Crime and Violence

Drug cartel violence persists, though down from first quarter of 2009

According to Reforma’s “Ejecutómetro,” which tracks Mexico’s cartel-related killings, the rate of ejecuciones has remained relatively flat, at about 90 per week during the four weeks of the current reporting period. While the current weekly rate of killings is roughly 22 percent lower than in the first 12 weeks of 2009, it is up 10 percent since a brief lull following the late-February reinforcement of Operation Chihuahua. For the year, ejecuciones are still on track to surpass the 2008 total of 5153.

While cartel-related violence in Chihuahua has not yet regained the rate of 42 killings per week prior to the reinforcement of thousands of soldiers and federal police to the state late in February, it has rebounded to an average of 36 per week since April 4, up from 22 per week for the 8 weeks following the deployment. For critics of troop deployments, Ciudad Juárez has become emblematic of the failures of Pres. Calderón’s anti-cartel strategy. Juárez mayor José Ruiz Ferriz announced that beginning in September troops will gradually retire from their law enforcement duties in the city. He said that, by the end of September, the city will have more than 3,000 municipal police officers, at which point soldiers, Federal Police, and agents of the federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) will begin to remove themselves from street patrols. Ruiz’ announcement came a month after Chihuahua’s Public Security Secretary Victor Valencia de los Santos announced that the ineffectiveness of soldiers in the streets in reducing violence would prompt a new strategy statewide.

While Chihuahua is on track to surpass its ejecuciones total from 2008, the border region remains quieter than in the second half of 2008, with another notable exception of Coahuila, which with 119 ejecuciones has already more than doubled its total from last year. The Pacific state of Guerrero and interior state of Durango continue to see the largest upswings in violence this year over last. With 378 and 396 ejecuciones respectively with 19 weeks remaining in 2009, both states stand to more than double their 2008 totals. For its part, Michoacán, which last month saw its first major troop deployment since December 2006, is also experiencing its first increase in cartel-related killings since that year. Since July 17, however, Reforma has only registered 8 ejecuciones in the state.

Nationally, 280 police have been killed so far in 2009, at an average of 8.5 per week – nearly 30 percent lower than in the second half of 2008. Still, brazen attacks against police continue. In late July, a group of armed men entered a restaurant in Guadalajara, Jalisco and gunned down 5 police officers, four of which belonged to the state Attorney General’s Office.

Meanwhile, cartels continue to target public officials around the states. Earlier this month, the director of Chihuahua’s state penitentiary resigned his position after a failed assassination attempt on August 10 left three of his body guards dead and two more wounded. Similarly, the municipal police chief of Monclova, Coahuila survived an assassination attempt outside his home in which two of his bodyguards were killed. A Chihuahua state police commander in charge of auto theft investigations fell dead in a hail of 115 AK-47 bullets as she drove to work on August 13.

On August 20, gunmen assassinated Armando Chavarría Barrera, the president of the state legislature in the southwest coastal state of Guerrero, in front of his home in Chilpancingo, the state’s capitol and second largest city. Chavarría’s assassination brought recriminations from the PRD, which called the murder of one of their possible 2012 presidential aspirants a “political assassination.” Jesús Ortega, the PRD’s national party chairman, further noted that Chavarría’s murder “forms part of the series of violence in which 25 of its party members have died this year, 20 of them in Guerrero.”

From the Justice in Mexico Project’s August Monthly News Report:


“Comando asesina a 5 policías de Jalisco en un restaurante.” Excelsior July 24, 2009.

“Confirman que tropas dejarán calles de Juárez.” El Universal August 7, 2009.

“Ejecutaan a 14 personas en Chihuahua y BC, una era comandante.” La Jornada August 13, 2009.

“Jefe policiaco y ex militar, entre las 27 nuevas vítimas del crimen organizado.” La Jornada August 15, 2009.

Juan Cervantes. “Matan a presidente del Congreso de Guerrero,” El Universal. August 20, 2009.

“Repudian crimen de líder de Congreso,” El Universal. August 21, 2009.

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