Justice in Mexico releases 2021 Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico Report

10/22/21- (written by rramos)- Justice in Mexico has released the third edition of Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico, coordinated by Laura Y. Calderón, Kimberly Heinle, Rita E. Kuckertz, Octavio Rodríguez Ferreira, and David A. Shirk. Previously titled Drug Violence in Mexico, the release marks the third consecutive year in which the report has been issued under its current name, in recognition of ongoing shifts in the nature of organized crime. During a consequential period for Mexico, this latest edition of Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico seeks to provide a comprehensive analysis of the country’s dynamic public security situation by compiling key statistics and exploring the broader significance of emerging and persistent trends.

Trends in Violent Crimes

Mexico experienced a slight decrease in homicides in 2020. Data from the Mexican National Security System (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SNSP) indicated that 2020 saw a 0.3% decline in the number of homicides compared to the number of homicides in 2019. With data from the first half of 2021 continuing to show modest decreases in the number of homicides, there are indications that the surge in homicides that began in 2015 may be starting to level off. Nevertheless, the number of homicides in Mexico remains at exceptionally high levels.

Additionally, SNSP data showed that the occurrence of other violent crimes, such as extortion, kidnappings, and intentional injuries, decreased in 2020 compared to 2019.  However, the report notes that widespread underreporting of crimes, as well as disruptions of data collection activities and reporting mechanisms caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, leaves open the possibility that the actual numbers of crimes committed may be higher than official figures. 

Special attention continued to be paid to violence against certain populations, including women and journalists. When combining totals of femicide victims and female victims of intentional homicide, the 2020 daily average of women killed each day was virtually unchanged from the average recorded in 2019. With regards to journalists, Justice in Mexico’s Memoria dataset showed that 2020 was the deadliest year for journalists and media workers, with a 169% increase in killings compared to 2019. 

Impact of COVID-19

Reflecting the widespread and unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the globe since early 2020, the report features a section dedicated to examining the ways in which COVID-19 and measures to contain the pandemic have affected criminal groups in Mexico. Organized crime networks adjusted to the logistical challenges of supply chain disruptions and limited access to key infrastructure through a variety of methods, including artificially inflating drug prices and withholding shipments in order to maximize revenues and compensate for lost profits. As noted by the report, the impact of COVID-19 on organized crime activities may compel criminal actors to reshape and redesign their illicit operations in the future. 

Also of note, criminal organizations demonstrated their ability to exploit economic hardship caused by the pandemic. A number of organized crime groups across the country engaged in delivery of aid packages and similar measures in a bid to attract support within the local communities in which these groups operate. Among those groups that provided humanitarian assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic were some of Mexico’s most well-known criminal organizations, including the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and Sinaloa Cartel. 

Mexican Government Responses

The 2021 report also evaluated the potential impacts of certain key policies pursued by the Mexican Government in response to the country’s ongoing security challenges.

Among the topics covered was the continuing role of the National Guard, a critical pillar of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s public security strategy. Despite the National Guard’s continued centrality in efforts to address violence and similar measures that point to ongoing militarization of public security, official data indicates that violence and crime have remained at extraordinarily high levels throughout the López Obrador administration. 

Moreover, the report touches upon the possible implications of recent developments in security cooperation between Mexico and the United States. In particular, the report delves into the ways in which the December 2020 adoption of changes to the National Security Law (Ley de Seguridad Nacional) may interrupt flows of information between Mexican and U.S. authorities or damage efforts to build trust between the two sides. 

Looking ahead

Security and violence in Mexico will remain significant challenges in the foreseeable future. Through a broad, encompassing survey of key data and statistics, Justice in Mexico’s 2021 Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico report seeks to shed further light on the complex trends and patterns influencing the overall trajectory of Mexico’s security situation. Through better understanding of the nature of crime and violence, Justice in Mexico hopes to contribute to efforts to more effectively tackle these issues. 

