Killings surge in Mexico state at tip of Baja

11/26/14 Washington Post 

bajacaliforniasurThe normally bucolic, vacationer-crowded state at the tip of Mexico’s Baja peninsula has become a battleground, with dozens of killings in a power struggle following the capture of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman nearly a year ago. The bloodshed has been concentrated in La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur state. In the latest killings, two men bound, gagged and showing signs of torture were dumped onto streets in exclusive neighborhoods Sunday and another person was found shot to death Tuesday. The local newspaper El Sudcaliforniano, which puts the mounting death toll in each headline on stories about violence, has reported 46 homicides in and around the city so far this year. That doesn’t include the apparent shooting victim on a La Paz sidewalk Tuesday. Federal statistics through October counted 48 killings for the entire state.

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Will tensions over security spoil the Obama-Peña Nieto Summit?

obama_nieto_featureAULA Blog, 4/16/13

The meeting in December between recently re-elected President Barack Obama and President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto was marked by cordiality and a desire to talk about anything but the often grisly drug-related violence in Mexico during the previous six years.  Since then, Peña Nieto has continued the changed emphasis, aided by headlines pivoting to positive stories.  Mexico has been recently hailed for its economic growth, particularly in export-oriented manufacturing, and for a series of political compromises that The Washington Post favorably compared with the U.S. Congressional stalemate.

Despite optimistic claims from the government, Mexican media reports indicate that drug-related violence continues at nearly the same pace as last year.  (Click here for a summary and analysis by our colleagues at InSight Crime.)  Moreover, pressure is growing on questions of human rights violations committed in the name of the war on drugs.  When Presidents Peña Nieto and Obama meet again in early May, holding back a renewed focus on security is likely to be a challenge.

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Lateral deportation: Migrants crossing the Mexican border fear a trip sideways

Border fenceThe Washington Post, 2/12/2013

While reporting on a story last week among the down-and-out (and recently deported) at a migrant shelter in Tecate, Mexico, I met a few men who had a whole new reason to dread re-arrest by U.S. Border Patrol. They were trying to sneak back into California. But if caught, they were likely to be transported hundreds of miles east by U.S. immigration authorities, where they would be released onto the streets of some of Mexico’s scariest border towns.

The procedure is known as Lateral Repatriation, or Lateral Deportation. It began a decade ago as a pilot program aimed at reducing migrant deaths in the blazing deserts of Arizona. The thinking was this: Instead of sending illegal migrants back to the Mexican side near their point of arrest, U.S. agents could break the catch-and-release pattern — and ties to local smuggling guides — by shipping deportees from the harsh deserts to more settled areas opposite south Texas.

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In Mexico’s murder city, the war appears over

The Washington Post, 8/20/2012

When this city was among the most murderous in the world, the morgue ran out of room, the corpses stacked to the ceiling in the wheezing walk-in freezers.

For all this, Mexico has not made much sense of one of the most sensational killing sprees in recent history, which has left 10,500 dead in the streets of Juarez as two powerful drug and crime mafias went to war. In 2010, the peak, there were at least 3,115 aggravated homicides, with many months posting more than 300 deaths, according to the newspaper El Diario.

But the fever seems to have broken.

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Mexico’s president says homicides down 15 percent to 20 percent in first half of 2012

The Washington Post/The Associated Press, 07/15/2012

Calderon said 2011 had proved “a climactic point” in drug-related killings, though he did not cite specific figures.

“Today, violence related to rivalries between criminals is declining,” he said. “It is higher than when I assumed the presidency, yes, but I insist it is a phenomenon that comes from the brutality and conflicts between cartels, and not precisely from the government’s actions.”

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Study: Mexico homicides rose 23 percent in 2010

Associated Press, 7/29/11

Photo credit: Kelly Donlan

The number of homicides in Mexico rose by nearly a quarter in 2010 compared to the year before as the drug war intensified across the country, Mexican statisticians said Thursday.

The National Institute of Statistics and Geography recorded 24,374 homicides over the course of last year, a 23 percent increase from 19,803 in 2009. Last year’s figure represented 22 killings for every 100,000 residents in the country.

Many but not all of the homicides were committed by organized crime organizations, the institute told The Associated Press.

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Homicides 2008-2009: Death is allowed (in Spanish)

Nexos, 1/3/2011

En 2008-2009 el homicidio en México se disparó por encima de toda lógica social y toda tendencia estadística previa. Fernando Escalante Gonzalbo comprueba con rigor que las muertes crecieron especialmente en los lugares en donde hubo grandes operativos militares y policiacos. La muerte tiene permiso es el título de un libro de cuentos de Edmundo Valadés. Lo repetimos aquí en su memoria y homenaje.

Hace algo más de un año publiqué aquí mismo un análisis estadístico del homicidio en México entre 1990 y 2007. La historia que contaban aquellos números era un poco desconcertante de entrada, porque nos habíamos hecho a la idea de que la violencia venía aumentando en el país desde hacía tiempo, que era incluso mayor a la que había padecido Colombia a fines de los años ochenta. Y no era así. No había datos que justificasen la sensación de inseguridad de la segunda mitad de los noventa y, extrañamente, nadie los había buscado. Por eso los números resultaban desconcertantes. Entre 1990 y 2007 la tasa nacional de homicidios había disminuido sistemáticamente, año tras año; alcanzó un máximo de 19 homicidios por cada 100 mil habitantes en 1992, y a partir de entonces comenzó a bajar hasta llegar a un mínimo de ocho homicidios por cada 100 mil habitantes en 2007.

Por supuesto, esa evolución lenta y sistemática de la tasa nacional ocultaba historias muy contrastantes de diferentes regiones del país. La disminución era particularmente pronunciada en los municipios de menos de 10 mil habitantes en el centro y sur del país, en Oaxaca, Morelos, Estado de México, Hidalgo, Puebla, Campeche, también Guerrero y Michoacán. No pasaba lo mismo en las grandes ciudades, en los municipios que habían recibido importantes flujos migratorios, en las ciudades de frontera. En particular, había tasas altas e inestables en todas las ciudades de más de 50 mil habitantes con paso de frontera en el norte del país, y había tasas mucho más altas que las del resto del territorio en la cuenca occidental del río Balsas, entre Guerrero y Michoacán, y en la parte más alta de la Sierra Madre Occidental, en los límites de Sinaloa, Chihuahua y Durango.

Me encuentro ahora con nuevos números, los que corresponden a 2008 y 2009, de la misma fuente, las actas de defunción capturadas por el INEGI. Y me siento obligado a completar aquel panorama con este otro, aunque el análisis sea todavía tentativo y en algunos extremos difícil de argumentar.

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