Mexico: As dangerous — and safe — as ever

June 10, 2013

crime sceneCNN, 6/9/2013

Violence in Mexico is back in the news and so is the perennial question: Is Mexico safe? In just the last few weeks there have been stories of 12 young people allegedly abducted in daylight from a Mexico City club; the death by beating of Malcolm X’s grandson, also in the capital; the kidnapping of a U.S. Marine reservist from his father’s ranch; the freeing of 165 people, including two pregnant women, who had been held prisoner; and the case of an Arizonan mom traveling on a bus who was arrested and jailed, accused of smuggling drugs.

That’s all before you look at the staggering toll of the years-long war between security forces and drug cartels — at least 60,000 people killed in drug-related violence from 2006 to 2012, according to Human Rights Watch. Other observers put the number even higher. Outside of war zones, more Americans have been killed in Mexico in the last decade than in any other country outside the United States, and the number of U.S. deaths jumped from 35 in 2007 to 113 in 2011. But those numbers do not lead to any simple conclusion.

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Reduction in violence with EPN, Barely Noticeable (Spanish)

April 26, 2013

crime sceneAnimal Político, 4/26/13

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%.

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Weekly News Summary: April 12th

April 12, 2013

Coffee by Flikr user samrevelThe 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.

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Mexico government downplays deadly violence

April 12, 2013

crime sceneThe Los Angeles Times, 4/11/13

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.

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Mexico’s Monterrey still ranks as top city, despite violence

August 16, 2012

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.

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What March’s Murder Rate Says About Trends in Mexico Violence

April 30, 2012

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.

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Most murders go unpunished in Mexico as authorities focus on lesser crimes, study finds

March 26, 2012

The Washington Post, 3/26/12

Four out of five homicides go unpunished in Mexico, in part because prosecutors and police focus on less serious cases that are easier to solve, a Mexican think tank’s report said Monday.

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.

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