Slaying of Sonora Journalist Reignites Calls for More Protections

Protestors gather in response to Ricardo Domínguez López’s killing. Photo: Cristina Gómez Lima, La Jornada

08/05/21 (written by rramos) – On July 22, journalist Ricardo Domínguez López was killed by a group of armed assailants in the parking lot of a shopping center in Guaymas, Sonora. At the time of his death, Domínguez López was director of local media outlet InfoGuaymas and also served as president of the Metropolitan Association of Independent Journalists of Guaymas and Empalme (Asociación Metropolitana de Periodistas Independientes de Guaymas-Empalme). 

The slaying of Domínguez López drew widespread condemnation. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, CNDH) issued a press release denouncing the murder, and specifically called on Sonora authorities to investigate the possibility that Domínguez López was targeted because of his journalistic work. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador himself expressed condolences to Domínguez López’s family in his morning press conference the day after the killing, and reaffirmed the Mexican Government’s commitment to protecting journalists. 

Back in March 2021, Domínguez López expressed fears over threats and harassment that he claimed he had been receiving from criminal groups. In a formal complaint filed with the federal Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía General de la República, FGR), Domínguez López asserted that criminal elements were attempting to intimidate him and other journalists in Guaymas specifically because of their reporting. In the filing, he also lamented that although many media workers in the city had made numerous reports to various government agencies, journalists continued to receive threats, including from allegedly corrupt local officials such as the Guaymas public security commissioner

Recent Violence Against Media Workers 

The July 22 killing in Sonora follows a recent string of violent incidents targeting journalists and other media workers. On July 19, just days before Domínguez López was killed, radio broadcaster Abraham Mendoza died after being shot at point-blank range as he exited a gym in Morelia, Michoacán. Mendoza had become well-known in the Morelia area for his work on a radio news talk show in which he often criticized politicians, including some with ties to President López Obrador’s ruling National Regeneration Movement (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional, MORENA) party. Similar to Domínguez López’s murder, Mendoza’s killing also attracted widespread attention, including a statement from the director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 

According to Animal Político, several other journalists throughout Mexico have also been murdered in 2021 so far, including cases in Coahuila, Mexico State, and Oaxaca. Along with homicides, disappearances represent another serious danger for media workers. This year alone in Domíguez López’s state of Sonora, two journalists—Jorge Molontzín and Pablo Felipe Romero Chávez—both went missing in March and have yet to be located. 

Reaction from Journalists

There have been some high-profile successes in resolving acts of violence against journalists recently. This includes the sentencing in June 2021 of one of the participants in the murder of Sinaloa journalist Javier Valdez and the February arrest of former Puebla Governor Mario Marín Torres in connection with the 2005 torture of investigative reporter Lydia Cacho. Nevertheless, the series of killings and disappearances of media workers this year has compelled journalists to demand greater protections, including more police protection for them and their families.

Days after the Domínguez López homicide in Guaymas, media workers from throughout Sonora, including photographers, camerapersons, reporters, and others also marched towards the offices of the state Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía General de Justicia del Estado, FGJE) in Hermosillo. There, the protestors delivered a document to Sonora Attorney General Claudia Indira Contreras calling for government officials to either redouble their efforts in investigating and prosecuting crimes against media workers, or resign. 

The exasperated response from journalists in the wake of these most recent aggressions appears to be justified. A 2020 report issued by the Reporters Without Borders found Mexico to be the deadliest country for journalists. According to the international non-governmental organization Artículo 19, at least 139 media workers in Mexico have been killed since 2000 for reasons related to their profession. Of these, 43 were murdered during the administration of current President López Obrador, according to data from the federal Secretary of the Interior (Secretaría de Gobernación, SEGOB). If authorities fail to heed calls for more meaningful actions to safeguard journalists and hold perpetrators of violence accountable, freedoms of expression and access to information may continue to be further jeopardized in the future. 

Sources:

“Periodistas desaparecidos en México.” Periodistas de a Pie. October 10, 2020. 

“Balance 2020: Periodistas Asesinados.” Reporteros Sin Fronteras. December 2020. 6.

