Homicides in Mexico surged by 255 percent from 2015 to 2016, and extortion cases increased by 30 percent, according to a recent American Enterprise Institute report. In cities previously identified as success stories – Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez, for example – violence has returned to record levels. This year, the ...

Mexico was ranked the most-worsened country this year on the Fund for Peace's Fragile States Index (FSI), tying with Ethiopia for the bottom spot. Although Mexico has long faced violence, corruption, and organized crime, these problems all worsened during the past year, countering a decade-long trend of increasing stability there. ...

Mexico’s stability affects the U.S., and U.S. policy has an effect on its southern neighbor’s stability. The recent Fund for Peace Fragile States Index showed Mexico worsened in terms of stability during the past year. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder spoke with the former chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, ...

President Donald Trump’s magnificent wall has had its first setback. The original schedule for contractors to produce bids to build initial sections of the wall along the U.S. border with Mexico has been pushed back from around March 24, to “on or about May 3, 2017,” according to a notice ...

Last Tuesday, days before the current Trump ordered roundup of illegal aliens began, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly went out of his way to urge members of the House Committee on Homeland Security to change the immigration law “if it is a bad law,” otherwise he will have to ...

Kidnappings in Mexico continue to increase, particularly in the states of Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Morelos, Puebla, Zacatecas, and Tabasco.  Although the Interior Ministry reported a 2.1 percent drop in 2016 compared to 2015, the methodology—or lack thereof—leaves a lot to be desired.  Statistics, like those reporting homicides, are hidden or ...

Many of us have seen decades of sporadic attention given to the security of our border, but I believe we are now better positioned to not only define what we mean by border security but identify the appropriate measures of performance and effectiveness that have long seemed unreachable.  To begin ...

Mexico’s homicide rate is surging. Government and independent sources are reporting an up to 18 percent increase for 2016, compared to last year. This comes on the heels of a multi-year decline in criminal violence in many parts of the country. It has been more than six years since Mexico’s ...

Earlier this month, a police truck burned on the side of the road in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, with meter high flames melting the interior and the four bodies, three of them murdered federal police officers, that lay inside. Like so many gruesome crime scenes across Mexico, this one marked a fault ...

The increase in violence over the last year has spread evenly across Mexico (as shown in Figure 1 below) which compares state-level intentional homicide rates per 100,000 residents for the first ten months of 2015 (X axis) and 2016 (Y axis). There are a few states where homicide rates have ...

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has stitched the economies of Mexico, Canada, and the United States together since 1994. However, over those twenty-plus years, criticism and controversy have continuously dogged the free trade pact. To U.S. opponents of the deal, NAFTA represents the kind of rampant globalization that ...

President-elect Donald Trump consistently lambasted the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) as a "the worst deal, possibly in history," one which unfairly disadvantages American workers. He has promised to renegotiate the agreement, or possibly even get rid of it altogether. However, critics contend that the effect of degrading trade ...

President-elect Donald Trump will tell Canada and Mexico – our NAFTA partners – that we intend to “immediately renegotiate the terms of that agreement,” and if not, “we will submit notice that the U.S. intends to withdraw from the deal.” The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) can be strengthened ...

Border security has been one of the most heavily debated topics in the U.S. presidential race, with most of the discussion focusing on illegal immigration. But that train of thought is not necessarily productive, explained Mike Fisher, former Chief of the United States Border Patrol, at The Cipher Brief’s monthly ...

Aside from a “big, beautiful wall” and so-called “bad hombres,” references to the southern border and illegal immigration, the U.S. campaign season has largely neglected any discussion of policy toward Latin America.  As the presidential election looms ahead, the winner has the potential to either build on the initiatives of ...

Since the turn of the century, perhaps earlier, there has been a consistent distancing between the U.S. and Latin America. Today it is difficult, perhaps even fanciful, to talk about U.S. policy toward the region as a whole; region-wide policies are mostly a thing of the past. During the Cold ...

