Justice in Mexico releases 2020 Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico Report

07/30/20- (written by jhale)- Justice in Mexico has released the second 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. Initially titled Drug Violence in Mexico, the report was reissued under a new name beginning last year with the tenth edition. The switch reflects recent shifts in the nature of organized crime, including the diversification of criminal activities. In an ever-changing world, Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico works to compile important statistics regarding key trends while providing insight to help understand an uncertain future.

Diversification of criminal enterprise

The report cites two factors that have contributed to recent patterns in crime: infighting amongst splinter groups and diversification of revenue sources. As larger criminal organizations disband, smaller groups are left in their wake. These small enterprises often lack the logistical capacity to form trans-national criminal partnerships, and instead turn to predatory crimes to maintain revenue. Robberies, kidnappings, and territorial violence can all be linked to the actions of low-level criminal organizations as they fight to increase their market share.

Meanwhile, crime syndicates have sought to diversify their streams of income as competition increases for a stake in the drug trade. Groups such as the Zetas cartel (los Zetas) have paved the way for the transformation of drug trafficking organizations into trans-national criminal organizations. These reiterations of existing groups pose a novel threat to Mexican internal security. In addition to trafficking drugs, criminal organizations have expanded into sex trafficking, fuel theft, and illegal trade of exotic animals. The constantly shifting strategies of organized criminal groups have made law enforcement increasingly difficult for Mexican authorities.

Homicide rates and organized crime

A key topic addressed in the report is Mexico’s homicide rate, which rose to record levels in 2019. The Mexican National Security System (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SNSP) reports that 29,406 cases of murder occurred in 2019, affecting 34,588 victims. While Mexico’s homicide rate has climbed since late-2014, the rate of increase has seemingly subsided. There was a 2.5% increase in homicides from 2018 to 2019, compared with a 20% jump from 2017 to 2018. Regardless, homicide remains a pressing issue in Mexican society. At present, homicide is the leading cause of death among individuals from the ages of 15-39. Mexico’s homicide crisis has caused incalculable suffering in families and communities throughout the country, stifling progress and cutting short the lives of thousands of young people.

Two Mexican media organizations, Milenio and Reforma, have attempted to quantify homicide as relating to organized crime. Figures reported by Milenio suggest that there were 23,393 homicides linked to organized crime groups in 2019, while Reforma has published a more conservative estimate of 15,108 such incidents. The numbers imply that 44% to 80% of homicides can be attributed to organized crime groups.

Although there are some methodological challenges to proving connections between homicide rates and organized crime, the report notes that many of the same regions frequented by organized criminal groups experience higher levels of violence. The report identifies five urban regions with over 450 homicides and a homicide rate exceeding 100 per 100,000 inhabitants: Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez, Culiacán, Acapulco de Juárez, and León. The report also highlights the three most violent regions in Mexico: the North-East border region; the mid-Pacific coast; and the so-called Golden Triangle of Chihuahua, Jalisco, and Durango, a hotbed for opium production. In addition to having high homicide rates, these areas have also served as de facto centers for drug trafficking and criminal activity. According to the report, the geographic correlation of crime and homicide allows researchers to better understand how organized crime can affect violence throughout Mexico.

A map indicating the geographic frequency of homicides in 2019.

In addition to homicide, the report provides insight regarding trends in crimes such as kidnapping, extortion, and robbery. The report found that the number of cases of intentional injury in Mexico increased in 2019 for a fourth year in a row. According to SNSP data, 1,856 of Mexico’s 2,326 municipalities reported at least one intentional injury. Reported kidnappings steadily rose over the years but leveled off in 2018 and 2019 with an increase of roughly 15% with 1,329 reported kidnappings in 2018 and 1,323 reported kidnappings in 2019. Extortion has also been on the rise with an increase from 5,072 cases in 205 to 8,500 cases in 2019. While official statistics provide valuable insight into crime rates, the report’s authors point out that crimes of lesser import are significantly underreported and may not be a reliable indicator of predatory crime trends observed from year to year. For example, an estimated 91.2% of kidnappings are uninvestigated and remain off the official record.

