How corrupt are the US police

Corrupt police officers from a Mexican special unit are believed to be responsible for the massacre of Guatemalan migrants

In late January, 19 cremated bodies were discovered in northern Mexico near the American border. Apparently they were victims of a war between gangs of smugglers.

Twelve officers from the Tamaulipas State Police Department were arrested last week. They reportedly shot at the occupants of two vehicles on a country road near the US border on January 22nd and later set the bodies and cars on fire. The victims are seventeen migrants believed to be from Guatemala and two Mexicans. One is known to the authorities as a migrant smuggler. The attorney general of Tamaulipas accuses the police officers of murder, abuse of power and false testimony.

Special police unit

Officers from the Gopes special unit (Grupo de Operaciones Especiales) are among the arrested police officers. The unit, which is subordinate to the government of the member state, is supposed to bring order to the region, which has been afflicted by fighting between the "Cartel of the Gulf" and the "Cartel of the Northeast". For their use against the drug gangs, they were equipped with modern helicopters and armored vehicles and trained by specialists from the USA. They enjoy a high reputation among the population. The fact that the murder rate in the state was almost halved in the past year is seen as its success.

However, some of the officers are said to belong to the death squad «fabricantes de viudas» (widow makers). The public prosecutor suspects that the corrupt police officers are doing common cause with gangs of smugglers. The attack on the two vehicles near the village of Santa Anita, around twenty kilometers from the American border, is said to have eliminated the competition. Business people in the region had previously complained about the actions of individual officials of the "Gopes".

In addition to drug trafficking, blackmail and kidnappings, smuggling migrants who want to go to the USA is a lucrative business in the region. Thousands of migrants, especially from the countries of Central America plagued by violence and unemployment, such as Honduras and Guatemala, keep making their way to the USA. After the new American President Joe Biden announced a departure from the restrictive migration policy of his predecessor Donald Trump, a further increase in refugees is expected. Mexico's government is trying to intercept the migrants on the border with Guatemala. Nevertheless, refugees repeatedly end up in Mexico, where they end up in the hands of gangs of smugglers.

Cooperation with criminal gangs

Corruption in the police units is a well-known problem in Mexico, which politicians have been working on unsuccessfully for years. Local task forces are particularly susceptible to lucrative cooperation with criminal gangs. After the drug war in Mexico escalated in 2006, the military initially took on the brunt of fighting crime. Former President Enrique Peña Nieto (2012–2018) planned the formation of a Gendarmería nacional (National Gendarmerie) to fight cartels. However, the project got stuck at an early stage.

His successor Andrés Manuel López Obrador finally implemented the formation of a federal special unit. Until this Guardia Nacional is operational, however, the president continues to rely on the military in the fight against organized crime. It is questionable whether the military, or the Guardia Nacional in the future, is less susceptible to corruption than the local police associations.