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Column 110314 Wall

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Iguala Disappearances and continuing Violence in Mexico

By Allan Wall

“We are looking everywhere where we believe there is a possibility that the young people could be.”  Thus reported Mexican Secretary of the Interior Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, regarding the search for the 43 missing students who disappeared on September 26th in Iguala, Guerrero.


(For background, see The Iguala Atrocities send Shock Waves throughout Mexico.)


The search continues around Iguala, in houses, on ranches, in mines, but at the time of this writing the missing students have not been found, either alive or dead.


The Iguala Atrocity, bad as it is, is far from the only unsolved crime in the state of Guerrero.  The state of Guerrero had Mexico’s highest murder rate last year.


As of October 28th, 240 people had gone missing in the state of Guerrero thus far in 2014, and over 150 bodies had been discovered in clandestine graves.


As for the entire country of Mexico, the study of its crime statistics is a controversy in and of itself. 


How accurate are Mexican crime statistics?  That is disputed, but they are the figures we have to work with.


Analysts continue to study the grisly crime statistics, attempting to discover in which way the trends are moving.  It appears they are not all moving in the same direction.


On the plus side, Mexico’s murder rate is decreasing.  On the negative side, violent crime is still rampant. 


In 2013, which was the first full year in office for President Enrique Peña Nieto, the official count of murders was 18,331. That was a 15% drop from 2012, and a 20% drop from 2011.  Superficially, that makes the current administration look good.


However, in a government survey, 22.4 million Mexicans reported having been victims of crime during 2013.  That’s an increase over the previous year’s figure of 21.6 million, itself an increase over the previous year.


According to the same survey, the total quantity of crimes has increased about 50% since 2011.


It’s not surprising, therefore, that according to recent polling 73.3% of Mexicans said they felt insecure.  In comparison, the figure was 66.6% in Felipe Calderon’s last year as president.  So that could make the Calderon administration look better.


Statistics could be spun differently by partisans of the current or previous government.  As the late William F. Buckley said, a sitting government would claim credit for the sun coming up in the morning.


So partisans of Peña Nieto can point with pride to the drop in the murder rate, while critics of Peña Nieto can point with shock at the rise in overall criminality.


Is it possible there is a non-political explanation?


It has been suggested that what’s really going on here is a change in the relationship between the criminal cartels.


The major wars between the principal drug cartels have subsided, and the big cartels are now weaker.  As a result, crime perpetrated by cartels is, in some areas, replaced by crime perpetrated by smaller, local gangs, which of course have their own relationships with the larger cartels.


Such smaller gangs can’t really handle all the international drug trafficking operations like the big cartels.  But they can carry out robberies, kidnappings and extortion in their local areas. 


Then again, even that explanation has a political angle.  It has been suggested that previous President Calderon’s war against the cartels weakened them, opening up the increase in crime by the smaller, local gangs.


So the debate continues.


Kidnapping is now an enormous problem.  Mexico has been called the kidnapping capital of the world.


A recent analysis divides the country into five sectors and breaks down the incidence of kidnapping.  It reports that central Mexico has the highest total amount of kidnappings, but northeast Mexico has the highest rate of kidnappings per population.  Tamaulipas (which borders Texas on the Gulf of Mexico) is the state with the highest kidnapping rate.  The city in Mexico with the highest amount of kidnappings is Morelia, Michoacan, with 94 cases in 2013.


The Peña Nieto administration has announced a 6.8% drop in crime so far this year, if you compare it to the same period in 2013.  Maybe so, but it’s too early to call it a trend.


Plus, the kidnapping figures themselves are in dispute.  In other words, there may have been many more kidnappings than reported.


However you crunch the numbers, security is a major challenge for Mexico.



Allan Wall, an educator, resided in Mexico for many years.  His website is located at

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