The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Forced Criminal Activities along Mexico's Eastern Migration Routes and Central America Department of Public Affairs and Security Studies

Northern Mexico

Northern Mexico has been identified as one of the most dangerous parts of the migrant route. One of the main reasons for this part of the journey is highly unsafe is because the states of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas are territories control by two of the most active Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) in Mexico: the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas. This part of the route has been split into two sections: the Zeta Zone and the Gulf Cartel Zone. The former comprises the cities visited in state of Coahuila –Saltillo and Piedras Negras,- the city of Monterrey in the state of Nuevo Leon, and the city of Nuevo Laredo in the state of Tamaulipas. The Gulf Cartel Zone is based on the visits to the cities of Reynosa and Matamoros in the state of Tamaulipas.

Migrants’ final destination is one of the three border cities in Tamaulipas – Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa or Matamoros, or the city of Piedras Negras. They either arrive to these cities following the route from Coahuila and Nuevo Leon or they arrive after crossing Veracruz. Another important source of migrants at the border are the deportations from the United States. Some experts expressed there is an increase in border crossings through the Coahuila border, as migrants find these border cities less dangerous than the cities in Tamaulipas.   

Several experts agreed in the fact that TCOs do not engage in human trafficking as much as they do in their primary criminal activity, drug trafficking. However, they do agree on the fact that human trafficking for compelled labor for criminal activities exists. However, experts in the northern states expressed their concern in the involvement of TCOs in the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation. Officials in Mexico City disagree on the involvement of TCOs in human trafficking for sexual exploitation.