Country Report on Terrorism 2019 - Chapter 1 - Mexico

Overview: Counterterrorism cooperation between Mexico and the United States remained strong. In 2011, the Mexican government aided U.S. efforts to disrupt an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States. An operative, who planned to contact a Mexican criminal organization on behalf of elements of the Iranian government, was sentenced in 2013 in a federal court in New York City to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty for his role in the plot. In 2019, there was no credible evidence indicating international terrorist groups established bases in Mexico, worked directly with Mexican drug cartels, or sent operatives via Mexico into the United States. International supporters and facilitators of terrorist groups such as Hizballah, al-Qa’ida, and ISIS are active elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere, and the U.S. southern border remains vulnerable to potential terrorist transit.

2019 Terrorist Incidents: A Mexican ecological extremist movement called Individualistas Tendiendo a lo Salvaje, or Individualists Tending to the Wild, placed five rudimentary timed explosive devices constructed from pyrotechnics and pipes at commercial centers, including a shopping center, a Walmart, and a movie theater, in separate incidents in the State of Mexico between December 2018 and May 2019. At least one device detonated (at the theater) and injured a theater employee. Mexican law enforcement has not identified any suspects, nor made any arrests.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In July, Mexico’s Congress passed an asset forfeiture bill; there were no additional changes to Mexico’s counterterrorism legislation in 2019. The government lacked adequate laws prohibiting material support to terrorists and relied on counterterrorism regimes in other countries to thwart potential threats.

The Center for National Intelligence (CNI), housed within the Secretariat of Security and Citizen Protection, was the lead agency for detecting, deterring, and preventing terrorist threats during 2019. The Mexican Prosecutor General’s Office (FGR) was the lead agency for investigating and prosecuting terrorism-related offenses. In 2019, FGR underwent a transition to reorganize, professionalize, and develop interdisciplinary investigation teams based on 2018 legislation. Impunity remained a problem with extremely low rates of prosecution for all crimes.

Mexico made significant efforts to strengthen its border controls and screen more individuals who entered its territory in 2019, deploying 27,000 military and security forces to enforce migration laws. While unauthorized migration has decreased, an illicit flow of people and goods continued to transit Mexico’s southern border, and corruption still plagued Mexican ports of entry.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Mexico is a member of FATF and GAFILAT. Mexico is also a cooperating and supporting nation of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) and is an observer of the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures, two other FATF-style regional bodies. Its FIU, the Financial Intelligence Unit-Mexico, is a member of the Egmont Group.

In July, the Mexican Congress passed a sweeping asset forfeiture bill that provides Mexican prosecutors with stronger tools to seize assets of illicit origin and those used to commit crimes in a process separate from any related criminal matter. The legislation incorporated many best practices from Latin American countries and the UN’s asset forfeiture model. Congress also passed two laws obliging currency exchange outlets and stockbrokers to avoid using funds that could finance terrorism.

Countering Violent Extremism: There were no changes in 2019. Mexico lacks official policies, initiatives, or programs to counter terrorist radicalization and recruitment.

International and Regional Cooperation: On the margins of the UN General Assembly, Mexico issued a joint declaration with its MIKTA partners (Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, and Australia) condemning “terrorism and violent extremism” and “expressing grave concern for the use of the internet for these purposes, including the incitement to discrimination and violence motivated by hate, racism, xenophobia and religious intolerance.” As part of its membership in the UN Human Rights Council, Mexico presented and led adoption of a resolution promoting respect for human rights and victims of terrorism while countering terrorism. Mexico is an active member of the OAS Inter-American Committee against Terrorism. In the wake of the August 3 terrorist attack in El Paso, Texas, that resulted in the deaths of Mexican citizens, the Mexican Foreign Ministry pledged to lead a regional effort to combat white supremacist terrorism.