Gender violence and sex crimes

In light of recent social movements highlighting gender violence, the report has included a section dedicated to the topic. Almost half (45%) of women in Mexico report having been the victim of relationship violence. Femicide, or the murder of a woman because of her gender, has seen a 130% uptick since 2015. The authors note that statistics pertaining to violence against women are skewed by the impunity of abusers and a lack of funding for local attorneys general. President López Obrador himself has come under fire for his apparent dismissal of violence against women and his use of rhetoric which pundits have described as “tepid at best”. 

The report points out that women may be more empowered to report incidents of violence and sex crimes in the wake of recent protests seeking to hold abusers accountable. Furthermore, the report notes that increased scrutiny of gender violence by authorities may reflect a shift in law enforcement objectives to reflect current issues. This may help explain recent increases in sex crimes, including sexual harassment, abuse, and rape. Despite advances in prosecuting violence against women, the report’s authors note that 77% of women in Mexico feel unsafe as the overwhelming majority of crimes continue to go unreported or uninvestigated.

A map indicating the prevalence of sex crimes cases in Mexico. Sex crimes include sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and rape.

Politically motivated violence and high-profile targets

The killings of high profile targets such as mayors, police, military officers, and journalists has also increased. In what the report describes as a threat to the rule of law, 25 current, former, or aspiring mayors were assassinated in 2019. Statistics drawn from Justice in Mexico’s Memoria database suggest that mayors are 13 times more likely to be murdered than the average individual. Police and military leaders were also frequently targeted for their role in law enforcement, sometimes at the behest of criminal groups. Lastly, although the number of journalists murdered decreased slightly in 2019, Mexico still ranks among the most dangerous places for journalists to go about their line of work. In Justice in Mexico’s estimation, 13 journalists and media workers were killed in 2019.

This chart, from Justice in Mexico’s Memoria dataset, illustrates the gradual increase in killings of journalists.

Diversification of violent crime

This report sets itself apart from previous editions by analyzing other predatory crimes perpetrated by small organized crime groups, such as intentional injury, kidnapping, and extortion. The report found that the number of cases of intentional injury in Mexico increased in 2019 for a fourth year in a row. According to SNSP data, 1,856 of Mexico’s 2,326 municipalities reported at least one intentional injury. Reported kidnappings steadily rose over the years but leveled off in 2018 and 2019 with an increase of roughly 15% with 1,329 reported kidnappings in 2018 and 1,323 reported kidnappings in 2019. Extortion has also been on the rise with an increase from 5,072 cases in 205 to 8,500 cases in 2019. The authors note that crimes such as kidnapping and extortion are chronically underreported, suggesting that official data may not be a reliable indicator of predatory crime trends observed from year to year. However, these data are useful in illustrating the aforementioned diversification of criminal enterprise.

Looking to the future

A multitude of causes and contextual factors have contributed to rising crime rates in Mexico. It is difficult to understand and easy to place blame for a problem tugging at the seams of Mexican society. Through an exhaustive overview of the data, statistics, and trends pertaining to crime in Mexico, Justice in Mexico’s Organized Crime and Violence aims to demystify a difficult subject. The authors of this report seek not only to assist in our understanding of the topic, but to paint a picture of crime in Mexico extending beyond the numbers.

Environmental Activists Under Attack in Mexico

05/26/20 (written by mvillaseñor in collaboration with aherrera) – Mexican environmental activists have increasingly been under attack. Just in the last five months, at least six environmental activists have been murdered. According to a 2019 report from the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental, CEMDA), homicides are increasingly becoming the primary form of attack against environmental activists in the country. According to the report, environmental activists are at a particularly high risk of retribution due to their vocal criticism against political and economic interests, such as large infrastructure projects and developments. 

Between 2012 and 2019, Mexico has seen a total of at least 499 attacks against environmental activists, including but not limited to threats, criminalization, assault, and homicide. According to data from CEMDA, the number of attacks gradually increased from 24 in 2012, 64 in 2013 and 78 in 2014 to its peak of 107 in 2015 and 85 in 2016. This represents a 346% increase in attacks against environmental activists from 2012 to 2015.

