Emerging Issues in Security

Mexico Homicide Rate Worrying for Business Travel

Besides being a fun tourist destination for visitors from the United States and around the world, Mexico has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the most dangerous countries on the globe. With a homicide rate of 23,000 in 2015, it has the world’s worst murder count, with no end in sight.

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Much of Mexico’s sky-high murder rate involves people in or around the activities of its notorious drug cartels. Some victims are participants in the drug trade, others are simply innocents caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. The final arrest in 2016 and subsequent extradition to the United States in January 2017 of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the head of the Sinaloan drug cartel, created a significant power vacuum in Mexico. Other cartels have stepped in to take over Guzman’s territories and activities, resorting in even more violence. The continuous number of murders, kidnappings, and shootings have created an environment of fear for the citizens of Mexico, including vacationing tourists and business people who cross over the border at various points to do their cross-cultural, international business work related to trade and commerce.

The Mexican city of Tijuana borders the U.S. city of San Diego, California. The San Ysidro Port of Entry is the busiest land port in the world, with over 8 million people crossing back and forth every year. The homicide rate for Tijuana in 2016 was 910 victims. That represents a 36% increase over 2015, when there were 670 homicides. The 2016 tally surpasses the city’s previous record in 2008, when the city had 844 murders. By comparison, just across the U.S. border on the San Diego side, the homicide rate for the City of San Diego in 2016 was 49, and for San Diego County it was 51, for a total of 100 people killed for the entire year. All this for a U.S. city of about 1.4 million people, whereas Tijuana has a population of about 1.7 million people.

For U.S. business people who work in adjacent border cities and visit their company’s Mexico-based “maquiladoras” (factories that import goods and machinery on a duty-free and tariff-free basis, to produce goods made there to be shipped to the United States and other countries from there), the trip back and forth to Mexico can take on risks of carjacking, kidnappings for ransom, and robberies.

The cartel operators and their associates long ago realized the value of these factories and have targeted the trucks that cross the border on a daily basis with high-dollar electronics and other goods for hijackings. Some maquiladoras have had to create special security teams or contract them from security professionals on the U.S. side to provide armed escorts to make sure their deliveries arrive across the border.

President Trump’s desire to remove the United States from participating in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with both Canada and Mexico will certainly change the security landscape going forward.