as the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG) — have also appeared in the state.
As a result of these tensions, the murder rate in the region has spiked. According to figures from the newspaper Reforma, the number of murders linked to organized crime in Zacatecas has jumped six-fold since 2010. In Jalisco, 690 people were killed in the first half of 2011, which puts it on track for a 50 percent rise in the year.
According to many analysts, the mayhem in the region is likely to worsen. In a piece reprinted by InSight Crime, Southern Pulse recently suggested that as the Zetas move further into Jalisco, they will come into contact with ever-greater resistance from the Sinaloa cells already entrenched there. Under this view, the recent spikes in violence are unlikely to level out.