Mexico’s Energy Reform

These observed increases in attacks against environmental activists coincide with the implementation of Mexico’s energy reform. In fact, the aforementioned 2019 report from CEMDA notes the ratification of the energy reform as a relevant factor in the significant increase in homicides of environmental activists. The energy reform was first introduced by Enrique Peña Nieto on August 12, 2013. The reform was backed by his political party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) as well as the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN) and was intended to modify the constitution to allow foreign investment in its energy sector. Prior to the energy reform, state-owned Mexican Petroleum (Petróleos Mexicanos, PEMEX) ran the country’s energy industry after President Lázaro Cárdenas del Río expropriated Mexico’s oil sector in 1938. The constitutional reform was debated by congress and approved on December 12, 2013. This was the first time in 75 years that private and foreign investment became allowable in Mexico’s energy sector. On August 2014, further legislation was approved that leveled the playing field for all investors in the sector.

Read more about Mexico’s New Energy Reform in this 2018 report from the Mexico Center at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Read more here about how legislation from the Energy Reform has impacted transparency and human rights as well as infringed on citizen participation at the local and national level. 

Increase in Attacks Against Environmental Activists

Overall the number of attacks has been decreasing with 53 in 2017, 49 in 2018, and most recently 39 in 2019. However, homicides, within this time span, have seen an increase. According to CEMDA, in 2019, homicide was the primary form of aggression with 21.1% of incidences resulting in death, followed by threats with 19.3%, criminalization with 15.8%, and intimidation with 14%. Moreover, CEMDA points out that the primary aggressor is often the government itself. CEMDA attributed 40.5% of overall attacks committed towards environmentalist in 2019 to the government, tied with unidentified aggressors and followed by community members and organized crime each with 4.8%. Attacks perpetrated by the government are primarily attributed to local prosecutors, the National Guard (Guardia Nacional), and state police.

Environmental Activist Homicides in 2020

Mexico has lost at least six environmental activists in 2020. The first case surrounds the murder of 50-year-old Homero Gómez González, an outspoken critic of illegal logging and manager of El Rosario’s monarch butterfly sanctuary in the state of Michoacán. He was last seen on January 13 and was found dead more than two weeks later on January 29. His body was floating in a holding pond near the mountain forest reserve Gómez González was protecting. Initial reports from Michoacán’s state prosecutors pointed to drowning as the cause of death, but a more detailed autopsy later revealed evidence of a head injury. Days before Gómez González was found, another environmental activist from the same region was reported missing. Raúl Hernández Romero, a 44-year-old conservation activist and part-time tour guide at El Rosario was reported missing on January 27. His body was found five days later at the top of a hill in El Campanario monarch butterfly sanctuary. According to news reports, he too had a head injury and his body was covered in bruises.

Following the deaths of these two activists, a third activist was reported missing on March 19, 2020. Paulina Gómez Palacios Escudero, a 50-year-old environmental activist from the state of San Luis Potosí disappeared when she was traveling from Matehuala in her home state to the community of El Salvador in the neighboring state of Zacatecas. Her body was later found on March 22, according to the autopsy, she died from a gunshot wound to the face. She was considered a guardian of the sacred territory Wirikuta and a friend of the indigenous community, Wixárika. According to a report published by Intercontinental Cry, the Wixárika community has been actively fighting for years to protect their sacred lands from mining companies. On September 2013, a federal district judge approved a temporary suspension on all concessions to mining companies in the sacred territory of Wirikuta. In 2009, 36 concessions had been granted to Canadian mining company, First Majestic Silver, 70% of these concessions were within the Wirikuta territory.

A day after Gómez Palacio Escudero’s body was found, the fourth environmental activist was murdered. On March 23, 2020, Isaac Medardo Herrera Aviles was murdered in his home in Jiutepec, Morelos when gunmen knocked at his door and shot him point blank, fleeing the scene before they could be apprehended. Herrera Aviles was a longtime activist and lawyer in the state of Morelos. Most recently he had stopped the company, Casas Ara, from developing a real estate project in the premises of “Los Venados,” a 56,000 square meter forest in the middle of Jiutepec. Herrera Aviles and community members had successfully stopped the project and were waiting for local authorities to deem the land a natural reserve. In 2007, the activist had legally represented advocates of 13 communities who were attempting to stop another real estate development project in Emiliano Zapata, Morelos, near the Chihuahuita natural spring where developers were also seeking to extract the water.

