Mexico: Cartel recruitment practices, including information on whether taxi, truck or other transportation drivers are particularly targeted for forced recruitment by the cartels; whether there are consequences for refusing to be recruited; ability of the cartels to track recruits throughout the country (2020–August 2022) [MEX201144.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

1. Recruitment of Transportation Drivers by Organized Crime Groups
1.1 Taxi Drivers

Sources stated that, in Mexico, being a taxi driver is "one of the most dangerous professions" (Associate Professor of anthropology 9 Aug. 2022) or taxi drivers are "especially vulnerable" to forced recruitment (Assistant Professor 10 Aug. 2022).

According to sources, taxi drivers are used as "lookouts" (Associate Professor of security studies 8 Aug. 2022; Assistant Professor 10 Aug. 2022) or "informants" (Research Professor 5 Aug. 2022a) or for [translation] "surveillance" (Independent researcher 17 Aug. 2022). Sources noted that taxi drivers report on the movements of the army (Research Professor 5 Aug. 2022a; Assistant Professor 10 Aug. 2022; independent researcher 17 Aug. 2022) or law enforcement (Research Professor 5 Aug. 2022a); additionally, taxi drivers report on "suspicious" people (Independent researcher 17 Aug. 2022) or activities (Assistant Professor 10 Aug. 2022). In an interview with the Research Directorate, an associate professor of security studies at Sam Houston State University in Texas, who researches drug violence, drug trafficking organizations, and border security in Mexico, indicated that taxi drivers are "targeted" because they are perceived as rivals or working for the enemy, particularly in "contested or strategic zones" (Associate Professor of security studies 8 Aug. 2022). Sources stated that taxi drivers in tourist destinations are used by criminal groups to sell drugs (Independent researcher 17 Aug. 2022; Assistant Professor 10 Aug. 2022) and/or promote businesses owned by criminal groups, such as restaurants and nightclubs (Assistant Professor 10 Aug. 2022).

Sources noted that taxi drivers transport drugs (Associate Professor of anthropology 9 Aug. 2022; Assistant Professor 10 Aug. 2022), money, bodies, or individuals engaged in criminal activities (Associate Professor of anthropology 9 Aug. 2022). TV Azteca, a media company in Mexico, reports that police have observed cabs being used as a [translation] "'modus operandi'" to distribute drugs in Azcapotzalco, a neighbourhood of Mexico City (TV Azteca 5 Apr. 2022). PorEsto!, a Spanish-language newspaper based in Yucatán, notes that taxi drivers in Quintana Roo State [translation] "are at the mercy" of organized crime groups, which "extort" and "force them" to sell drugs (PorEsto! 26 Dec. 2021).

1.2 Truck Drivers

Information on the recruitment of truck drivers was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Sources noted that truck drivers may be recruited to smuggle goods to or across the Mexico-US border (Associate Professor of security studies 8 Aug. 2022; Assistant Professor 10 Aug. 2022; independent researcher 17 Aug. 2022). In an interview with the Research Directorate, a Mexico-based independent researcher who focuses on security and organized crime in Mexico and Colombia noted that "sometimes," truck drivers "do not know that they are carrying illegal shipments across the border" as organized crime groups "often place drugs in secret compartments inside the truck" (Independent researcher 17 Aug. 2022).

2. Recruitment Methods

The independent researcher noted that "a lot" of drivers are recruited "willingly," while "a lot" are also recruited forcibly (Independent researcher 17 Aug. 2022). According to sources, taxi drivers are personally approached and "intimidated" (Associate Professor of security studies 8 Aug. 2022) or approached with a gun (Associate Professor of anthropology 9 Aug. 2022). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a research professor at the Centre for Research and Higher Studies in Social Anthropology (Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, CIESAS) in Mexico City, whose research focuses on Mexico's drug trafficking organizations, reported being aware of transportation drivers in the state of Quintana Roo who faced "threat[s]" from "hitmen or representatives" of criminal groups when the drivers were being recruited (Research Professor 5 Aug. 2022a). In an interview with the Research Directorate, an assistant professor at the Université de Montréal who researches organized crime in Mexico and Canada stated that taxi drivers are approached and recruited at taxi stands (sitios) (Assistant Professor 10 Aug. 2022). The Assistant Professor further indicated that in "tough neighborhoods" in Mexico, taxi drivers are "approached and recruited at their own homes" (Assistant Professor 10 Aug. 2022).

According to the Assistant Professor, truck drivers are recruited "willingly" (Assistant Professor 10 Aug. 2022). Sources noted that truck drivers "usually" receive "monetary payments for their cooperation" (Research Professor 5 Aug. 2022b) or are paid for their services (Assistant Professor 10 Aug. 2022) or are "properly incentivized" (Associate Professor of security studies 8 Aug. 2022). The Assistant Professor also stated that organized crime groups form their own trucking companies and purchase their own trucks (Assistant Professor 10 Aug. 2022). According to the independent researcher, organized crime groups "clone official vehicles," including police, army, or commercial vehicles such as Coca Cola [trucks], to transport drugs across the border (Independent researcher 17 Aug. 2022).

