The government released for the first time comprehensive data (Mexico Segob homicide database) on killings related to organized crime. Ministry of Government spokesman Alejandro Poiré said the disclosure was “an exercise of transparency without precedent in Mexico, and with few precedents in the world.” The database includes killings month by month from December 2006 (when Felipe Calderón took office) through December 2010 for more than 1,100 municipalities across the country.
Some highlights from the government data:
- Overall killings spiked to more than 15,000 in 2010, an increase of 59% from 2009. The government’s figures are significantly higher than those compiled (and published weekly) by the major newspapers. Reforma for example, recorded 11,583
- On a quarterly basis, the peak was 2Q and 3Q 2010. The rate of killings was down 10% in 4Q10, though the government was unwilling to say this was the beginning of a trend.
- Since December 2006, 70% of the killings have been concentrated in just 85 municipalities, concentrated along the U.S. border and the Pacific coast.
Poiré’s presentation is here: SEGOB Presentation on Organized Crime Killings, Jan 11
The fifth annual study of crime victims carried out by the independent CIDE research institute shows that crime rates, as measured by victim surveys, have surged in Mexico City and the State of Mexico. 40% of those surveyed said a member of their household was a victim of a crime in 2009, as compared to an average of about 25% in each of 2005-07—an increase of 60%. The rate of violent crime has also jumped, with 22% saying a member of the household was the victim of a violent crime. Robberies of persons are now the most common crime, surpassing theft of auto parts. The CIDE researchers speculate, “The increase in violent crimes could be indicative of criminals acting under the influence of drugs, given the recent transformation of these jurisdictions into drug transit corridors. … Another possible explanation is that the high rate of impunity makes it possible for violence to become more generalized.” (CIDE)
Less than two weeks after President Calderón declared that “the prestige of all three levels of government depends on the rescue of Ciudad Juárez,” the slaughter Friday night of 14 youths at a birthday party underscored the inability of the authorities to bring order to Mexico’s most violent city, where at least 2,421 persons have died this year.
The outgoing mayor of Juárez, José Reyes Ferriz, (and who lives in El Paso) gave an interview to Proceso just before leaving office in which he summarized the tally from his three years in office:
“7,000 dead, including 190 police officers; 10,000 orphans; 250,000 people who have emigrated from the city because of the violence; 10,000 businesses closed; 130,000 jobs lost; 25,000 homes abandoned; and 80,000 addicts. (Reforma 10/26)
Meanwhile in Tijuana, recently celebrated for a modest decrease in killings, the murder of at least 13 persons at a drug rehab clinic Sunday is being viewed as revenge for the much publicized seizure and destruction of marijuana by forces under the command of police chief Col. Julián Leyzaola Pérez. Messages broadcast on the police band said, “Remember there were 135 tons; there will be more dead.” (Reforma 10/26)
President Calderón sent forward revisions to the military criminal code to bring Mexico into compliance with the rulings of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights by making soldiers and sailors accused of the crimes of torture, forcible disappearance, and rape subject to prosecution in civilian courts. The law would require military investigators to refer cases where there was probable cause to the federal investigating magistrate. Those accused and convicted would continue to be held in military, not civilian, prisons. (Universal 10/19)
Persons close to the family of Diego Fernández de Cevallos announced that the family has paid a US$20 million+ ransom, and that they expect him to be freed by his kidnappers in the first or second weeks of November. Jefe Diego has been held hostage for more than 150 days. He is said to be in poor, but stable, health. (Universal 10/14)
Two specialists in kidnappings, Max Morales and Jorge Carrillo Olea, analyzed in Reforma fifty of Mexico’s highest profile kidnappings since the 1970s. Of the 50 cases, only 17 resulted in the arrest of at least one of the kidnappers, and in only seven were the victims freed by action of the authorities. Two of these cases are still unresolved: Diego Fernández de Cevallos, who was kidnapped on May 14, 2010, and U.S. kidnap specialist Felix Batista, who has been missing since December 2008. Morales and Carrillo identify five phases of kidnapping over the past 40 years: political kidnappings during the Echeverria government; kidnappings of medium-size businessmen for moderate ransoms; kidnappings of large businessmen for mega-ransoms to finance insurgent groups; kidnappings as an industry, developed by gangster Daniel Arizmendi in the 1990s; and the fifth, since 1997, of heavy police involvement in kidnapping. “The problem of Mexico since 1997 is not organized crime, it is police who are organized in crime.” According to Carillo Olea, who was the first head of Mexico’s security agency, CISEN, “Impunity is the prime motor in the proliferation of crime; if we want to reduce the proliferation of crime we have to make all criminal acts punishable and remember that in Mexico only 2% of crimes result in a sentence.”
A judge ordered freed five persons who had been arrested in the Government’s highest profile operation against political corruption linked to drug trafficking. Of the 35 who had been arrested in the May 2009 sweep in Michoacán, 34 have now been freed by judicial order. Maria Luisa Calderón, the President’s sister and a potential PAN candidate for governor of Michoacán, said the judicial orders were the result of “pressures” against the judges and in no way an exoneration of those freed. Columnist Ricardo Alemán commented, “The michoacanazo [as the operation was called] is nothing more than a chain of events that show the citizens’ lack of confidence in the entire process for imparting justice. … Like it or not, it’s a collective mess, shameful for everyone.” (Universal 9/29, 10/6, Excelsior 9/30)
Julio César Godoy Toscano, the brother of Michoacán Governor Leonel Godoy and a fugitive from federal drug charges since June 2009, gave the slip to Federal Police. He avoided a security cordon around the Chamber of Deputies, hid for 2 days in an office in the Chamber, and took the oath of office as a Deputy, effectively giving him immunity from arrest and a public platform for contesting the charges. Julio Cesár Godoy was one of the most prominent figures accused by the Justice Ministry of involvement with La Familia Michoacana when they arrested a large number of political figures in June 2009, just prior to the mid-term elections. Godoy immediately went into hiding, and was easily elected to Congress for the PRD, despite the charges and inability to campaign. Most of the other public figures arrested in Michoacán have since been released, when the government was unable to substantiate the charges against them, feeding suspicions that the highly-publicized operation was politically motivated. (Universal 9/24, Excelsior 9/24)
Four members of the “Artist Assassins” gang were freed only three months after having been arrested by the federal organized crime bureau (SIEDO) with great fanfare and accused of carrying out 55 murders in the service of the Sinaloa Cartel. The state prosecutor for Chihuahua asked a judge that the charges be withdrawn because “the investigating magistrate (Ministerio Público) committed grave errors in the compilation of the report and did not substantiate the charges against the individuals who were identified to the news media.” The four are supposed to return to court in a few weeks to face potential new charges. (Excelsior 9/20)
Supreme Court minister José de Jesús Gudiño Pelayo, 67, died of a heart attack while on vacation in England. His replacement could alter the balance on the 11-member Court; he was considered a swing vote between the more liberal and more conservative wings of the Court. He had also emerged, in recent years, as a reliable defender of individual rights against the State. He supported the decriminalization of abortion in the Federal District and the rights of those imprisoned in the Acteal and Atenco massacres, among others. The Senate elects Court ministers from a list of candidates submitted by the President. His replacement could also affect the election next January of a new President of the Court, when the Ministers choose one of their own to head the Court. (Reforma 9/20, Universal 9/20)