Two weeks later, Adán Vez Lira became the fifth environmental activist to be murdered in Mexico. He was from the state of Veracruz and founder of the ecotourism cooperative, “La Mancha en Movimiento”. According to news reports, Vez Lira was shot to death on April 8 while riding his motorcycle from La Mancha to Palmas de Abajo, Veracruz. He had dedicated more than two decades of his life to defending the bird observatory in La Mancha Ecological Reserve and El Llano. According to the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, he had also actively opposed mining projects by Almaden Minerals and Candelaria Mining, both Canadian mining companies with interests in the region.

The most recent homicide targeted Eugui Roy Martínez Pérez, a 21-year-old environmental activist from the state of Oaxaca murdered in San Agustín Loxicha, Oaxaca. Martínez Pérez was studying biology at the Technological Institute of the Valley of Oaxaca (Instituto Tecnológico del Valle de Oaxaca, ITVO) and was a member of the Organization for Environmental Protection in Oaxaca. Additionally, people close to Martínez Pérez indicated he had a particular passion for the care, defense, and conservation of reptiles and amphibians. According to Oaxaca’s Attorney General office, he was murdered on May 7 when a group of armed individuals forcefully entered his home and removed him from the premises. He was later found nearby with signs of torture and a gunshot wound. According to his sister, Martínez Pérez decided to spend his quarantine in San Agustín Loxicha, “collecting insects, studying, writing for a magazine, looking after a few deer’s, [in addition to] creating content for his blog.”

Mexico’s current president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has called these deaths “regrettable” and “painful,” but human rights groups are demanding the government do more. For example, the Center for Human Rights Zeferino Ladrillero is asking the government to prioritize the lives of individuals defending the environment, land, forests, and water over the interest of private entities. Others are calling for better monitoring and prevention mechanisms to protect marginalized communities, particularly indigenous groups, who are vulnerable to the loss of land and private interest groups entering their territory. Furthermore, environmental activists point out that at least 80% of activists murdered defending the environment have been indigenous. A recent released report from Front Line Defenders, an international foundation based in Ireland that seeks to protect human rights around the globe, showed Mexico and Brazil tied as the fourth most dangerous countries in the world for activists. However, it is worth noting that Front Line Defenders’ report encompasses all human rights activists, not only environmentalists.  Nonetheless, looking forward, it is imperative that the government analyze and address the divisive culture it is promoting against activists.

Sources:

“Adán Vez Lira.” Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, www.business-humanrights.org/en/08042020-ad%C3%A1n-vez-lira.

Román, José Antonio. “Presenta Hoy Peña La Reforma Que Abre Los Energéticos a Particulares.” La Jornada. August 12, 2013. www.jornada.com.mx/2013/08/12/politica/003n1pol

Palma, Lilian. “A Struggle for Sacred Land: The Case of Wirikuta.” OpenDemocracy. September 26, 2013. www.opendemocracy.net/en/civilresistance/struggle-for-sacred-land-case-of-wirikuta/

“Terminan 75 Años De Veto a Privados En Energía; Diputados Aprueban Reforma.” Animal Político. December 13, 2013. www.animalpolitico.com/2013/12/diputados-aprueban-en-lo-general-la-reforma-energetica/

de la Fuente, Aroa. “La Reforma Energética En México: Retrocesos En La Gobernanza Democrática De Los Recursos Naturales.” Fundar. November 10, 2014. www.fundar.org.mx/la-reforma-energetica-en-mexico-retrocesos-en-la-gobernanza-democratica-de-los-recursos-naturales/

Wood, Duncan, and Jeremy Martin. Mexico’s New Energy Reform. Wilson Center. October, 2018. www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/media/documents/publication/mexicos_new_energy_reform.pdf

“El 80 % De Los Activistas Ambientales Asesinados En México Son Indígenas.” Infobae. August 1, 2019. www.infobae.com/america/mexico/2019/08/01/el-80-de-los-activistas-ambientales-asesinados-en-mexico-son-indigenas/

Fuentes López, Guadalupe. “La Cifra Presiona a AMLO: Ya Van 7 Periodistas y Además 14 Activistas Asesinados En Apenas Seis Meses.” sin embargo. June 12, 2019. www.sinembargo.mx/12-06-2019/3595702

