The reduction in homicides during the first few months of the Peña Nieto administration is barely noticeable. This is one of the conclusions of a report, “Evolution of Violence, Trimester Report 2013,” prepared by the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO), which points out that after comparing all registered homicides in the fourth trimester of 2012 with the first of 2013, violence was reduced a mere 0.6%.
The Mexico Institute’s “Weekly News Summary,” released every Friday afternoon summarizes the week’s most prominent Mexico headlines published in the English-language press, as well as the most engaging opinion pieces by Mexican columnists.
What the English-language press had to say…
Last Friday, some 2,000 teachers protesting the education reforms proposed by the Peña Nieto administration blocked the highway between Mexico City and Acapulco for several hours. Federal policemen forced them off the roads, but future clashes are likely. Mexican officials announced homicide rates are down about 14% compared to the same period last year. Media outlets including the Los Angeles Times remained highly skeptical of such claims, and directed attention to the growing vigilante crisis affecting parts of the country, as well as the violence suffered by journalists covering organized crime.
Optimistic news pieces, however, continued to surface. Real Clear Politics referred to Mexico as a “stable, politically diverse neighbor.” American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies remarked that while “Brazil was everyone’s favorite two years ago, Mexico is now being hailed as a hot performer.” And in an article for The New York Times, Eduardo Porter argued Mexico’s austerity experience following the 1982 financial crisis holds lessons for struggling European nations today.
On Wednesday, thousands of people gathered outside the U.S. Capitol and across the United States in support of immigration reform. A bipartisan bill led by eight senators – which Politico reports may be released next Tuesday – will define ‘border security’ as “100% awareness of when people cross the most trafficked sections of the Southwest border,” as well as the ability to stop 90% of unauthorized traffic. In an op-ed for The Dallas Morning News, the Mexico Institute’s Christopher Wilson argued that more attention should be placed on the “staffing, infrastructure and technology needs of ports of entry themselves” in order to secure the border and enhance America’s economic competitiveness. A conservative think-tank released a study arguing immigration reform would boost economic growth and reduce the federal deficit.
The new government claimed the homicide rate in February was the lowest single monthly toll in 40 months. However, the number, 914, was about 5% lower than Reforma newspaper estimates and did not take into account the month’s fewer days in calculating the comparison. Peña Nieto and his officials have deliberately sought to refocus attention on Mexico’s still sluggish economy and issues other than violence in hopes of burnishing the government’s image and attracting investment that would in turn finance ambitious domestic programs.
In many ways, the government propaganda campaign has succeeded. From Washington think tanks to local Mexican newspapers, many of which have been attacked or threatened by criminal gangs, a rhetoric has emerged that ignores facts and promotes discussion of the economy over violence.
The Los Angeles Times, 8/15/12
In a new study by the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness, or IMCO, the city of Monterrey, at the once-tranquil heart of Mexico’s industrial hub, was ranked No. 1 in most of the things that make an urban center attractive to business and residents. And yet, the report also noted that Monterrey’s murder rate grew by 300% between 2010 and 2011. (Links in Spanish.)
Part of the explanation, the report noted, is that homicides really soared after the cutoff date for the data used to rate competitiveness in the study, late 2010. But security in Monterrey had already begun to deteriorate in early 2009, and other factors apparently sustained the city’s ability to develop and attract investment…
“In my opinion, it’s not a contradiction because we are saying Monterrey is competitive DESPITE the crisis of violence that it is living,” the report’s author, IMCO urban development studies director Gabriela Alarcon, said in an email message.
In Sight: Organized Crime in the Americas, Alejandro Hope, 4/30/12
Last month’s murder figures have some positive implications for Mexico, argues Alejandro Hope — violence continues to fall in the long term, with signs that criminal groups may be shifting towards policies of more caution and lower visibility.
March’s statistics on the state of violence in the country bring both good and bad news. As in previous months, all the data comes from the Executive Secretariat of the National System of Public Security. And once again, a clarification: the figures are used to indicate trends.
As is already well known, there is under-reporting of all crimes (including homicide), but there is strong evidence that the error is more or less systematic. Official information tells us where we are going, but it doesn’t quite tell us where we are.
The Washington Post, 3/26/12
That leads to extreme situations like the northern border state of Chihuahua, where researchers found 96.4 percent of killings go unpunished, based on comparisons of the annual rates for murders and convictions in 2010. That compares to what the study calls an unenviably high nationwide average of around 80 percent.
Police in one Chihuahua city, Ciudad Juarez, made headlines in December for ticketing a 6-year boy for reckless driving, driving without a license and not registering his miniature gasoline-powered motorbike, after he ran into an SUV, causing a minor dent.
In Sight: Organized Crime in the Americas, 2/6/12
The narcos know that if they touch one hair on a US agent’s head the response will be ferocious, immediate, and unrelenting — Alejandro Hope asks whether the US could offer the same deterrent against the mass slaughter of Mexican civilians.
On Saturday morning, a group of thugs entered a bar in the city of Chihuahua and shot up the patrons with AK-47s. Nine people died, among them five band members and a pregnant woman. I don’t know how many people they were after, but there is no doubt that it did not matter to the shooters how many they took with them.
Why did they do this? Why the indiscriminate violence? For two reasons: 1) killing without checking who you are killing is quick (the whole incident took less than a minute), and 2) it does not generate additional costs (the assassins dealt with the same risk of capture or reprisal as if they had killed only one person).
Associated Press, 5/5/2010
The body of a Texas high school student reported missing by her mother has been found in Mexico and police are investigating her death as a homicide, authorities said Wednesday.
Elisabeth Mandala, 18, and two Mexican men were found dead Saturday in a crashed pickup truck near Mina, a town in the northeastern state of Nuevo Leon.
Autopsies revealed that all three died from severe blows to the head and body, according to a spokeswoman from the Nuevo Leon state Attorney General’s Office.