Ahrens-Viquez, Ashley. “Ex-governor of Puebla arrested for the 2005 torture of journalist Lydia Cacho.” Justice in Mexico. February 9, 2021. 

Linares, Albinson. “Mexico is deadliest country for journalists, who also face government harassment.” NBC News/Noticias Telemundo. May 8, 2021. 

“Pasará 32 años preso El Quillo, uno de los asesinos de Javier Valdez.” La Jornada. June 18, 2021.

“Asesinatos de periodistas en México: resultado de la ausencia de una política pública integral de protección.” Artículo 19. June 21, 2021.

“Matan al periodista Abraham Mendoza cuando salía del gimnasio, en Michoacán.” Animal Político. July 19, 2021. 

Estrada, Jocelyn. “Asesinan al periodista Abraham Mendoza en Morelia, Michoacán.” Milenio. July 19, 2021. 

Jiménez, Adid. “Acribillan al periodista michoacano Abraham Mendoza en zona centro de Morelia.” La Prensa/El Sol de Morelia. July 19, 2021

“Asesinan al periodista Abraham Mendoza.” La Jornada. July 20, 2021.

“Asesinato de periodistas en México: Matan al reportero Ricardo López al Norte de Guaymas.” El Imparcial. July 22, 2021. 

“Periodista Ricardo Dominguez López de Info Guaymas es asesinado en centro comercial.” PolíticoMX. July 22, 2021. 

“El periodista Ricardo Domínguez López es asesinado en Guaymas, Sonora.” Expansión Política. July 22, 2021. 

Álvarez, Carlos. “Asesinan en su cumpleaños al periodista Ricardo Domínguez López, en Guaymas, Sonora.” Zeta Tijuana. July 22, 2021. 

Escobar, Amalia. “Asesinan en Sonora al periodista Ricardo López, director de Info Guaymas.” El Universal. July 22, 2021. 

“COMUNICADO DE PRENSA DGC/197/2021.” Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos. July 23, 2021. 

“Director-General condemns the killing of broadcaster Abraham Mendoza in Mexico.” United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. July 23, 2021. 

Aguirre, Ignacio. “AMLO se compromete proteger a periodistas tras el asesinato de Ricardo Domínguez en Sonora.” Línea Directa. July 23, 2021. 

Gómez Lima, Cristina. “Sonora: periodistas exigen garantías para trabajar.” La Jornada. July 24, 2021. 

“Periodistas de Sonora exigen justicia por asesinato de Ricardo López.” La Jornada. July 26, 2021. 

Martínez, Lorena. “Investigarán al comisario de Seguridad Pública de Guaymas por el asesinato de Ricardo López.” Expreso. July 26, 2021.

Martínez, Milton. “Director de seguridad de Guaymas es investigado en asesinato de periodista.” Proceso. July 27, 2021. 

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). “Mexican journalist Ricardo López shot and killed in Sonora.” IFEX (International Freedom of Expression Exchange). August 4, 2021.

Mexico’s 2021 Elections Rocked By Political Violence

06/29/2021 (written by rramos) – Against the backdrop of a relatively high voter turnout and a mixed result for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s ruling leftist bloc, Mexico’s 2021 midterm elections were marred by widespread political violence throughout the country. On the polling day of June 6, various high-profile incidents, such as the tossing of a severed human head at a voting booth in Tijuana and the theft of ballot boxes by an armed group in San Luis Potosí, illustrated the climate of insecurity in which the election campaign took place. Indeed, the months leading up to June 6 had been characterized by heightened levels of violence aimed at various political actors, including elected officials, candidates, campaign aides, political party workers, and others. 

