* Due to technical difficulties, the publication of this article was delayed from its original postdate of April 11, 2013.
04/15/13 – Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, head of the Mexican Ministry of the Interior (Secretaría de Gobernación, SEGOB), reported on April 10, 2013, that violence in Mexico decreased during the first four months of the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto. According to SEGOB, the total number of homicides attributed to organized crime from December 2012 to the first week of April 2013 was 4,451 in comparison to the 5,127 registered during the last four months of the former President Felipe Calderón’s term (2006-2012), which represents a 13% decrease, and a 17% decrease when compared to the same time period last year. Osorio stated that the government is implementing strategies to overcome the trends of organized crime-style homicides, yet it is “too soon to assume triumphalist attitudes.” SEGOB explained that the information presented is based on the compilation of data from SEGOB, the Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) the Ministry of Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa National, SEDENA), and the Ministry of the Navy (Secretaría de Marina, SEMAR).
In his address, Osorio Chong stated that the government will not hide or conceal any information related to violence and crime data. Yet a recent report by the Observatory of Public Communication Processes of Violence (Observatorio de los Procesos de Comunicación Pública de la Violencia) suggests otherwise. The Observatory found that the media coverage of violence in Mexico decreased during the first three months of the Peña Nieto administration in comparison to the same time period last year. However, they also noted that the same decreasing trend in reporting violence was observed from August to November of 2012, the last months of the Calderón administration. The report states “the change in the narrative on violence is related to the control now exercised [by SEGOB] in the matter, by concentrating the management of official information.”
Following Osorio Chong’s announcement this month, Javier Hernández Valencia, the Mexican Representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) of the United Nations argued that the alleged decrease in violence was not a direct result of the government’s strategy against organized crime, but rather offered his own explanations. He argued that the reduction in violence was explained by the consolidation of certain organized crime groups in different regions, which has resulted in a decreased number of violent confrontations. The concern, said Hernández, is that the decrease in violence coming from pacts between criminal organizations is wrongfully being perceived as the government implementing a successful public security strategy, writes La Jornada.
Amidst the current debate on whether or not violence in Mexico is actually decreasing, on the same day SEGOB released the abovementioned information, seven people were killed in Acapulco and Chilpancingo, in the state of Guerrero, all of whom were executed with firearms and five of whom were also tortured and left with narco messages, despite the strong presence of federal forces in the region. That same day, 15 individuals were also killed in different locations throughout the state of Michoacán. Just the night before, on April 9, the son and brother of Miguel de Dios López, the former mayor of Villa Victoria in the State of Mexico (Estado de México, Edomex) were ambushed and killed. The two-day span of killings that left 24 dead in three states all showed characteristics of organized crime activity.
In addition to the OHCHR, the international community is also concerned about Mexican criminal organizations. The European Police Office (Europol) recently raised concerns about Mexican criminal organizations expanding their activities into Europe, Asia, and Africa. According to Europol Director Rob Wainwright, Mexican criminal syndicates—such as the Sinaloa Cartel and Los Zetas—coordinate the global trafficking of cocaine and synthetic drug production and its distribution in North America, Europe, and Asia. Such organizations are allegedly partnering with other criminal organizations from Nigeria and Italy to traffic their product. Europol also suggested that Mexican cartels are expanding their reach outside of drug trafficking and into human and arms trafficking as well. Wainwright expressed that because Europol “does not want the level of violence and brutality [seen] in Mexico mirrored in Europe,” the agency intends to partner with the European Union to develop new initiatives based on experiences of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) and the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT), and which raises the possibility of further collaboration with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). As such, Europol requested that officials in Brussels negotiate a cooperation agreement with Mexico to establish a permanent link between police agencies.