2.1 Consequences for Refusing to be Recruited

Sources stated that the consequences for refusing to be recruited or to cooperate include murder (Associate Professor of security studies 8 Aug. 2022; Associate Professor of anthropology 9 Aug. 2022; Assistant Professor 10 Aug. 2022), "torture" (Associate Professor of anthropology 9 Aug. 2022; Assistant Professor 10 Aug. 2022), violence and/or intimidation (Associate Professor of security studies 8 Aug. 2022). Sources indicated that organized crime groups may also threaten, kidnap, [or kill (Independent researcher 17 Aug. 2022)] family members (Assistant Professor 10 Aug. 2022; independent researcher 17 Aug. 2022).

2.2 Examples of Attacks Against Transportation Drivers

According to El Sol de Puebla, a Spanish-language newspaper in the state of Puebla, from 2016 to July 2020, 29 cab drivers [translation] "have died by crime" in Puebla; six of these cases "alleged[ly]" resulted from criminal gangs "settling scores," while the remainder were related to assaults or kidnapping (El Sol de Puebla 4 July 2020). Noticaribe, a Spanish-language online news source from Yucatán, reports that [translation] "hired assassins" were looking for a taxi driver at his home in Playa del Carmen and, unable to find him, "executed his wife" (Noticaribe 17 Mar. 2020). Mexico News Daily, an English-language digital news publication that curates news from Spanish-language sources (Mexico News Daily n.d.), citing Mexican newspapers El Sur (a Guerrero-based publication) and El Universal, indicates that in Zihuatanejo, a city in the state of Guerrero, "[m]any taxis and public transit vans suspended service" on 4 July 2022 "due to violence against drivers and threats made by organized crime" (Mexico News Daily 5 July 2022). La Opinión, a Spanish-language newspaper based in Los Angeles, states that hitmen from drug-trafficking gangs kidnapped three taxi drivers in the state of Zacatecas and [translation] "set [their cars] on fire" (La Opinión 19 Jan. 2022). News and Advertising Services of the Southeast (Servicios Informativos y Publicitarios del Sureste, SIPSE), a Mexican media company in the states of Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo (SIPSE n.d.), notes that a taxi driver was found hanged in a Cancún subdivision with a drug-related message left on the body (SIPSE 2 Aug. 2022).

3. Ability and Motivation of Organized Crime Groups to Track and Retaliate Against Individuals

Sources indicated that if a criminal group "wants you, they can find you" (Associate Professor of security studies 8 Aug. 2022; independent researcher 17 Aug. 2022). The Research Professor noted that while organized crime groups are able to track transportation drivers throughout Mexico, whether they choose "to invest time and resources" into doing so "depends more upon additional factors" (Research Professor 5 Aug. 2022a). Similarly, sources stated that the amount of effort a group expends tracking an individual "depends" on the person's value (Assistant Professor 10 Aug. 2022; independent researcher 17 Aug. 2022), or that it is "not likely" that a "low-level" taxi driver will be tracked (Associate Professor of anthropology 9 Aug. 2022). According to the independent researcher, "most transportation drivers are replaceable" (Independent researcher 17 Aug. 2022). Sources indicated that transport drivers who lose cargo belonging to criminal organizations will be tracked (Associate Professor of security studies 8 Aug. 2022; Assistant Professor 10 Aug. 2022), including drivers whose goods were seized, stolen, or lost (Associate Professor of security studies 8 Aug. 2022) or drivers who steal the product (Assistant Professor 10 Aug. 2022). Further, the independent researcher noted that someone who "knows the routes, the people, the mechanisms, or has other privileged information may be of greater interest" to the organized crime group (Independent researcher 17 Aug. 2022). For further information on the ability and motivations of organized crime groups to track and retaliate against individuals, see Response to Information Request MEX200732 of September 2021.

3.1 Methods Used

Sources indicate that organized crime groups use the following methods to track individuals:

  • Family and friends (Associate Professor of anthropology 9 Aug. 2022; Assistant Professor 10 Aug. 2022; independent researcher 17 Aug. 2022)
  • Communications networks (Associate Professor of anthropology 9 Aug. 2022; Associate Professor of security studies 8 Aug. 2022; Assistant Professor 10 Aug. 2022), such as cellphone towers (Associate Professor of anthropology 9 Aug. 2022; Associate Professor of security studies 8 Aug. 2022)
  • Police (Associate Professor of security studies 8 Aug. 2022; Assistant Professor 10 Aug. 2022) and army officers (Assistant Professor 10 Aug. 2022)
  • Government databases (Associate Professor of security studies 8 Aug. 2022)
  • Phone contacts (Associate Professor of anthropology 9 Aug. 2022)
  • Social media and messaging apps, such as WhatsApp (Associate Professor of security studies 8 Aug. 2022)
  • Organized groups that patrol the area (Associate Professor of security studies 8 Aug. 2022).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Assistant Professor, Université de Montréal. 10 August 2022. Interview with the Research Directorate.

