Cargo Truck Hijacking Is A Major Problem In Mexico

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer walks next to a truck entering from Mexico at the Otay Mesa Cargo Port of Entry in San Diego, California, U.S. Photographer: David Maung/Bloomberg © 2017 BLOOMBERG FINANCE LP

Mexico has a serious problem with cargo truck hijacking. On February 15, 2024 several major Mexican trucking chambers blockaded major highways near important logistics hubs in Mexico in order to draw attention to security problems drivers face on Mexico’s highways. The trucker protests disrupted logistics routes in multiple states including Estado de Mexico, ChihuahuaPuebla, Veracruz, Jalisco and Guanajuato. Many of these states are also among the top recipients of foreign direct investment and are also hotspots for cargo truck hijacking. The truckers are trying to raise awareness about the risks they face from violent crime while moving goods on Mexico’s roadways in states where companies such as Audi, HP, Ford, VW, PepsiCo, and IBM operate major facilities.

One driver who participated in blockading a highway near Mexico City said, “we demand security. We don’t want more dead drivers.”

Fourteen drivers have been murdered during hijackings over the first six weeks of 2024, including one who lost his life during a robbery in the municipality of Tlalnepantla on the edge of Mexico City. I spoke to one Mexican trucking chamber leader who estimates that the real figure for truck hijackings in Mexico could be as many as 50 per day. Official estimates from Mexico’s CONCAMIN business chamber calculate that more than 85,000 cargo truck hijackings have occurred during the first five years of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s time in office.

According to Ernesto Flores, the Vice Chairman of Mexico’s AMOTAC chamber, “The authorities [here in Mexico] have not done enough to stop highway crime and it’s affecting us a lot. [Criminal gangs] assault our trucks and they aren’t satisfied with taking the vehicle, taking the merchandise. They are killing us, the drivers.”

According to the Mexico Cargo Truck Hijacking Data Portal, which compiles and analyzes data published by Mexico’s federal government, Mexico logged 7,862 violent cargo truck hijackings in 2023, up 3 percent from 2022.

Overwhelming, the hijackings are occurring in the industrial areas around Mexico City, rather than in the U.S.-Mexico border region in cities such as Tijuana.

President Lopez Obrador, however, has downplayed the risk of cargo truck hijacking and accused the truckers of having political motives for their protests and labeled the chamber leaders as “opportunistic” and “corrupt.”

“They have a political goal: it’s for the elections. It’s to cause us problems. There’s no problem that’s not being dealt with,” President Lopez Obrador said on February 16, 2024, a day after the protest.

Now in his final year in office, Lopez Obrador continues to adhere to the authoritarian populist playbook of dismissing all criticism as politically motivated and illegitimate. But even though Lopez Obrador insists that his policies are working and that his critics are being unfair, Mexico’s federal government’s statistics show that Lopez Obrador’s time in office has been the most violent sexenio in modern Mexican history. The 2023 World Justice Project Rule of Law Index shows that Mexico sits among the world’s worst countries when it comes to rule of law. The Global Organized Crime Index highlights Mexico as the worst country in the world for extortion, a crime that mainly affects local small and medium businesses, rather than large foreign companies.

Lopez Obrador is choosing to downplay and dismiss the severity of the cargo truck hijacking problem in Mexico, but foreign executives at the manufacturing companies who are driving Mexico’s record-breaking levels of exports are certainly paying attention. If Mexico is going to take full advantage of the current global trend of nearshoring investment, the federal government will have to finds ways to improve security on major highways.

– Nathaniel Parish Flannery, Published courtesy of Forbes

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