“Wixárika: ‘We Will Not Give up Protecting the Wirikuta Territory.’” Intercontinental Cry. July 26, 2019. www.intercontinentalcry.org/wixarika-we-will-not-give-up-protecting-the-wirikuta-territory/

Global Analysis 2019. Front Line Defenders. 2020. www.frontlinedefenders.org/sites/default/files/global_analysis_2019_web.pdf

Sieff, Kevin. “He Told Me of His Battle to Save the Monarch Butterfly from Illegal Loggers. Now He’s Missing.” The Washington Post. January 23, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/he-told-me-of-his-battle-to-save-the-monarch-butterfly-from-illegal-loggers-now-hes-gone-missing/2020/01/23/353a6a94-3dea-11ea-afe2-090eb37b60b1_story.html

“Mexican Anti-Logging, Monarch Butterfly Activist Found Dead, Sparking Fears of Murder.” NBC News. January 31, 2020. www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/mexican-anti-logging-monarch-butterfly-activist-found-dead-sparking-fears-n1127721

“Second Mexico Monarch Butterfly Activist Found Dead.” BBC News. February 3, 2020. www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-51356265

Srikanth, Anagha. “A Second Monarch Butterfly Conservationist Found Dead in Mexico.” TheHill. February 3, 2020. https://thehill.com/changing-america/sustainability/environment/481198-a-second-monarch-butterfly-conservationist-has

Leyva Hernández, Alejandra, et al. Informe Sobre La Situación De Las Personas Defensoras De Los Derechos Humanos Ambientales. Edited by Andrea Davide Ulisse Cerami and Anaid Velasco Ramírez. Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental. March, 2020. www.cemda.org.mx/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/informe-personas-defensoras-2019.pdf

Bacaz, Verónica. “Asesinan a Activista y Defensor De Reserva Natural ‘Los Venados’, En Morelos.” El Financiero. March 23, 2020. www.elfinanciero.com.mx/nacional/asesinan-a-activista-y-defensor-de-reserva-natural-los-venado-en-morelos

“Exigen Justicia Para Paulina Gómez, Defensora Del Territorio Sagrado De Wirikuta.” Servicios Para Una Educación Alternativa A.C. March 24, 2020. https://www.educaoaxaca.org/exigen-justicia-para-paulina-gomez-defensora-del-territorio-sagrado-de-wirikuta/

“Nature Reserve Activist Shot to Death in Central Mexico.” Star Tribune. March 24, 2020. www.startribune.com/nature-reserve-activist-shot-to-death-in-central-mexico/569070472/?refresh=true

Valadez Rodríguez, Alfredo. “La FGJZ Abre Investigación Por Asesinato De Campesina De SLP.” La Jornada, March 24, 2020. www.jornada.com.mx/ultimas/estados/2020/03/24/la-fgjz-abre-investigacion-por-asesinato-de-campesina-de-slp-8052.html

den Held, Douwe. “Ambientalistas De México Asesinados Por Su Resistencia a Proyectos Energéticos.” InSight Crime. April 7, 2020. www.es.insightcrime.org/noticias/noticias-del-dia/ambientalistas-de-mexico-asesinados-por-su-resistencia-a-proyectos-energeticos/

Pradilla, Alberto. “Asesinan a Adán Vez Lira, Defensor Del Área Natural De La Mancha, En Veracruz.” Animal Político. April 8, 2020. www.animalpolitico.com/2020/04/asesinan-adan-vez-lira-defensor-veracruz/

“Asesinaron a Adán Vez, Ambientalista Opositor De Mineras En Actopan.” Infobae. April 9, 2020. www.infobae.com/america/mexico/2020/04/09/asesinaron-a-adan-vez-ambientalista-opositor-de-mineras-en-actopan/

Soberanes, Rodrigo. “COVID-19 No Detiene El Asesinato De Defensores Ambientales En México.” Mongabay Latam. April 13, 2020. www.es.mongabay.com/2020/04/mexico-covid-19-violencia-defensores-ambientales/

