E.g., 07/24/2014
E.g., 07/24/2014

Transnational Crime in Mexico and Central America: Its Evolution and Role in International Migration

Reports
November 2012

Transnational Crime in Mexico and Central America: Its Evolution and Role in International Migration

Mexico and Central America have emerged as one of the most dangerous areas on the planet outside of active war zones. The region is currently confronting unprecedented security challenges from street gangs, the growing presence of sophisticated criminal organizations and endemic corruption at all levels of law enforcement and government. These challenges are not new, but they are growing in intensity and visibility.

The growth of organized crime has led to dramatically increased human security risks, including those to migrants heading north across the region. Encountering the threats posed by Mexican drug traffickers, Central American gangs, and corrupt government officials, migrants increasingly seek the assistance of intermediaries known as polleros, or “coyotes” to increase their chances of a safe crossing. Procuring a coyote does not guarantee safe passage, but those unable to afford a coyote are more likely to be abused or kidnapped, and held for ransom along the way.

The dangers have become particularly vivid in Mexico, where unknown numbers of Mexican, Central American, and South American migrants have been killed or gone missing, presumably at the hands of criminal actors or corrupt public officials. Many more are victims of extortion, rape, and other crimes.

In both Mexico and Central America, criminal groups seem to have overwhelmed the undermanned public security forces. Controlling illicit activity in rural and border areas, where migrants often cross, is particularly challenging.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. Extent of the Problem

III. The Economic Costs and Development Effects of Insecurity

A. Costs

B. Effects

IV. Conclusions