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Column 031014 Brewer

Monday, March 10, 2014

Victims of Crime in Mexico must not suffer due to Impunity

By Jerry Brewer

The much needed and most elusive mandate for Mexico, after nearly a decade of barbaric violence, must turn to the thousands of victims that have suffered through loss of life, and the survivors who have been victimized and those that are missing.

As local gangs, criminal opportunists and heavily armed transnational organized groups roam randomly through regions of Mexico, estimates are that they have left at least 99,000 killed from 2006-2012 alone.  And these numbers do not even remotely touch the estimated numbers of those reported missing.

Much of the violence is blamed on the obsessive and hedonistic demand for drugs in the United States of an estimated $80 billion a year, however let not this drug induced culture take the full blame.

Located mass burial sites in many parts of Mexico, and in northern cone nations of Central America, have revealed well over a thousand bodies of people that were duped by human traffickers, robbed and tortured, with many women raped and killed. Extortion and kidnappings have also attributed to many of the death, as have gang and other drug related offenses.

A victim is a victim, and survivors are demanding justice for these crimes that are approaching nearly a decade of impunity. Too few cases are solved, and there are reports of little attention given to the victims -- and they are widespread. Much of the inattention to the cases and the lack of follow-up are blamed on incompetence, lack of training, corruption and politics.

In contrast, the drug cartels and their hierarchies have, on occasion, suffered the wrath of what the Mexican military and federal police have bestowed upon them.

Although being a journalist in Mexico is a dangerous profession, with scores having been abducted, tortured and/or murdered, many journalists have focused their reporting on cartel nomenclature, the areas under organized crime control, and the personalities of the drug kingpins and their lifestyles. Many of the upper echelons of leadership within the drug trade receive celebrity status within regions, some are praised for their generosity, and there are those who are even welcomed and supported in the same localities where they have committed atrocities.

In Mexico, deputy interior secretary for human rights Lia Limon, in late February of this year, acknowledged a submission by Human Rights Watch regarding “27,000 cases of disappeared people.” As well, there were demands to clarify the circumstances under which the abducted vanished.

In particular, mothers and parents across Mexico are describing years of armed abductions of daughters who have never been seen again. In frustration, coalitions of mothers of abducted children of all ages have begun to do their own investigations where police have failed to do so.

In a climate of perceived lawlessness, and with alarming levels of violence and failures to arrest and convict to achieve justice, there is considerable distrust of the authorities. Few cases go to trial and convictions are scarce.  Too, a lack of transparency on the part of police and prosecutors about the status of pending cases and investigations certainly undermines confidence.

This is certainly not good news for the immediate future for Mexico’s fight against transnational organized criminals, and smaller home-based gang confederates and hatchet men, regardless of whether they are drug affiliated or not.  If they are not being arrested, not tried in courts of law or incarcerated, they remain fluid and deadly enemies against the state.  In this scenario, a military would need to continue to sustain the fight for an indeterminate time.

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s recent arrest was widely celebrated by the world media. Some Mexican citizens actually could not believe that Guzman, seen as a “shrewd and elusive businessman” by some, was caught. Others expressed opinions to leave the drug traffickers alone. Sadly, few reported the suspected numbers of deaths and carnage Guzman’s reign is responsible for.

As well, the media and pundits were quick to speculate who may maneuver to take control, and what areas of Mexico the criminal organizations would fight for. However, the victims in Mexico remain silent on the posturing, simply asking for justice and an official and reliable accounting of their losses.

Justice and the rule of law to prevail require a skilled policing and investigative infrastructure with competent professional leadership and oversight. Mexico has lacked this necessity for decades. Since the late 1980s it is believed that more than 500 women had been murdered in the state of Chihuahua.  Many simply disappeared. 

The creation of a Special Prosecutor’s Office in 1998, to investigate the murders of women in Juarez and the State of Chihuahua, failed to achieve the expectations for much needed changes.  Adding further insult to injury, many of the victim’s families claimed they were treated “very despicably” by the previous Chihuahua administration.  They felt that authorities, in public statements, displayed open discrimination against the women and their families. In many of the statements the women themselves were blamed for their own fatal circumstances

President Peña Nieto's security policy prioritizes the reduction of violence. He claims his focus is on lowering murder rates, kidnappings and extortions. Yet these goals will be monumental tasks without successful prosecution, and equally frustrating for all of the ignored victims who have been suffering for decades as they have received neither answers nor justice.

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Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at www.cjiausa.org.

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