Bermúdez Liévano, Andrés. “COVID-19 Crisis: Attacks on Environmental Defenders Continue in Latin America.” OpenDemocracy. April 29, 2020. www.opendemocracy.net/en/democraciaabierta/covid-19-crisis-attacks-environmental-defenders-continue-latin-america/

“Condenan Asesinato De Joven Ambientalista Mexicano En Municipio De Oaxaca.” Los Angeles Times. May 11, 2020. www.latimes.com/espanol/mexico/articulo/2020-05-11/condenan-asesinato-de-joven-ambientalista-mexicano-en-municipio-de-oaxaca

Rodríguez, Óscar. “Asesinan a Biólogo Ambientalista En Oaxaca.” Milenio. May 11, 2020. www.milenio.com/estados/oaxaca-matan-ambientalista-eugui-roy-martinez

Miranda, Fernando. “Environmental Activist Eugui Roy Martínez Was Murdered in Oaxaca.” El Universal. May 12, 2020. www.eluniversal.com.mx/english/environmental-activist-eugui-roy-martinez-was-murdered-oaxaca

Homicide Rates on Pace for Record-Breaking Year

Map of homicides in 2018 by municipality

Homicides by municipality in 2018, according to data from SNSP. Source: Justice in Mexico.

08/18/19 (written by kheinle) — Mexico is on pace to have the deadliest year on record, according to data released in mid-July by Mexico’s Secretary General of National Public Security (Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SESNSP).

The agency reported 17,608 killings in the first six months of 2019, which is 894 more than the number recorded during the first half of 2018 or a 4% increase. If that number repeats in the second half of the year, Mexico could expect to see more than 35,200 homicides for all of 2019. That could be almost 1,900 more homicides than SNSP reported in 2018. For more information on 2018’s official numbers, check out Justice in Mexico’s “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico: Analysis Through 2018.”

Geographic Dispersion of Homicides

The majority of the homicides from January through June of 2019 were concentrated in 18 of Mexico’s 32 states and federal entities. Nuevo León had the highest increase (70%) in the number of homicides during that time period compared to that in 2018. Sonora saw a 65% increase, followed by Hidalgo (52%), Morelos (43%), Tabasco (42%), Jalisco (31%), Tlaxcala (30%), Coahuila (26%), and the State of México (21%). Another six states had increases at lower levels, falling between 10% and 20% compared to 2018. Guanajuato, which had the single largest increase in all of 2018 from the year before, fell into this category for 2019. Three other states – Puebla, Zacatecas, and Querétaro – had increases less than 10%.

The remaining 14 states all saw decreases in homicide levels, most notably that of Baja California Sur, which experienced a 66% decline in recorded killings in the first half of 2019. This continues the downward trajectory that Baja CA Sur had in 2018. During that year, the state registered the largest decrease in homicides nationwide with a 74% decline, dropping from 448 cases in 2017 to 162 in 2018. In the first six months of 2019, Nayarit followed Baja CA Sur with a 64% decrease, then Guerrero (30%), Tamaulipas (29%), Sinaloa (27%), and Durango (20%).

Government Strategy

solder in uniform on patrol

A member of Mexico’s military sports the National Guard insignia while on patrol in El Manguito, Mexico. Photo: Oliver de Ros, Associated Press.

The increase in homicide rates in 2019 continues a multi-year upward trend that began in 2015. Eyes are now on the López Obrador administration for its response since taking office in December 2018.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took a significant, yet controversial step to implementing his strategy to address crime and violence when he launched the National Guard in June. Created from the ranks of the Mexican military and police, the National Guard will serve as a means to combat the record-breaking levels of crime and violence. President López Obrador is also approaching crime and violence through economic policies. Writes Reuters, “[the President] has blamed the economic policies of previous administrations for exacerbating the violence.” He has taken a hard stance on cultivating fiscal austerity in the country, revamping previous policies while trying to decrease the deficit and increase incoming funds.

Time will tell if the López Obrador administration’s militarized and economic strategies affect Mexico’s staggering levels of crime and violence. As the administration nears the end of its first year in office, however, the upward trend on homicide rates continue.

Sources:

Calderón, Laura et al. “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico. April 2019.

“President López Obrador continues to prioritize fiscal austerity.” Justice in Mexico. July 7, 2019.