According to a report released by Etellekt, a risk analysis firm based in Mexico City, a total of 910 politically-related acts of aggression occurred between September 2020 and early June 2021, which roughly corresponds with the official campaigning period. This included 91 homicides, 48 attempted homicides, 45 kidnappings, and 321 threats of violence perpetrated against political targets, such as candidates, party members, and campaign activists. When compared to all other Mexican elections since 2000, the 2020-2021 campaign cycle saw the second-highest number of politically-linked homicides ever, with this latest election only falling behind the 2018 electoral process in which 152 politically-active individuals were murdered. The total number of 910 acts of political violence compiled by Etellekt, however, represented a 17.5% increase over the 774 incidents recorded in the 2018 election.

The pervasive insecurity surrounding the 2021 elections, as well as authorities’ apparent inability to prevent it, drew condemnation both domestically and internationally. Mexico’s National Commission on Human Rights (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) decried the threat posed by violence to citizens’ right to democracy and urged the federal government to fully investigate reported assaults against candidates. On June 8, two days after the election, a group of human rights experts from the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of American States (OAS) put out a press release condemning attacks against candidates and calling on authorities to ensure that future elections will be able to take place under more secure conditions.

Photo: Revista Semana, AFP.

Local-Level Candidates Disproportionately Impacted

Throughout the 2020-2021 election cycle, candidates for municipal offices appeared to be disproportionately affected by political violence. On June 2, CNN Español published a list of candidates and aspiring candidates who were murdered during the campaign using data compiled by DataInt security consulting firm. Of the 32 murdered candidates and aspiring candidates identified by CNN Español, 24 were reported to be running for local-level offices, such as mayor or city council. The high proportion of municipal-level candidates in the CNN Español list was roughly consistent with the Etellekt report, which had found that 77% of candidates murdered in the 2021 election were pursuing offices at the local level.

Furthermore, Observatoria Todas MX, a grouping of various feminist and human rights organizations, held a press conference in which they stated that 80% of female candidates that had been victims of political violence in the 2020-2021 electoral process were running for municipal offices, compared to 15% for state-level positions and only 5% for federal offices. This suggests that gender-based political violence, which has drawn increased attention, tends to occur primarily at the local level. 

Electoral Violence Concentrated in Certain States, Tied to Organized Crime

According to Animal Político, murders of candidates and aspiring candidates that had been reported by the end of May were most heavily concentrated in Veracruz, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Jalisco, Quintana Roo, and Baja California, with nearly three-fourths of all candidate assassinations in Mexico taking place in these seven states. In March, a number of these states had been identified by the federal Security and Citizen Protection Secretariat (Secretaría de Seguridad y Protección Ciudadana, SSPC) as facing the greatest risk of political violence. SSPC Secretary Rosa Icela Rodríguez specifically attributed the heightened possibility of electoral violence to criminal organizations seeking to influence political outcomes through murders and other acts. In the specific case of Veracruz, which led the country in reported cases of political violence in the 2021 election, many incidents of electorally-motivated aggression have indeed been linked to the heavy presence of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, CJNG) throughout the state. 

In an interview with Milenio, security analyst David Saucedo argued that organized crime groups carry out attacks against politicians and authorities in order to create a generalized sense of fear and intimidation. This enables criminal groups to then exert a level of control over political decision-making in the territories in which they operate. Moreover, Saucedo added that criminal attacks against elected officials and political candidates tend to take place in two general contexts. Firstly, criminal organizations may launch violent or intimidatory acts against politicians that they believe will attempt to crack down on existing institutional corruption that favors their operations. Secondly, criminal groups may target candidates and officials that are tied to rival organizations, in an attempt to reduce adversaries’ control over certain territories.

Most Cases in 2021 Remain Unsolved

Although President López Obrador has publicly committed to ensuring that there will be no impunity in any case of political violence, the vast majority of candidate murders during the 2021 election have seen little progress towards being solved. Out of the 35 homicides of candidates identified in the Etellekt report, only nine cases have seen at least one arrest. Unless authorities demonstrate a serious and sustained willingness to prevent, investigate, and sanction attacks on candidates and other politically active persons, the use of violence as a political tool may continue to be a regular feature of elections in Mexico. 

Sources

Domínguez, Pedro. “Detectan intromisión del crimen en elecciones en 7 estados.” Milenio. March 4, 2021. 

