Violence and Insecurity in Guerrero

Insecurity and violence associated with organized criminal activity are pervasive in Mexico’s southern state of Guerrero.  The state’s homicide rate is the highest in the country and extortion and kidnapping are commonplace.  For perpetrators, there is near complete impunity.  The state is divided into territories within which either drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) or community policing networks exercise control over local policing functions.  Local, state, or federal authorities occasionally join this competition, but for the most part policing powers are held by others.  In rural areas competition between groups of traffickers over the state’s prodigious narcotics output has created violent no-man’s-lands in buffer zones between territories controlled by rival groups.  In cities violence is mostly a byproduct of efforts to establish and preserve monopolies in extortion, kidnapping, and retail contraband markets.  Despite claims to the contrary by state and federal authorities, there has been no discernible improvement in public security in recent months or years. Restraining the violence in Guerrero will require that state authorities make a systematic effort to address two existing realities that sustain the criminal activities producing violence.  Thus, this paper examines the security situation in the state of Guerrero, including the operation of drug trafficking organizations, and proposes possible solutions to the security crisis.


Violence and Insecurity in Guerrero

By Chris Kyle

This paper is a continuation of the series Building Resilient Communities in Mexico: Civic Responses to Crime and Violence, a multiyear effort by the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and Justice in Mexico at the University of San Diego to analyze the obstacles to and opportunities for improving citizen security in Mexico.


Citizen Security in Michoacán

Arguably the most intractable security issue facing the administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has been the dynamic and dangerous situation in the state of Michoacán, located on the Pacific in the southwestern portion of the country. During Peña Nieto’s first two years in office, the state has seen a significant increase in violence and criminal activities; the emergence, evolution, and internal struggles of armed “self-defense” groups (grupos de autodefensa, commonly referred to asautodefensas); and concerted federal government efforts to gain control and restore order in certain parts of the state, particularly in the state’s western Tierra Caliente region. Developments continue to unfold as criminal organizations, self-defense groups, and government all vie for control of Michoacán, a state that has long served as an important production and transit zone for drug traffickers.

While certain crime indicators—notably homicide—have fallen significantly throughout much of Mexico since 2011, Michoacán is one of the states where problems of crime and violence have been most intractable. It is also one of the places where citizen mobilization has manifested most visibly through vigilantism, with entire communities rising up to take the law into their own hands because of the real or perceived inability of authorities to address the problem of organized crime. Over the course of 2014, the worsening situation in Michoacán led the Mexican government to intervene heavily and try to regain the trust of the citizenry. This report therefore pays close attention to the efforts and challenges of the Mexican government and civil society to work together to establish order in Michoacán, offering important insights and recommendations for continued progress to that end.


Citizen Security in Michoacán.

By Kimberly Heinle, Cory Molzahn, and David Shirk

This paper is a continuation of the series Building Resilient Communities in Mexico: Civic Responses to Crime and Violence, a multiyear effort by the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and Justice in Mexico at the University of San Diego to analyze the obstacles to and opportunities for improving citizen security in Mexico



Justice in Mexico presents results of new study of Tijuana police

IMG_3569 On March 12, 2015 Justice in Mexico presented the results of its latest Justiciabarómetro survey, titled: Diagnóstico integral de la policía municipal de Tijuana (in Spanish), developed in collaboration with the Institute for Security and Democracy (Instituto para la Seguridad y Democracia, INSYDE), the Law School of the Autonomous University of Baja California (Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, UABC) in Mexicali, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the University of Guadalajara (Universidad de Guadalajara, UdeG). The Tijuana survey builds on the findings of two similar studies conducted in Guadalajara in 2009 and Ciudad Juárez in 2011, and was implemented for Justice in Mexico by the polling firm Data Opinión Pública y Mercados (DATA-OPM) form Mexico. Like these previous studies, the Justiciabarómetro-Tijuana constitutes one of the largest independent studies of municipal police ever published in Mexico. Focusing on the border city of Tijuana, adjacent to San Diego, California, this is the largest survey conducted by an independent group of institutions with 1,917 participants with a minimum margin of error (+/- .87%) and a confidence interval of about 99%.

The report examines the views and opinions that predominate among the administrative and operational staff of the municipal police in Tijuana on various aspects related to their work. The survey inquires about the human capital and organization of the municipal police, including community relations and views of recent judicial reform efforts. Among the most relevant findings:

  • The average age of the police department is 38 years, and about 20% are female.
  • 25% have some level of higher education either undergraduate or graduate, 35.8% completed high school, 18.4% have not completed high school, 15.6% reported having completed secondary school and only 5.3% incomplete secondary or lesser degree. 56.6% report an income of less than 15,000 pesos (around $1,000 USD), and most of them (85.5%) believe it would be fair an increase of about 51%.
  • Officers note that they often have to buy their own equipment. Over 70% said they had to buy their own boots, over 60% say that have to buy their own uniforms, and many (43.3%) say that they do not receive equipment in a timely fashion.
  • A 77.7% believe that police in Tijuana has improved in the last ten years, and 42.8% believe that citizens evaluated the police with high scores.
  • Nearly 50% believe it is the citizens who foster corruption while 34.8% think it is citizens and police alike.
  • Respondents indicate that the major security problems in Tijuana are burglary (56.1%), low scale drug dealing (13.7%) and car theft (6.5%). The problems identified as easier for municipal police to resolve are burglary (23.6%), traffic accidents (15.8%) and gangs (14%). The most diffcult to resolve are kidnapping (24.8%), homicide (21.1%), drug trafficking (17.55).
  • 92.2% of the police say they do not have enough knowledge of the New Criminal Justice System, and 57.1% do not consider themselves ready to operate under the new system, which will be implemented nationwide in June 2016.