“Murders in Mexico surge to record in first half of 2019.” Reuters. July 21, 2019. 

“Mexico sets 1st half murder record, up 5.3%.” Associated Press. July 22, 2019.

Angel, Arturo. “Aumentan homicidios en 18 estados; en Nuevo León y Sonora el incremento fue superior al 65%.” Animal Político. July 23, 2019.

“AMLO Deploys National Guard amidst controversy.” Justice in Mexico. July 24, 2019.

“Today in Latin America.” Latin America News Dispatch. July 24, 2019.

Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública. “Víctimas de Delitos de Fuero Común 2019.” Gobierno de México. July 20, 2019.

Mexican Mayor Assassinated One Day After Taking Office

Mayor Gisela Mota

Mayor Gisela Mota waves at her inauguration ceremony on January 1, 2016. Photo: Associated Press, Tony Rivera.

01/06/15 (written by kheinle) – The newly inaugurated mayor of Temixco, Gisela Mota, was gunned down in her home in Morelos on Saturday, January 2, just one day after being sworn into office. Mota (33) is one of nearly 100 mayors killed in Mexico in the past ten years, writes the Association of Local Authorities in Mexico (Asociación de Autoridades Locales de México A.C., AALMAC), 75 of which occurred between 2006 and 2014, according to Justice in Mexico. Documented in its Memoria dataset and noted in its annual publication, “Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2014,” Justice in Mexico reported that the peak of violence towards mayors in recent years was in 2010 when 17 mayors or former mayors were killed. For its part, the AALMAC renounced Mayor Mota’s killing and demanded the Mexican government find and hold accountable those responsible. Three suspects have since been detained, including one woman and one minor.

Mota’s murder falls in line with previous mayoral assassinations given its alleged ties to cartel and gang activity. As part of her mayoral campaign and as a former federal congresswoman, Mota had accepted state police control in her municipality and had stood tough against crime and violence, both stances that drew negative attention from local gangs. According to Morelos Governor Graco Ramirez, writes the Associated Press, Mota was killed by the Rojos gang “as a warning to other officials to reject state police control of local cops and [to] let cartels co-opt low-paid local officers.”

Mayor Gisela Mota's body was laid to rest after she was killed by members of Los Rojos gang on January 2, 2016. Photo: Associated Press, Tony Rivera.

Mayor Gisela Mota’s body was laid to rest after she was killed by members of Los Rojos gang on January 2, 2016. Photo: Associated Press, Tony Rivera.

The former of Mota’s two stances—the state police control—is part of a bigger, nationwide shift to restructure police forces throughout Mexico. In November 2014, President Enrique Peña Nieto presented the plan to create a Unified Police Force following the disappearance of 43 students in Iguala, Guerrero, an incident that some have said was a result of gang fighting between the Guerrero Unidos in Guerrero and the Rojos gang in nearby Morelos, and that was compounded by the involvement of corrupt local police. Under the new model, Mexican police forces are being restructured to dissolve the nearly 1,800 municipal forces, which are notorious for being corrupted, and transfer power to the 32 state forces. By accepting state police, Mota, along with other mayors and officials nationwide, relinquished local police control, a move that is sometimes met with resistance. For her part, Mota had agreed to police control at the state level, but insisted, writes the Associated Press, that traffic cops would stay under local control in Temixco. Nevertheless, Los Rojos still targeted Mota, sending a message to other mayors and officials nationwide.

Not only is the federal government revamping the police structure to address corruption and inefficiencies at the local level, but it is also requiring police training nationwide in preparation for the New Criminal Justice System (Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal, NSJP). With less than six months until the NSJP must be implemented and operational throughout Mexico, the Washington Office on Latin American (WOLA) reported in September 2015 that at that time, “only approximately five percent of Mexican police officers [had] been trained on the criminal justice system reforms.” WOLA continued, “This means that 95 percent of Mexican police officers (over 333,000 agents) not only need to learn the new justice system but also how to conduct successful and rights-respecting criminal investigations, including crime scene preservation, evidence collection, and preliminary interviews with witnesses.” Police reforms and trainings are thus expected to continue in the New Year, especially in the first six months prior to the NSJP June 2016 deadline.