Cortez, Steven. “Mayoral Candidate Assassinated in Oaxaca.” Justice in Mexico. April 20, 2021.

Ángel, Arturo. “Veracruz, Guanajuato y Guerrero, los más peligrosos para candidatos en las elecciones 2021.” Animal Político. May 27, 2021. 

Domínguez, Pedro. “AMLO acusa amarillismo en violencia durante campañas.” Milenio. May 27, 2021. 

San Martín, Neldy. “Violencia política afecta más a las mujeres: van 21 asesinadas en este proceso electoral.” Proceso. June 1, 2021. 

“Elecciones 2021: CNDH condena violencia política en México.” La Razón. June 2, 2021.

Blanco, Uriel. “Elecciones teñidas de sangre: ellos son los candidatos y aspirantes asesinados de cara a los comicios de México en 2021.” CNN Español. June 2, 2021. 

Ramos, Rolando. “Persiste la impunidad en homicidios de aspirantes y candidatos a cargos.” El Economista. June 2, 2021. 

Radwin, Max & Dalby, Chris. “Why is Veracruz Mexico’s Most Dangerous State for Political Murders?” InSight Crime. June 3, 2021. 

Kahn, Carrie. “Mexico Is Holding Its Largest Elections Ever. They’re Also One Of Its Deadliest.” National Public Radio. June 4, 2021. 

“Sexto Informe de Violencia Política en México.” Etellekt Consultores. June 5, 2021. 

Arista, Lidia. “Con 90 políticos asesinados, en 2021, las campañas más violentas desde 2000.” Expansión Política. June 5, 2021. 

Rivas, Axel. “No se descartan ataques del crimen en elecciones: David Saucedo.” Milenio. June 5, 2021. 

“Veracruz: El foco de la violencia política en elecciones 2021.” El Heraldo de México. June 6, 2021. 

Nolasco, Santiago. “Violencia irrumpe en distintas casillas durante jornada electoral.” El Economista. June 6, 2021. 

Rodríguez, Juan Carlos. “Arrojan cabeza humana en una caja en casilla de Tijuana.” El Universal. June 6, 2021. 

Vázquez, Ivette. “Grupos armados disparan contra casilla ubicada en una escuela y roban urnas en San Luis Potosí.” Debate. June 6, 2021. 

Webber, Jude. “Mexico’s president loses congressional supermajority in elections.” Financial Times. June 7, 2021. 

“Expertos en derechos humanos llaman a México a poner fin a la polarización de la vida pública.” United Nations. June 8, 2021. 

Pérez Correa, Catalina. “La violencia electoral.” El Universal. June 8, 2021. 

Vallejo, Guadalupe. “La participación electoral cierra en 52.67%, cinco puntos más que en 2015.” Expansión Política. June 8, 2021.

Map of Disappearances in Jalisco Underscores Nationwide Human Rights Challenge

05/18/2021 (written by rramos) –  On April 27, Jalisco’s State Human Rights Commission (Comisión Estatal de Derechos Humanos, CEDH) published a map that highlighted the 30 municipalities in the state with the highest numbers of reported missing persons. According to the CEDH map, a significant portion of reported disappearances were concentrated in certain regions of the state. Jalisco’s capital city of Guadalajara and its surrounding suburbs had the largest total numbers of disappearance cases. Guadalajara led with 4,136 missing persons reported, followed by the neighboring municipalities of Zapopan (2,136 disappearances), Tlajomulco de Zúñiga (1,844), San Pedro Tlaquepaque (1,599), Tonalá (1,004), and El Salto (797). 

Source: NTR Guadalajara.