Associate Professor of anthropology, University of Alabama at Birmingham. 9 August 2022. Interview with the Research Directorate.

Associate Professor of security studies, Sam Houston State University, Texas. 8 August 2022. Interview with the Research Directorate.

El Sol de Puebla. 4 July 2020. Paulina Gómez. "Víctimas de la delincuencia; han asesinado a 29 taxistas desde 2016." [Accessed 8 Aug. 2022]

Independent researcher, Mexico. 17 August 2022. Interview with the Research Directorate.

La Opinión. 19 January 2022. "Narcos secuestran a taxistas y le prenden fuego a sus autos." [Accessed 8 Aug. 2022]

Mexico News Daily. 5 July 2022. "Threats by Organized Crime Force Suspension of Transit in Zihuatanejo Again." [Accessed 8 Aug. 2022]

Mexico News Daily. N.d. "About Mexico News Daily." [Accessed 7 Aug. 2019]

Noticaribe. 17 March 2020. "Buscaban a un taxista, mataron a su mujer: Ataque con narcomensaje en una vivienda de Villas del Sol eleva a 30 el número de ejecuciones en Playa del Carmen." [Accessed 8 Aug. 2022]

PorEsto!. 26 December 2021. "Taxista, oficio peligroso en Cancún; son víctimas de ataque del crimen organizado." [Accessed 8 Aug. 2022]

Research Professor, Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS), Mexico City. 5 August 2022a. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Research Professor, Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS), Mexico City. 5 August 2022b. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Servicios Informativos y Publicitarios del Sureste (SIPSE). 2 August 2022. "Identifican a taxista ejecutado en 'Los Corales' de Cancún." [Accessed 8 Aug. 2022]

Servicios Informativos y Publicitarios del Sureste (SIPSE). N.d. "Grupo SIPSE." [Accessed 8 Aug. 2022]

TV Azteca. 5 April 2022. Isidro Corro. "Detienen a taxista por operaciones de narcomenudeo en Azcapotzalco." [Accessed 8 Aug. 2022]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Associate professor at an American university whose research topics include organized crime and criminality, dynamics of illicit markets and relations between state actors and illegal armed groups in Latin America; associate professor in Mexico City who researches criminal violence in Mexico; independent consultant based in the US who focuses on security, crime prevention, and information systems in Mexico; International Crisis Group; lead researcher at an American university who focuses on organized crime and female participation in criminal groups; professor at an American college who researches criminal violence and drug wars in Mexico; professor at an American university who researches corruption in Mexico; professor at an American university who researches political and criminal violence in Mexico and Latin America; professor at a Mexican university who specializes in criminality, criminal cartography, and the criminal economy; researcher based in Mexico who focuses on the spatial and temporal elements of organized crime and fear of crime; senior field correspondent at an American radio station who focuses on relations along the US-Mexico border; Washington Office on Latin America.

Internet sites, including: Action on Armed Violence; ADN 40; Al Jazeera; Alliance to Counter Crime Online; Amnesty International; Animal Político; The Arizona Republic; Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project; ASIS International; Associated Press; Bajo Palabra Noticias; Brookings Institution; Chicago Tribune; Committee to Protect Journalists; The Conversation; Cuarto Poder de Chiapas; Debate; Diario del Sur; Diario de Xalapa; Diario de México; El Financiero; El Gráfico; El Heraldo de Chiapas; El Imparcial; El Informador; El Mexicano; El Norte; El País; El Siglo de Torreón; El Sol del Centro; El Sol de Córdoba; El Sol de Morelia; El Sol de Sinaloa; El Sol de Zacatecas; El Sol de Zamora; El Occidental; El Universal; Forbes; Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime; The Guardian; Human Rights Watch; Infobae; InSight Crime; International Crisis Group; The Irish Times; La Jornada; La Jornada Baja California; La Jornada Estado de México; La Razón de México; Latin Post; The Mazatlán Post; Mexico Daily Post; Milenio; MVS Noticias; The New York Times; Noticias Vespertinas; Noticiero el Circo; Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project; Periódico AM; Portal Mexiquense; Reforma; Reuters; Riviera Maya News; SéUno Noticias; SinEmbargo; Telediario; UK – Foreign Travel Advice; University of San Diego – Justice in Mexico; US – Department of State; U.S. News and World Report; Washington Office on Latin America; The Washington Post; The Yucatan Times; Zócalo; Zona Franca.