Mexican drug cartel members have recently taken to targeting police officers in their homes and then torturing and killing them, according to a disturbing new report.
The Jalisco cartel has vowed to wipe out members of an elite law enforcement force known as the Tactical Group in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato, the AP reported on Sunday.
The cartel even had a banner painted and hung from a building in Guanajuato city that declared: “If you want war, you’ll get a war. We have already shown that we know where you are. We are coming for all of you.”
The message continued, “For each member of our firm that you arrest, we are going to kill two of your Tacticals, wherever they are, at their homes, in their patrol vehicles.”
Gang members often kidnap members of the Tactical Group and torture them into giving up the addresses of their fellow cops, according to the AP.
State officials have not confirmed how many officers have been killed in this way, but local media said at least seven have been killed on their days off so far in 2021.
The most recent confirmed killing happened on Thursday, when an officer was kidnapped, killed, and his body dumped on a highway.
Perhaps the most shocking violence was in January, when gunmen invaded the home of a female state police officer, killed her husband, dragged her away, tortured her and dumped her bullet-ridden body.
The AP reports that an average of 75 state cops have been killed each year in Guanajuato state alone since 2018.
Security analyst David Saucedo said, “A lot of officers have decided to desert. They took their families, abandoned their homes and they are fleeing and in hiding.”
Earlier this month, state officials announced that they would fund “protection mechanisms” in the hope of preventing further killings.
“Organised crime groups have shown up at the homes of police officers, which poses a threat and a greater risk of loss of life, not just for them, but for members of their families,” said a decree announcing the move.
“They have been forced to quickly leave their homes and move, so that organised crimes gangs cannot find them.”
State officials refused to further describe the protection measures, or comment on whether officers were to be paid to rent new homes, or if there were plans to construct special secure housing compounds for them and their families.
The stepped-up violence is the latest headache for Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who took office in December 2018 promising to give the cartels “hugs, not bullets”, a reference to his policy of addressing social problems like youth unemployment that he says contribute to gang membership.
In October 2019, Lopez Obrador ordered the release of Ovidio Guzman Lopez, son of notorious Sinaloa Cartel capo Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, after hundreds of cartel members attacked civil and military targets.
Lopez Obrador defended his order by saying it was to prevent the loss of innocent lives.