Outside of the Guadalajara metropolitan area, other regions of Jalisco also drew particular concern. The Highlands (Los Altos) region in the northeastern portion of the state suffered from high numbers of disappearances, with municipalities like Lagos de Moreno and Tepatitlán de Morelos reporting 478 and 321 missing persons respectively. Disappearances were also found to be concentrated in various towns in the Ciénega region, such as La Barca, Ocotlán, and Jocotepec, all of which are situated near Lake Chapala and the state border with Michoacán. Several municipalities along Jalisco’s Pacific coast also featured in the map, most notably the resort city of Puerto Vallarta with 474 disappearances and Cihuatlán with 124. According to the federal Interior Ministry (Secretaría de Gobernación, SEGOB), these regions of Jalisco in which disappearances have been concentrated are “characterized by the operation of organized crime groups” (author’s own translation), suggesting a correlation between the presence of criminal actors and higher levels of disappearances.

Policy Recommendations for Local Governments

In a press release that accompanied the map’s publication, the Jalisco State Human Rights Commission (CEDH) issued a series of policy recommendations to all of Jalisco’s 125 municipalities in light of the growing number of unresolved disappearances throughout the state. The commission noted with particular concern the widespread absence of specialized municipal agencies or programs focused on preventing disappearances, as well as municipal governments’ general lack of coordination with relevant federal and state authorities. The CEDH stated that these factors contributed to a generalized failure to adequately address the problem of disappearances in Jalisco. 

The recommendations put forward by the CEDH concentrated on the areas of prevention, building institutional capacity, and assistance to victims. Regarding prevention, many recommendations focused on ways to obtain more reports and tips from the general public in the hope of acquiring actionable information that could enable authorities to quickly locate missing persons after their disappearance is reported. These included calls to work with federal and state agencies to develop public alert systems and to implement public awareness campaigns in schools targeted toward young people. 

To strengthen municipal governments’ ability to respond to disappearances, the CEDH recommended the creation of specialized units and groups dedicated to processing reports of missing persons and assisting with search efforts. The Commission also urged municipalities to collaborate with Jalisco’s Special Attorney General’s Office for Disappeared Persons (Fiscalía Especial en Personas Desaparecidas) to analyze geographic trends, time-based patterns, common characteristics among victims, and other data that may deepen officials’ understanding of how disappearances occur. 

In assisting victims and their families, the CEDH voiced support for greater municipal actions to guarantee the security of family members and others coming forward to report disappearances, including the establishment of municipal-run shelters to protect reporting parties from possible retribution. The CEDH argued that ensuring greater safety for those who come forward to report disappearances and provide information will encourage more people to work collaboratively with officials to find missing persons. 

Trends in Disappearances at the National Level

When assessing disappearances at the national level, a number of overarching trends appear to be taking hold.

Firstly, disappearances in Mexico seem to be highly concentrated geographically. A report by the Secretary of the Interior (SEGOB) released in January 2021 found that 76.6% of disappearances reported nationwide between December 2018 and December 2020 were concentrated in only ten states. This was roughly consistent with an earlier estimate from Alejandro Encinas, undersecretary for human rights at SEGOB, who had told El Economista in October 2020 that 81% of disappearances reported during the term of current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (2018-2024) were concentrated in ten states. Within states, disappearances seem to be further concentrated at the municipal level. In one example, reported disappearances in Puebla were clearly more prevalent in certain municipalities, similar to the geographic distribution of disappearances in Jalisco. According to Puebla’s state interior secretary, David Méndez, a majority of disappearances were concentrated in only five municipalities. 

Another trend that has emerged in recent years is the steadily growing number of women who are reported missing and who have yet to be located. Data from the National Registry of Missing and Unlocated Persons (Registro Nacional de Personas Desaparecidas y No Localizadas), which is maintained and published by SEGOB, the number of women who have gone missing in Mexico reached a historic high during the administration of President López Obrador. According to SEGOG figures, the number of women and girls who were reported missing between December 2018 (the beginning of the López Obrador presidency) to March 2021 totaled 4,267. This marked a substantial increase from the total of 2,418 missing women reported at the same point of the administration of former president Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018), which, in turn, was a considerable spike from the total of 476 women reported missing during the same 28-month period of his predecessor’s term, Felipe Calderón (2006-2012). That equates to nearly ten times more women and girls disappeared during the López Obrador administration’s first 28 months in office compared to the Calderón administration’s, and almost double that under the Peña Nieto administration. Given that this continuous rise in disappearances of women coincides with a steady increase in reported femicides in recent years, the persistent growth of disappearances of women could suggest a broader escalation of gender-based violence.

