Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

The scene of the attack on the LeBaron family. Photo: Herika Martinez/AFP via Getty

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador declared an end to Mexico’s war on the drug cartels when he took office nearly a year ago, but the gangs are only growing more aggressive.

Driving the news: Nine dual U.S-Mexican citizens — six children and three women — from a Mormon community were slaughtered on Tuesday near the U.S.-Mexico border.

  • That massacre comes three weeks after the Sinaloa cartel violently took control of Culiacán, holding the city of 800,000 hostage until authorities agreed to release the drug kingpin son of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.
  • While those high-profile incidents ratcheted up the pressure both in Mexico and from the U.S, cartel violence is a daily occurrence.
  • The country is on pace for a record 37,000 homicides this year, and organized crime has been seeping into areas that had previously been spared.

The cycle of violence is driven by American demand — Mexican cartels are the top suppliers of heroin, fentanyl, meth and cocaine to the U.S.

  • Those drug profits allow the gangs to pay off judges and politicians. Fewer than 1 in 20 homicides in Mexico are solved, per the WSJ.

Flashback: Mexico’s war on the cartels began in 2006 under then President Felipe Calderón, whose strategy of taking out gang leaders spawned smaller warring groups.

  • Homicides fell in the early years under his successor, Enrique Peña Nieto, but began to climb once again in 2014. By 2018 they'd reached historic highs.

When López Obrador swept to office last year in a landslide, crime ranked behind only corruption in terms of voters’ concerns.

  • He took a softer line, urging cartel members to think of their mothers and proposing anti-poverty programs, while also building a new national guard.
  • “He wants to take a new approach to security, and power to him,” says Earl Anthony Wayne, the former U.S. ambassador to Mexico (2011-2015). “Addressing the root causes is a wonderful thing to do. But in the short term, he still faces this day-to-day violence fueled by these criminal groups.”

Zoom out: Despite the continued rise in violence and a sluggish economy, a recent poll puts López Obrador’s approval rating at a remarkable 67%.

  • Most Mexicans believe their president — a supremely talented politician — is “one of them,” says Wayne, adding that López Obrador recently asked for “one year to show results.”
  • “We’ll see if they give him that year, but clearly people like him, they like the promises, and they’re desirous of change.”

The bottom line: López Obrador has massive ambitions to lift up the poor and remake Mexico from the ground up. The cartels are standing in his way.

Go deeper

In photos: D.C. and U.S. states on alert for pre-inauguration violence

National Guard troops stand behind security fencing with the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building behind them, on Jan. 16. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Security has been stepped up in Washington, D.C., and state capitols across the U.S. as authorities brace for potential violence this weekend.

Driving the news: Following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by some supporters of President Trump, the FBI has said there could be armed protests in D.C. and in all 50 state capitols in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

The new Washington

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Axios subject-matter experts brief you on the incoming administration's plans and team.

Rep. Lou Correa tests positive for COVID-19

Lou Correa. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) announced on Saturday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Correa is the latest Democratic lawmaker to share his positive test results after last week's deadly Capitol riot. Correa did not shelter in the designated safe zone with his congressional colleagues during the siege, per a spokesperson, instead staying outside to help Capitol Police.