Official numbers show that Mexico set a new record for wrongful homicides in February, and that killings for the first two months of 2017 are up 29% from 2016.
The 1,838 investigations into wrongful homicides opened by the authorities in February — the preferred measure — and the 3,779 in January-February were higher than the numbers registered at the height of the Calderón government’s drug wars in 2011.
In terms for rates per 100k, the numbers are equivalent to the 2011 peak, given population growth. (See chart from Milenio.)
Security columnist Alejandro Hope observes:
January was bad. February was horrible. More than 20 victims per day — sufficient to fill a dumping ground like Colinas de Santa Fe in less than two weeks. … The principal officials in the security area continue to deny the gravity of the situation, fighting over statistics. …. In the principal decision centers there isn’t any interest in doing more than administer the disaster. … The problem, I fear, is one much more of will than of ideas or resources.”
Raul Cervantes and Jeff Sessions, the Mexican and U.S. attorneys general, held their first meeting today in Washington.
Now, all the senior cabinet officials on both sides of the bilateral relationship, with the exception of Robert Lighthizer, who has not yet been confirmed as USTR, have met for initial working meetings.
Issues discussed included bilateral cooperation on extradition, technical assistance, human trafficking, money laundering, corruption, and all forms of illicit cross-border activity. “Both officials reiterated their commitment to cooperate on the interchange of information in order to identify and dismantle transnational criminal organizations, as well as to combat the illegal traffic in drugs and weapons,” according to the PGR’s press release.
Whether by coincidence or not, the meeting coincided with the announcement of the recovery by the PGR and Federal Police of Tom Brady’s stolen Super Bowl LI jersey, acting on information provided by the FBI and Houston police. The jersey (and other stolen football memorabilia) were reportedly recovered on March 12 in a house in Atizapán, Mexico State and have already been returned to the U.S. Reporting in Excelsior and NYT.
A poll carried out by the Chamber of Deputies, which is currently debating the new internal security law, showed that almost 80% of those surveyed supported giving legal authorization for the Army and the Marines to fight organized crime.
The survey of 900 persons carried out by the Chamber’s Center for Social Studies and Public Opinion also showed some clear limitations on the powers they approved the military having.
Those surveyed said the military should:
- Be able to put down demonstrations using force: 74% NO
- Be able to carry out communications surveillance or collect personal information: 55% NO
- Be able to carry out criminal investigations: 61% YES
- Be able to take criminal complaints and testimony of criminal acts: 62% YES
The poll also showed in stark terms the difference between public confidence in the Army and the Marines lack of trust in local and state police forces, and even the Federal Police.
Reported in Milenio.
Juan José Esparragoza Monzón, aka “El Negro,” escaped from a prison in Culiacán in a mid-day jailbreak. He was on the Justice Ministry’s list of 122 top targets; his capture on January 19 was announced in a press conference by Mexico’s national security commissioner, Renato Sales. El Negro was being held pending extradition to the U.S. He is believed to be one of the top financial operators of the Sinaloa Cartel. His father “El Azul,” is one of the cartel’s top leaders–perhaps the top leader after El Chapo’s recapture last year. “El Negro” is also married to the youngest daughter of the former head of the Beltran Leyva cartel, who was killed in a high profile military operation in 2009. Source: López-Doriga.
The disclosure that more than 250 skulls have been discovered just outside the port district of Veracruz has once more reminded Mexicans of how poorly their government functions in terms of providing security and solving crimes.
The remains were found by a human rights group over many months, acting on a tip from traffickers. A spokesman for a group of mothers searching for missing children said:
“What we have found is abominable and it reveals the state of corruption, violence and impunity that reigns not only in Veracruz, but in all of Mexico,” Ms. Diaz said.
“A reality that speaks of the collusion of authorities with organized crime in Veracruz, for it is impossible to see what we found without the participation of authorities,” she said.
Even when President Trump and senior U.S. officials go out of their way to say positive things about cooperation with Mexico, their manner of expression reinforces negative interpretations of their intentions. Two current examples from Trump’s interview before the Super Bowl and Secretary Kelly’s testimony in Congress together with Mexican columnist reactions:
What the U.S. says:
Trump: We have to do something about the cartels. I did talk to [Peña Nieto] about it. I want to help him with it. … He seemed very willing to get help from us because he has got a problem, and it’s a real problem for us. … We get along very well. But they have problems controlling aspects of their country.
Kelly: If the drugs are in the United States, we’ve lost. … I think a huge partner here is Mexico. If we can help them get after the poppy production, … if we can help them get after the production labs, if we can help them get after the heroin, the methamphetamine … before it gets to the border.
What Mexican commentators hear:
Alejandro Hope: The “aid” that Trump is supposedly offering isn’t aid: it is war. … There isn’t … a recognition of the co-responsibility of the two countries with the problem of transnational organized crime. … Trump’s offer is … bullets for the narcos in Mexico – period. If this is aid, I prefer open threats.
Salvador García Soto: What Trump suggested and Kelly confirmed is to take the Merida Initiative to the next level and relaunch it as a new “Plan Mexico,” similar to “Plan Colombia.” … a military assistance plan … which the Americans would coordinate and execute–with the Mexican army and police as “allies” and subordinates.
Raymundo Riva Palacio: This plan would signify the end of the ability of Los Pinos [the Mexican White House] to take independent and autonomous decisions, through a monumental qualitative change in the bilateral cooperation over the past 10 years: the fight against drugs would depend strategically and tactically on the United States.
More extensive quotes are below.
The government reported that wrongful deaths rose 22% to 20,789 in 2016. This is the highest level of the Peña Nieto government, and the third highest recorded (after 2011 and 2012, during the height of the Calderón drug war.) The states with the highest homicide rates were Colima (82 per 100k!!), Guerrero, Sinaloa, Baja California, and Chihuahua. More detail here from Reforma.