The growing problem of Mexico’s modern-day highway robbery

Faced with police inaction, some people are taking justice into their own hands

Security footage showing a robbery inside a bus in Mexico.
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Así se atraca un autobús de pasajeros en México

It takes Mexico’s latter-day highwaymen just 10 minutes to relieve bus passengers of their belongings.

Victims say they rarely bother lodging a complaint to the police, believing the authorities will never launch an investigation, meaning that these criminals enjoy impunity.

The thieves typically climb aboard the buses covering the route between Mexico City and Toluca, and then disembark once they have staged their hold-up.

In mid-June, a robber was lynched inside a bus

Footage obtained by security cameras inside the vehicles shows armed robbers first subduing the driver and then assaulting the passengers. In some cases, women are sexually abused.

One video available on social media shows three robbers attacking a bus on March 14 after pretending to be passengers. One of them approaches the driver with a gun in his hand and tells him to keep driving. He then addresses the passengers.

“From now on, you will all cooperate, and no pretending to be asleep,” he says, shooting at the floor. While he watches the driver, his accomplices start walking up and down the aisle, demanding people hand over their possessions. The booty is placed inside a backpack.

Once they have fleeced the passengers, the robbers tell the driver to stop the bus, and they simply get off and walk away.

The bodies of four bus robbers were found on October 31 near the Mexican town of Lerma.
The bodies of four bus robbers were found on October 31 near the Mexican town of Lerma..... (EFE)

News outlet Imagen Noticias has aired a similar video recorded on September 23. In it, the robbers overpower the driver and tell passengers to hand over their money and cellphones.

“This is a hold-up!” yells one of the criminals. Nine minutes later, the gang members step off the bus.

These images are part of the evidence presented by the National Chamber of Passenger Transportation and Tourism (CANAPAT) in action it is bringing against thieves.

Vigilante turns the tables

But the discovery this week of four bodies on a stretch of road near Mexico City shows that some victims of these muggings are prepared to fight back. Mexican prosecutors have identified the dead as members of a gang that had carried out a robbery that morning.

As they were getting off the bus, one of the passengers stood up and shot them one by one. The bodies were found face down by the roadside a few hours later. The president of CANAPAT, Odilón López Nava, said that the dead men had committed other robberies, as confirmed by video footage.

This is not the first time that passengers have taken the law into their own hands. In mid-June, a robber was lynched inside a bus. The police reported that three criminals were involved in the robbery and that several passengers resisted the attack.

During the scuffle one of the robbers accidentally shot an accomplice. The passengers then lynched him, nearly killing the third robber, who was rescued by the police.

English version by Susana Urra.


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