Mexico has made historic progress in the two and a half short years since it amended its constitution to allow private investment in its energy sector. During the worst oil price crash in decades, Mexico has managed to hold three bid rounds, welcome 16 new private oil companies into its ...

The Northern Triangle – El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala – is one of the most violent regions in the world, with a staggering 17,422 homicides recorded in 2015. The solution for many citizens living in the violence: leave and head for the United States. Former Chief of the U.S. Border ...

For almost a decade, the Mexican government has deployed the latest version of a much longer effort to address the growing threat of Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs). Previous phases in this effort produced two phenomena: on one hand, the strengthening, sophistication, and territorial expansion of DTOs; and on the other, ...

In the last scene of the movie Sicario, children in Ciudad Juarez play soccer as their parents cheer from the sidelines.  Gunshots are heard in the distance.  Everyone pauses.  And then the game continues. Despite being fiction, this scene symbolizes what is true for people living in Juarez, and many ...

Does the deteriorating security situation in Mexico affect us here in the U.S.?  Is it really a U.S. national security issue?  If Mexico continues on a downward spiral, as long as you’re not vacationing there, does it matter?  The answer is a big yes.  We share a long 2,000-mile border ...

There was a sigh of relief when the Mexican government successfully re-captured drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman last week.  El Chapo, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, is arguably the most powerful drug trafficker in the world, exporting volumns of illegal narcotics globally and spreading violence in its wake.  However, ...

The U.S.-Mexican border is likely to be a hot a topic of discussion during the Republican debate Wednesday night, with unauthorized immigration as the main focus.  During this election cycle, candidates have differed over how to address the problem of undocumented immigrants residing in the U.S. and the problem of ...

In terms of security, since its current borders were defined, the United States of America has been blessed with two vast oceans to its East and West, a friendly neighbor to the North, and a non-threatening neighbor to the South.  This traditionally afforded us the luxury of not having to ...

As Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, Michael Fisher is responsible for planning, organizing, coordinating, and directing enforcement efforts to secure the border.  He sat down with The Cipher Brief to assess how threats along the border are changing and the crucial role of the private sector in ensuring border ...

Erik Lee, the Executive Director of the North American Research Partnership, spoke with The Cipher Brief to assess the solutions advocated by presidential candidates to resolve the problem of unauthorized immigration.  Lee discussed the economic implications of some of the proposals and what he sees as the path forward. The ...

Spanning 1,954 miles, the U.S.-Mexican border has been one of the most discussed topics in this election cycle—though primarily for its security implications.  Equally important is the U.S.-Mexican economic relationship; Mexico is the second-leading purchaser of U.S. exports and the third-leading supplier of U.S. imports.  This equates to hundreds of ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with Paola Ávila, the Vice President of International Business Affairs at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, to discuss the benefits of increased U.S. economic integration with Mexico.  Ávila shared why she is a strong proponent of a more open U.S.-Mexican border, and the ...

There are many lessons from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that are relevant to the current debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). First, like the TPP, NAFTA was never mostly about trade and even less about free trade. In 1994, the U.S. already had low tariff barriers to ...

The U.S.-Mexico economic relationship is large, fast-growing, and unique; three important features that make it deserving of significant attention and cultivation. The border between these two countries constitutes both one of the greatest challenges and greatest opportunities to strengthen the competitiveness of the regional economy. The first feature is relatively ...

Having begun transforming its energy sector, the Mexican government is learning the ups and downs of opening its oil resources to foreign companies.  In July, Mexico held its first round of bidding on oil blocks made available to foreign companies.  The auction followed radical changes to the nation’s constitution enacted ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with Francisco Quiñones, the founder of Arcis International, a security, risk management, and crisis response consultancy based in Washington, DC.  Quinones, a kidnapping and ransom (K&R) expert, discussed the work his company does to ensure the safe return of kidnapping victims. The Cipher Brief:  Can you ...

Being abducted by gunmen, held for weeks or months in horrific conditions and then forced to pay colossal sums to be freed has been the grim reality for thousands of Mexicans in recent years. But finally, after kidnappings reached a record level in Mexico in 2013, the administration of President ...