Rise in Violent Crime Shakes Mexico City

The Wall Street Journal  9/27/2015

censorship

MEXICO CITY—Mexico’s roaring capital city, among the most populous in the Western Hemisphere, has long been considered a haven from the violent drug gangs that run unchecked across many parts of the country. But a sharp rise this year in violent crime here has many worried that the city’s favored status is in jeopardy.

The Federal District, home to some nine million of the 20 million inhabitants in the Mexico City metropolitan area, saw homicides rise 21% to 566 in the first eight months of this year, according to Interior Ministry data released last week, putting the capital’s murder rate at its highest level over the same period since 1998.

“It has been a slow process, but it appears that criminal activity around Mexico City is finally moving into the capital. This is a very worrying trend,” said Juan Salgado, a security expert at CIDE University and a member of nonprofit government-accountability group Causa en Común.

Read more…

UPCOMING EVENT! The State of Citizen Security in Mexico: 2014 in Review and the Year Ahead

security_lockWHEN: Tuesday, January 20th, 2:00pm-5:30pm

WHERE: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

2014 added new dimensions to the security picture. Despite significant reductions in violence in certain parts of the country, nine of Mexico’s cities ranked in the top 50 most violent cities worldwide, according to a study carried out last year by the Mexican organization Security, Justice, and Peace (Seguridad, Justicia y Paz). Meanwhile, the Mexican federal government intervened in Michoacán to address conflicts between vigilante self defense groups and local organized crime groups. The tragic killing and disappearance of student protestors in Guerrero, as well as the discovery of mass graves containing dozens of human remains, provoked massive outrage. Another, less measurable impact of organized crime-related violence has been the forced displacement of tens of thousands of Mexican citizens from their homes, as estimated by a number of human rights organizations.

To provide a careful examination of these security challenges, the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars will host its Second Annual Mexican Security Review, a forum with leading policy analysts from the United States and Mexico from 2:00pm to 5:30pm on Tuesday, January 20, 2015. Of particular interest will be the available indicators of crime trends, analysis of the specific policy measures of the Peña Nieto administration, and the efforts of civil society to confront recent security problems in Mexico. Speakers include Mexico Institute staff, David Shirk, Alejandro Hope, Steven Dudley, and others.

To RSVP for the event, click here.

“Building Resilient Communities in Mexico: Civic Responses to Crime and Violence” Briefing Paper Series

Resilient Communities Series15This briefing series is a continuation of the project Building Resilient Communities in Mexico: Civic Responses to Crime and Violence, a multiyear effort by the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Justice in Mexico Project at the University of San Diego to analyze the obstacles to and opportunities for improving citizen security in Mexico.

The first part of the series is a paper written by Sandra Ley on citizens’ political participation in the midst of Mexico’s current security crisis. The second piece, by Kimberly Heinle, Cory Molzahn, and David Shirk, discusses the efforts and challenges of the Mexican government and civil society to work together to establish order in Michoacán, a state that has long served as an important production and transit zone for drug traffickers.

Read the papers here:

1. Violence and Citizen Participation in Mexico: From the Polls to the Streets – By Sandra Ley

2. Citizen Security in Michoacán – By Kimberly Heinle, Cory Molzahn, and David Shirk

NEW PUBLICATION: Citizen Security in Michoacán

By Kimberly Heinle, Cory Molzahn, and David Shirk

Resilient Communities Series15Arguably the most intractable security issue facing the administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has been the dynamic and dangerous situation in the state of Michoacán, located on the Pacific in the southwestern portion of the country. During Peña Nieto’s first two years in office, the state has seen a significant increase in violence and criminal activities; the emergence, evolution, and internal struggles of armed “self-defense” groups (grupos de autodefensa,commonly referred to as autodefensas); and concerted federal government efforts to gain control and restore order in certain parts of the state, particularly in the state’s western Tierra Caliente region. Developments continue to unfold as criminal organizations, self-defense groups, and government all vie for control of Michoacán, a state that has long served as an important production and transit zone for drug traffickers.

While certain crime indicators—notably homicide—have fallen significantly throughout much of Mexico since 2011, Michoacán is one of the states where problems of crime and violence have been most intractable. It is also one of the places where citizen mobilization has manifested most visibly through vigilantism, with entire communities rising up to take the law into their own hands because of the real or perceived inability of authorities to address the problem of organized crime. Over the course of 2014, the worsening situation in Michoacán led the Mexican government to intervene heavily and try to regain the trust of the citizenry. This report therefore pays close attention to the efforts and challenges of the Mexican government and civil society to work together to establish order in Michoacán, offering important insights and recommendations for continued progress to that end.