Sources:

“President Peña Nieto proposes unified state police commands, among other reforms.” Justice in Mexico. November 30, 2014.

Heinle, Kimberly et. al. “Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2014.” Justice in Mexico. April 2015.

Meyer, Maureen and Hannah Smith. “Mexico must prioritize quality over quantity in judicial reform process.” Washington Office on Latin America. September 4, 2015.

Sherman, Christopher and Maria Verza. “3 detained in slaying of mayor a day after taking office in south-central Mexico city.” Associated Press. January 3, 2016.

Mesa Directiva de la AALMAC. “Posicionamiento De AALMAC Ante El Asesinato De La Alcaldesa De Temixco, Gsela Mota.” Asociación de Autoridades Locales de México A.C. January 4, 2016.

Stevenson, Mark. “Governor says Mexican mayor’s killing a warning by drug gang.” Associated Press. January 4, 2015.

Aftermath of Journalist Killed in Mexico City

Navarte victims held by protesters (source:excelsior)

Navarte victims held by protesters (source:excelsior)

9/9/15 – (by frodriguez) – On July 31, 2015, journalist Ruben Espinoza Becerril was killed in an apartment in the Narvarte neighborhood, in Mexico City, along with four women, all with injuries all over their bodies and shot in the head. Mexico City’s authorities confirmed the identity of the journalist after his sister recognized Espinoza’s body at the Forensic Medical Service on August 1st, 2015. The female victims were identified as: Yesenia Quiroz (18) a makeup artist from the northern Mexican State of Baja California, Nicole (29) a Colombian national, allegedly Espinoza’s assistant, Nadia Vera (32) an activist from the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, and Alejandra (40) from the State of Mexico and who was believed to work cleaning the apartment.

As investigations evolve, two have been detained in relation to the case and the whereabouts of two other suspected accomplices remain unknown. On August 11, Mexican authorities took Daniel Pacheco Gutierrez into custody and on September 1, authorities detained Abraham Torres Tranquilino. There is also one women believed to have been another accomplice; but her whereabouts remain unknown. Mexico City Attorney General Rodolfo Rios Garza has informed that his job is to achieve justice by finding those responsible for the mass killing.

Espinoza, originally from Mexico City, had lived and worked for decades in the Mexican state of Veracruz, but moved to Mexico City on June 9, 2015, after receiving threatening messages such as “Bájale o te va a pasar lo mismo que a Regina Martinez,” referring he could have the same ending as Regina Martinez, journalist and Espinoza’s former boss, killed in April 2012.

There have been allegations of possible involvement of Veracruz’s state authorities in the killing of Espinoza and the four women. According to El Universal, Nadia Vera, one of the victims, filled an official report in 2014 blaming Veracruz’s Governor Javier Duarte for whatever could happened to her. Mexico’s Attorney General’s office called Governor Duarte to provide a statement on the case. Duarte denied any relationship or responsibility to the crime, and assured he would collaborate with further investigations.

In the absence of a conclusive investigation, journalists and civil rights activists, both in Mexico and abroad, have engaged in protests. Under the administration of Governor of Veracruz Javier Duarte de Ochoa, twelve journalists have been killed.

Sources: 

“Asesinan en el DF a Rubén Espinosa, fotoperiodista de Proceso” Proceso, August 1, 2015.
http://www.proceso.com.mx/412006/2015/08/01/reporta-articulo-19-como-desaparecido-a-fotoperiodista-de-proceso

Ortiz Cortez, Guillermina. “Protestas en el DF y varios estados por la muerte de Rubén Espinosa” CNN Mexico, August 2, 2015.
http://www.cnnmexico.com/nacional/2015/08/02/protestas-en-el-df-y-varios-estados-por-la-muerte-de-ruben-espinosa

“El crimen de la Narvarte: repercusiones internacionales” LaJornada, August 17, 2015.
http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2015/08/17/edito

“¿Quiénes son las víctimas del multihomicidio en la Narvarte?” Excelsior, August 4 2015.
http://www.excelsior.com.mx/comunidad/2015/08/04/1038402

“Hallazgos del Caso Narvarte” El Universal, August 18, 2015.
http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/articulo/nacion/seguridad/2015/08/18/hallazgos-del-caso-narvarte