Monday, March 25, 2013
The Mexican Drug War - is the
Situation Hopefully Improving?
By Allan Wall
The drug war violence continues in Mexico, as
analysts continue to pore over the grisly murder statistics, looking for trends. It's rather morbid when you think about
it, as these statistics represent real people who were killed.
the statistics is not easy as the sources are not always in agreement on the exact numbers. And trends take time to develop.
The good news is the overall rate of violence dropped slightly from 2011 to 2012. But
what will the results be at the end of this calendar year?
also break down the stats by state and city, as the violence levels vary greatly among Mexico's cities, states and regions.
The situation in Ciudad Juarez, for example, has greatly improved while in the city of Torreon it's gotten much worse.
After the numbers have been crunched, how can the data be utilized
in order to fight crime? That's an important question.
complication is the change in the presidency. On December 1st, Felipe Calderon of the PAN (Partido Acción Nacional)
was replaced by Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI (Partido Institucional Revolucionario). There's a political issue
involved, as partisans of one or the other party may be inclined to put a different spin on the stats to make their man look
better. There's nothing unusual about that, it's politics. But the temptation to do so should be resisted, if we
really want to see the big picture.
To what extent will Mexico's
new president fight crime differently than Felipe Calderon, the previous president? That too remains to be seen.
The new president´s strategy is to reduce violence by reducing crimes such as
murder, kidnapping and extortion, not necessarily to go after cartel chiefs.
Peña Nieto plans to form a new federal police force, the Gendarmería Nacional. Also the new administration
has divided the country into five operational regions to facilitate coordination with local Mexican authorities.
The concrete realization of these plans has yet to materialize. The Peña Nieto
presidency is still in the early stage.
November of 2012 was the
last month of the Calderon presidency. According to Milenio, there were 949 killings related to organized crime.
In December of 2012, according to the same source, there were 982 such killings. That was an increase.
It's unlikely though that the blame for the increase can be laid at the door of
the new president. After all, nothing much changed in one month, it could just be a statistical glitch.
Now, how about the three full months in which Pena Nieto has been president?
Let's consider two sources - the Mexican government itself, and the Lantia consulting
group, which has its own calculations.
For the month of December
2012, the government claims 1,139 drug war killings, while Lantia reports a total at 1,166 killings. Note that both figures
are higher than Milenio's figure, see above. If you study the Mexican drug war, conflicting statistics are
part of the game.
In January of 2013, the government claims 1,104
drug war killings, while Lantia reports 1,032 killings. (The government figure is not always lower than a private estimate,
as you might expect).
For the month of February 2013, the government
estimates 914 killings, while Lantia calculates 847.
Note that these
two sources differ, but each of them, in the three months under consideration, show a lower rate of killings than the previous
It's too early to say that it's a trend, much less
a long-range trend, but we can certainly hope so.
At this point,
though, it probably doesn't have much to do with the change of the presidency. Peña Nieto has not yet made any
great changes to Mexican security policy, and he may well continue some of Calderon's policies.
Regarding February's statistics, the government breaks down the 914 deaths thusly: 852 narcos,
55 security personnel and 7 bystanders.
And looking at the violence
by city, the Lantia statistics indicate that in February the northern city of Monterrey was the most violent, with 46 killings,
followed up by Acapulco with 43 killings, and Culiacán, Sinaloa with 25.
The overall government figure for February (914) would be the lowest drug war murder rate in 40 months.
However, it's still too early to say if this is a trend. It sure would be good
if it were. Yet we will have to wait and see how things develop.
Allan Wall, an educator, resided in Mexico for many years. His website is located at http://www.allanwall.info.