Read the publication here…

NEW PUBLICATION: Violence and Citizen Participation in Mexico: From the Polls to the Streets

By Sandra Ley

Resilient Communities Series15How do citizens cope politically with violence? In the face of rising insecurity, Mexican citizens, particularly victims, have poured into the streets to demand an end to violence and ask for peace and justice. However, as organized crime groups attempt to influence local elections and target political candidates and public officials, citizens have not felt equally encouraged to cast ballots on election day.

Elections in Mexico, as well as in other Latin American countries such as Brazil and Guatemala, have been marked by criminal violence. Voters, public officials, and candidates alike have been threatened or attacked by organized crime groups. It is, therefore, important to examine how violence shapes various forms of participation. This paper seeks to provide a broad view of political participation in the midst of Mexico’s current security crisis, with the goal of understanding the effects of violence on civic activism.

This paper is a continuation of the series Building Resilient Communities in Mexico: Civic Responses to Crime and Violence, a multiyear effort by the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Justice in Mexico Project at the University of San Diego to analyze the obstacles to and opportunities for improving citizen security in Mexico.

Read the publication here…

In Mexico, a Rail Line Splits a City and Views

TrainNew York Times, 5/8/14

EL PASO — When César Duarte, the governor of the Mexican state of Chihuahua, announced last week that the government wanted to move the railroad tracks that pass through Ciudad Juárez out of the heart of the city, Cristina Jiménez knew that the battle had only begun.

Ms. Jiménez, a former Ciudad Juárez councilwoman, and other local residents have been trying for years to get the government and the railroads to build a bypass, arguing that the trains going through Juárez and El Paso, its sister city across the border, expose residents to several threats like dangerous freight and pedestrian fatalities.

While Ms. Jiménez considered the governor’s announcement of a bypass a good start, she remained skeptical, in part because the railroads had yet to agree to any such plan.

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Mexico’s Police: Many Reforms, Little Progress

federal police mexicoWOLA, May 2014

For more than two decades, successive Mexican administrations have taken steps to create more professional, modern, and well-equipped police forces. While these reforms have included some positive elements, they have failed to establish strong internal and external controls over police actions, enabling a widespread pattern of abuse and corruption to continue. Recognizing the need for stronger controls over Mexico’s police, this report reviews Mexico’s police reforms, with a specific focus on accountability mechanisms, and provides recommendations for strengthening existing police reform efforts in order to establish rights-respecting forces that citizens can trust.

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Mexican vigilantes who ousted Knights Templar cartel could bring new violence

youth with handgunThe Guardian, 03/19/14

When people in Mexico’s western state of Michoacán started fighting back against the unbridled violence, systematic economic exploitation, and shattered self respect that came with living under the de facto dictatorship of one of Mexico’s most vicious and bizarre criminal gangs, many in Mexico applauded, or at least expressed sympathy. Today the Knights Templar cartel that once dominated the region is a shadow of its former self, but concern is growing that the heavily armed militias who helped  break the cartel’s dominance could themselves trigger more violence and prove as difficult to control.

Read more………….

Mexico’s Illusory Cure – Op Ed

m16 gun closeupNew York Times 02/13/2014

By Hector Abad

Most everyone agrees: The only thing worse than killing is being killed. If our lives are threatened, we have the right to defend ourselves, with force if necessary. In a civilized society, that defense is delegated to the state. But not all of us, apparently, live in that kind of civilized society. Colombia in the 1990s saw the rise of vigilante self-defense groups. In its impotence and desperation at not being able to rapidly win the war against the guerrilla army (which was essentially a drug cartel) and against the drug lord Pablo Escobar’s private army, the state gave the green light to these groups — called Convivir.

What has been going on these last few months in Mexico, in the western state of Michoacán, makes me fear that the same thing is happening there today. “Autodefensas” have organized to drive out the vicious local drug cartel, called the Knights Templar. After first demanding that the vigilantes disband, the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto has now sanctioned them as part of the Rural Defense Corps — at least nominally under the control of the military.

Read More…..

Context Interview on Citizen Security: Is the Peña Nieto Administration Succeeding?

wwclogo.MexicoMexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto made several bold promises while on the campaign trail in 2012 on how he would improve citizen security, including the unofficial claim that his administration would cut violence by 50% during his first year in office. With the administration’s first year complete, we asked two expert observers to provide analysis and context on what has transpired and to provide insight on the outlook moving forward.

To learn more,  watch Mexico Institute’s interview with Alejandro Hope, Director of Security Policy for the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO), and John Bailey,  Professor with the Department of Government and School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University here.

If you missed our event “The State of Citizen Security in Mexico: The Peña Nieto Administration’s First Year in Review” you can watch the webcast here.