JusticiabarómetroIMG_0679 consist of a series of studies produced by Justice in Mexico Project at the University of San Diego’s Department of Political Science and International Relations, which provides policy analysis and recommendations concerning the rule of law in Mexico, based on the opinions and experiences of the operators of the criminal justice system.  This survey was supported by the generous underwriting of the Open Society Institute. The Municipal Government of Tijuana and the Secretary of Public Security were supportive at all times facilitating access to the institution and its members, and providing the necessary logistical support. The study was coordinated by María Eugenia Suárez de Garay, David Shirk, and Octavio Rodríguez Ferreira, along with other law enforcement and security specialists from Mexico and the United States.



First OASIS training program in Mexico


OASIS Inauguration. Image: Justice in Mexico.

03/11/15  – From February 16-28, 2015, the Justice in Mexico program based at the University of San Diego’s Department of Political Science and International Relations hosted the first training of the project Oral Adversarial Skill-Building Immersion Seminar (OASIS), at the Law School of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM) in Mexico City. The inauguration of the training program on February 16 included the participation of Alfonso Del Valle, Rule of Law Program Coordinator, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, U.S. State Department, Dra. Ma Leoba Castañeda Rivas, Dean of the Law School at UNAM, Dra. María de los Ángeles Fromow, Assistant Secretary for Implementation of the New Criminal Justice System (Secretaría Técnica del Consejo de Coordinación para la Implementación del Sistema de Justicia Penal, SETEC) Dr. Rodrigo Archundia Barrientos, Assistant Attorney General, Regional Control, Criminal Procedures and Injunctions, Mexican Attorney General’s Office, (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR), Carlos Barragán Salvatierra, UNAM Law Professor and Director of the Criminal Law Seminar, and David Shirk, Director of Justice in Mexico.

The trainings involved a 40-hour course provided by U.S. trained attorneys, including Al Amado, Rachel Carey, Jesus Romero, Carlos Varela, Michael Mandig, Juan García de Acevedo, Peter Mitchell, Janice Deaton. The majority of instructors were U.S. nationals, but some Mexican nationals with substantial training experience were included to provide local perspective. This local perspective proved particularly valuable in adapting the course materials to Mexico’s New Criminal Justice System (Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal, NSJP) —especially the New Uniform Code of Criminal Procedure—and establishing rapport with participants.

The participants included over 80 UNAM law school professors and students who are learning how to use and teach oral litigation techniques (e.g., interrogatories, cross examination) in anticipation of the country’s switch to live court proceedings in 2016. The trainings took place in the evening to allow professors and students to attend after their daily activities.

The 40-hour course covered every aspect of oral trial skills and techniques and also introduced “train the trainer” techniques.  During the first week, it focused on oral litigation skills and the second week, on ensuring that participants would be able to replicate aspects of the course, a process known as “Training the Trainers.” On the last day of the course, all 80 participants participated in a “mock trial.”  They got to experience a trial from start to finish, with the OASIS instructors serving as the judge in a case of alleged domestic violence. Following the mock trial, the participants and instructors met for a final plenary session where they shared an open exchange of ideas, reflections on the importance of the course, and a discussion of the course’s impact on their impressions of the overall judicial reform.

Oral Adversarial Skill-Building Immersion Seminar (OASIS)

Oral Adversarial Skill-Building Immersion Seminar (OASIS). Image: Justice in Mexico

The OASIS program is coordinated by Justice in Mexico, a long-standing rule of law initiative based at the University of San Diego. The program is intended to provide trainings to advance the implementation of Mexico’s new criminal justice system. Its aim is to foster exchanges among U.S. and Mexican law professors and students in an effort to improve understanding and cooperation within the legal profession. The program will assist in Mexico’s transition to a new oral, adversarial and accusatory criminal justice system by helping to develop knowledge and skills in the development of statements, presentation of evidence at trial, and other oral advocacy skills. OASIS forms part of the Mérida Initiative, a multi-billion dollar effort by the U.S. government to cooperate with Mexico in combating crime and violence, promoting judicial reform, improving border security, and strengthening civil society.

To read more about the program, go to the OASIS website:

Upcoming event: Mexican Justice José Ramón Cossío


Justice in Mexico and the University of San Diego School of Law invite you to a Keynote by:

Mexican Supreme Court Justice José Ramon Cossío Díaz

Judicial Reform and Human Rights in Mexico

Friday, January 30, 2015.  10:30am

Warren Auditorium
Mother Rosalie Hill Hall
University of San Diego



01/21/15 – Justice José Ramón Cossío Díaz, a presiding member of Mexico’s Supreme Court, will be Justice in Mexico’s 2015 opening keynote speaker. Justice Cossío has written extensively on diverse topics including constitutional law, law and economics and moral theory, and has authored 21 books and has produced over 750 publications. At his public presentation at the University of San Diego, Justice Cossío will provide an overview of Mexico’s progress toward implementing this new criminal justice system and other issues related to the rule of law in Mexico. For those who care about achieving justice in Mexico, this is an event that should not be missed.  


University of San Diego School of Law is a State Bar of California-approved MCLE provider and certifies that this activity is approved for 0.75 hour of general credit.

 This talk is free and open to the public.

Please confirm your attendance.

JMLogoFinalTransparent                                                             USD School of Law 281