Uncovering the full range of trends that characterize the problem of disappearances will require further scrutiny, but what is clear is that the prevalence of missing persons (and failure to locate many of them) remains a pervasive violation of human rights in Mexico. 

Sources

“Casos de feminicidios en México aumentan 145% en seis años.” Agencia Anadolu/TRT Español. October 6, 2020. 

Pérez, Maritza. “Diez estados concentran 81% de las desapariciones en México.” El Economista. October 7, 2020. 

Fernández, Karina. “Cinco municipios concentran mayoría de desaparecidos en Puebla.” Status Puebla. January 27, 2021. 

“Jalisco, Tamaulipas, Guanajuato y CDMX, los estados con más desaparecidos entre 2018 y 2020.” Animal Político. January 29, 2021. 

Pérez, Martiza, and Quiroga, Ricardo. “Desapariciones de mujeres, en niveles históricamente altos.” El Economista. March 8, 2021. 

“Boletín Núm. 34/2021.” Comisión Estatal de Derechos Humanos de Jalisco. April 27, 2021. 

Chávez, Victor. “Han fallado los 125 municipios de Jalisco en contener las desapariciones forzadas.” El Occidental. April 27, 2021. 

Levario, Juan. “Municipios incumplen a desaparecidos: CEDHJ.” NTR Guadalajara. April 27, 2021. 

Escamilla, Héctor. “Concentran 33 municipios de Jalisco siete de cada 10 desapariciones.” Publimetro. April 28, 2021

Orozco, Mariana. “CEDHJ emite mapa con municipios que reportan mayor número de personas desaparecidas en Jalisco.” Debate. April 28, 2021.  

Mayoral Candidate Assassinated in Oaxaca

04/20/21 (written by scortez) – On March 20, Ivonne Gallegos Carreños, a candidate running for mayor of Ocoltán de Morelos, Oaxaca under the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN), was murdered. According to the initial investigation, Gallegos was traveling in a white van on a highway south of Oaxaca City with another individual when her vehicle was attacked by armed men. Her husband, José Luis Méndez Lara, was also assassinated back in 2015. Although prosecutors never released a concrete motive for his killing, they noted that he could have been targeted as a revenge killing and did not rule out that it may have been  to send a message to Gallegos.

Gallegos is seen attending a political event prior to her mounting a political campaign for mayoral office. Source: Códices Oaxaca.

The day before she was murdered, Gallegos submitted a request with the State’s Institute for Elections and Voter Participation (Instituto Estatal Electoral y de Participación Ciudadana de Oaxaca, IEEPCO) for more protection. She believed that her life was in imminent danger. She is the 18th pre-candidate to be assassinated since the campaigns to elect 153 municipal presidents began in September 2020. 

Gallegos had spent the last six years involved in social justice movements as her political career developed. This included combating violence against indigenous women while serving as president of the Gender Equity Commission (Comisión de Equidad de Género) in the local legislature, and as a former official of the Secretary of Indigenous Affairs (Secretaría de Asuntos Indígenas) of the state government of Oaxaca.

Forensic investigators analyzing the scene of the shooting that left two dead including Gallegos. Source: Daniel Ricárdez/ EFE.

The Attorney General’s Office of Oaxaca (Fiscalía del Estado de Oaxaca) announced that they were investigating her killing as a femicide. Arturo Peimbert Calvo, the newly appointed State Attorney General, said that he would use the full force of his office to bring justice in the case. He added that they have several viable theories and that warrants for individuals involved are imminent. The assassination of Gallegos is the second to occur within a two-month span. Leobardo Ramos Lázaro, the mayor of Chahuites, Oaxaca, was fatally shot on February 1while he was traveling in his vehicle.

