Neither Felipe Calderón’s “war on drugs” strategy, nor Enrique Peña Nieto’s “crime prevention” discourse, nor Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s “hugs, not bullets” and direct distribution of resources to the poorest have produced results.
Homicides, which increased significantly under the Calderón government, and which, after moderation in the first years of Peña Nieto’s tenure, began to rise again in 2016, reached a record high in 2019, already under the administration of ‘AMLO.
Since then, the number of homicides has remained the same.
The credibility of the Mexican government and the possibility of a transformation in the way politics are conducted in the country are threatened by the situation of uncontrollable violence.
In addition, statistics from the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System (SESNSP) and the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi) are unreliable.
In some cases due to the political intention of state governments, in others due to the fear of local authorities of reprisals from organized crime, especially in Tamaulipas and Veracruz, and also due to the high number of people missing found in underground graves that cannot be quantified.
Official data, however, shows a rough geography of homicidal violence.
Murders in Mexico currently range between 32,000 and 37,000 per year, or more than 26 homicides per 100,000 population.
In 2020, the five states with the most homicides per 100,000 population were Colima (76.2), Baja California (70.5), Quintana Roo (65), Chihuahua (62.1) and Guanajuato (59.9 ).
What explains the uncontrollable violence in Mexico?
There are two basic reasons. The political class gave up on reforming the national public security system, which involved transforming state and local police forces and having a clear security strategy. On the other hand, the struggle between different organized criminal groups is intensifying.
During Calderón’s six-year tenure, a policy was initiated that recognized the weakness of the local police force as the greatest challenge facing the national public security system.
A professionalization strategy has been devised and significant economic resources have been allocated to achieve this objective. The reform failed, both because of the lack of commitment from the various authorities and the obvious misappropriation of economic resources.
In the second half of Peña Nieto’s six-year term, this strategy, which also allowed retired military personnel to become directors of local police forces, was abandoned.
From then on, the military police began to be deployed in the territory to support the municipal and state police forces, organizing joint operations.
An internal security law was also approved – later declared unconstitutional – which allowed the military to participate in public order activities.
During Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s six-year tenure, this strategy continued and the National Guard, composed mainly of military elements, was created.
The fight against organized crime for the “squares”
The violence is due to the intensification of the fight by organized crime for the territory and for the “places”.
Mexico is a country of consumption and transit of different types of drugs, but organized criminal groups are also involved in the “huachicoleo” (theft and sale of hydrocarbons), or the trafficking of human beings (especially migrants in transit to the United States).
The tourist centers of the country, in particular Acapulco (Guerrero), Cancún and the Riviera Maya (Quintana Roo) and Guanajuato, are important points of drug consumption which, together with the collection of “derecho de piso” (a kind of “floor fiscal ”) of businesses and drug trafficking, have sparked struggles for drug markets, ie the struggle for places.
In Acapulco, violence rises and falls depending on the dynamics of the struggle between different organized criminal groups.
In Quintana Roo, which is also a major drug entry point into the country, homicides began to increase rapidly in 2017 and have not stopped.
However, cities like Los Cabos and La Paz in Baja California Sur, identified in 2016 and 2017 as the most violent in the world, have been brought under control.
In addition to drug use, the fight between groups over fuel theft has led to an increase in clashes and executions in Guanajuato.
And the arrival of fentanyl in Pacific ports, particularly in Manzanillo (Colima), has led to a recent upsurge in criminal activity in that territory and in Zacatecas, which is a central transit point for the United States.
On the other hand, violence has again increased in border states such as Baja California and Chihuahua; and certainly, despite official figures, also in Tamaulipas.
Finally, in other states where organized criminal groups have traditionally had conflict, such as Michoacán, Sonora and Sinaloa, homicide rates are again high.
In conclusion, the lack of a professional local police force, a trained National Guard and a confused policy of approaching crime (“hugs and not bullets”), have meant that homicides continue to increase in Mexico. , while the state does not have the capacity to react or control many areas of the country.
This clearly shows that until the government implements far-reaching security strategy reforms, the violence is unlikely to subside.