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Zacatecas, a Mexican state where organized crime killings doubled in 2 years

The president of Mexico visited Zacatecas as the state has been suffering from a rise of violence in recent months.

Templo de la Purificación in Fresnillo, Zacatecas
Templo de la Purificación in Fresnillo, the second largest city of the state of Zacatecas. The state saw its homicide rate linked to criminal activities more than doubling in less than 2 years | © Francisco Aparicio, 2013

On November 23, 8 bodies were hanged and found in Fresnillo, a Mexican municipality in the state of Zacatecas.

Three of them were suspended from a bridge, half naked with signs of torture. Five others, including at least a woman, were hanged on trees along two rural road sections.

On November 18, 8 bodies were suspended – plus two who probably fell from the bridge of a federal highway – in Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, a municipality 2 hours away from Fresnillo, still in the state of Zacatecas.

On November 16, three severed heads were found close to the Town Hall of Valparaiso, in the west of Zacatecas.

In July, at least 19 people were killed in the state in a single weekend and no less than 30 murders were reported during the week. Four men were found suspended from trees with a note saying they were trying to “steal cattle” from farmers.

Violence and crimes have soared in the last two years in Zacatecas.

Zacatecas, the first producer of beans in Mexico but also at crossroads for criminal groups

The state is rather rural with an important agriculture industry, like tomatoes or grapes. It is the first producer of beans of the country.

But rather than homicides related to cattle, authorities link the surge in violence to organized crime. Zacatecas shares borders with 8 other Mexican states and is a zone of transit for drugs and migrants.

Homicides linked to organized crimes more than doubled in less than 2 years. Criminals fight for the control of roads and highways in the area.

As the region is amid a high rise of violence, the President of Mexico Andrés Manuel López Obrador decided to visit the state to announce a support plan for Zacatecas on November 24, with a delegation of at least 13 secretaries representing different federal ministries.

With 1.6 million people, Zacatecas is only the 25th most populous of the 32 federal entities of Mexico (Mexico City is a different entity than a state). And 46% of the population lives in only 5 cities where the majority of crimes take place: Fresnillo, Guadalupe, Zacatecas, Pinos and Río Grande.

However, with 142 murders for every 100,000 people – 97% more than the national average – Zacatecas ranks fifth in the highest concentration of killings per population size.

The state also has the most cases of extortion, which sees an upward trend, too.

460 more federal soldiers deployed in the state

In 2019, there were 560 killings linked to organized crime, up to 920 in 2020. In 2021 through October, the number of deaths linked to organized crime increased to 1,277 in Zacatecas. And it could get to 1,500 deaths by the end of year if nothing is done, the secretary of national Defense foresees.

As a consequence, the ministry of Defense will add 460 military or national guard personnel to fight violence, a 14% increase of the armed forces already in the area, in order to reach 3,848 soldiers covering the state. They will be receiving support from troops of the neighboring states of San Luis Potosí, Guanajuato, Aguascalientes and Jalisco in order to protect the borders of Zacatecas.

The deployment of a large contingent of federal armed forces comes as some police officers from 9 municipalities abandoned their activity for fear of criminal groups, leaving some districts without any police force. This year, 35 officers have been murdered in the state.

As part of the support plan, the president of Mexico and the ministers also announced various measures to help farmers, like with free supply of fertilizers or minimum prices for crops, as well as investment in the education sector.

The secretary of Defense will evaluate and adjust his action plan in 30 days.

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