Political Violence Against Candidates

Assassinations against female candidates and mayors continue to be a salient issue. Most recently in November 2020, Florisel Ríos Delfín, the mayor of Jamapa, Veracruz, was kidnapped and killed by a group of armed men. In two other instances of intimidation in Oaxaca, female candidates faced serious threats against their safety. On March 12, the home of Aime Rodríguez Vásquez, a candidate in Zamaltán de Álvarez, Oaxaca, was targeted with gunfire as an intimidation tactic to prevent her from running for office. On March 17, Aurelia Benítez, a pre-candidate for mayor of El Espinal, Oaxaca, denounced threats she received on social media and direct actions put out against her. Rosa Icela Rodríguez, the Secretary for Security and Citizen Protection (Secretaría de Seguridad y Protección Ciudadana) reported in March that Oaxaca is among seven states that collectively experience half of all political violence in the country. Consequently, candidates in these states are more susceptible to be co-opted by criminal organizations. 

Organization Calls for Stronger Protections for Women

Local leaders are already calling for the government to enact stronger measures against violence towards pre-candidates and elected officials. Intimidation of pre-candidates is frequently seen across Mexico. In the wake of Gallegos’ death, organizations such as UN Women Mexico have condemned the killing and urged the federal government to create and implement measures to prevent any act of violence against women in politics. Mexico’s National Women’s Institute (Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres) released a statement highlighting that violence has no place in the country’s democratic process.

Recent Trend in Political Assassinations in Mexico

The graph shows the rise and fall of the national mayoral homicide rate. The most recent mayoral homicide rate is at 1.25 per 1,000 people. Source: Justice in Mexico, Memoria dataset.

Gallegos’ assassination also underscores the danger that mayoral candidates and mayors alike experience in Mexico. It is estimated that  Mexican mayors were 13 times more likely to be killed than the general public in 2019. According to the Memoria dataset by Justice in Mexico, from 2019 to 2020, the homicide rates of elected mayors, candidates, and former mayors have decreased by 62.5 percent. Although the homicide rates have steadily declined in recent years, local elected issues continue to be targeted victims of extortion by armed groups. As of 2020, the homicide rate of mayoral officials is 1.25 per 1,000 people. The gender-based violence that female candidates continue to face adds a new layer of risk. The 2020 Justice in Mexico Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico special report highlights the fact that the dangerous environment for these public officials becomes more threatening during election cycles. At a local level, the targeting of local elected officials demonstrates an obstruction of the democratic process in municipalities of Mexico.

Sources

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Calderón, Laura. “Violencia criminal contra ediles en México.” Animal Político. November 16, 2020.

Camhaji, Elijah. “Asesinado en Oaxaca el alcalde Leobardo Ramos Lázaro.” El País. February 4. 2021.

Jiménez, Christian. “Investigan como feminicidio asesinato de Ivonne Gallegos, aspirante a edil en Oaxaca.” El Universal. March 3, 2021.

“Asesinan a Yuriel González, precandidato del PRI a Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chihuahua.” Animal Político. March 5, 2021.

“Inmujeres condena el asesinato de Ivonne Gallegos Carreño, candidata a la presidencia municipal de Ocotlán de Morelos, Oaxaca.” Instituto Nacional de la Mujeres. March 20, 2021. 

“Mexico worried by killings of politicians.” Associated Press. March 22, 2021.

Luciana, Citlalli. “Se registran agresiones contra mujeres que aspiran a un cargo de elección popular en Oaxaca.” NVI Noticias. March 23, 2021. 

Vasquez, Josefina. “Ivonne Gallegos defensora de los indígenas, asesinada.” Reporte Indigo. March 25, 2021. 

Rojas, Sandra. “Ivonne Gallegos, mujer indígena que buscaba presidencia municipal y terminó asesinada.” Milenio. March 27, 2021. 

Alfonso, Jorge Pérez. “Identificados, autores de homicidio de precandidata de Va por Oaxaca.” La Jornada. April 4, 2021.