Narco Violence on the Rise: The Implications for Business Travelers

With the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in doubt, the already-precarious security situation south of the border has the potential to change from a low-grade conflict to something much worse if the U.S. and Mexico fail to renegotiate a new deal.

Earlier this year, Mexico’s security situation became so treacherous that the U.S. Department of State issued a dire state-by-state travel warning. And just like that, tourists canceled approximately 35,000 bookings. While Mexico’s tourist revenue is plummeting, what does the worsening security situation mean for business travelers? Here’s a brief overview of the more pressing issues facing business travelers.

Corruption at all levels of law enforcement

When Colombian authorities in partnership with the U.S. government destroyed the Cali cartels, the center of power shifted to Mexico. In turn, under Felipe Calderon, the government targeted the leaders of each cartel within Mexico, doing so without the help of state or local law enforcement. While a centralized approach managed by the federal government minimized the potential for police and judicial corruption, local law enforcement lacked funding and leadership.

Today, Mexican drug cartels continue to thrive, albeit in smaller groups that prove increasingly difficult to eradicate — especially when local law enforcement remains underfunded. In fact, infiltration of local security services by members of the various criminal entities and cartels presents a major challenge to the government’s authority and ability to reassert the rule of law. The New Yorker reports the emergence of citizen police forces that fill the void created by corrupt public officials. Therefore, in the event that you find yourself in need of assistance from law enforcement, you’ll need someone with local knowledge to tell you who is in charge and whether you can trust them.

Drug trafficking and crime go hand in hand

When the Mexican government managed to dismantle some of the cartels, many new, smaller groups sprang up to take their place. In order to fund their growth, burgeoning cartels often turned to kidnapping, extortion, and other crimes that require some form of intimidation to execute. Given the fact that law enforcement remains chronically underfunded, and is often in the pockets of traffickers, such crimes take place frequently today and remain woefully underreported.

That means that when a business traveler enters Mexico, he or she must do everything possible not to attract attention. Express kidnapping, where criminals hold someone for 24 to 48 hours so they can obtain a ransom via ATM withdrawals, remains a popular form of crime, as it provides a quick payday. Yet express kidnapping can turn deadly, as a recent case involving a Spanish citizen and resident of Mexico City shows.

Epidemic of violence

The Mexican government has recognized the disappearances of over 30,000 people during the drug war; we can see that even beyond the increasingly dangerous tourist traps of Los Cabos, Cancun, and Acapulco, and regardless of extensive support from the U.S. government, the country continues to struggle with a war that no one seems to know how to fight or win.

For many, business trips to Mexico take place without a hitch. However, a country where violence is a routine occurrence, murders happen often.

Are you planning a business trip to Mexico? For additional information on how to prepare for your trip, click here. To learn about FirstCall’s security services for traveling executives, including our in-vehicle security and GPS monitoring capabilities, contact us here, We’ll be happy to help you.