March 23, 2013
Is The Situation Improving?
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.
Analyzing 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?
You can 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.
Another complication is the change in the presidency. On December 1st, Felipe Calderon of the PAN (Partido Acción Nacional) was replaced by Enrique Pena 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.
Pena 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 Pena 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 1139 drug war killings while Lantia reports a total at 1166 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 1104 drug war killings, while Lantia reports 1032 killings. (The government figure is not always lower than a private estimate, as you might expect).
For the month of February 2013, the government estimate 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 month.
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. Pena Nieto has not yet made any great changes to Mexican security policy and may well continue some of Calderon’s policies.
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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. However, we have to wait and see how things develop.
© 2013 Allan Wall - All Rights Reserved
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Allan Wall recently returned to the U.S. after residing many years in Mexico.