Protesters hold images of murdered journalists. Protesters hold images of murdered journalists. Marcos Brindicci/Reuters

Technically, Mexico is not second deadliest

But the homicide numbers so far this year are bleak

This year Mexico celebrates the centennial of Juan Rulfo, one of the 20th century’s greatest Mexican writers.

ADVERTISEMENT

His first novel, Pedro Páramo (1955), tells of a man travelling through Comala, a ghost village that “sits on the coals of the earth at the very mouth of hell.”

Comala is haunted by Páramo, a brutal local potentate who, offended by the villagers’ indifference to the demise of his loved one, has starved them into half-alive shades.

Rulfo’s work embodies the mad violence that the country endured in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1921).

And today, 100 years after Rulfo’s birth, Mexicans are once again facing a rancorous power struggle and unforgiving bloodshed.

According to an International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) survey on armed conflicts released in May, Mexico is now the second-deadliest country in the world, with 22,967 homicide victims in 2016.

That makes Mexico, now in the 11th year of its war on drugs, more violent than war zones such as Afghanistan or Yemen, the study claims. Its death toll is surpassed only by Syria’s 50,000 conflict deaths in 2016.

ADVERTISEMENT

The IISS report found an eager reader in United States President Donald Trump, who retweeted a Drudge Report link to an article on Mexico’s violence.

But in a joint statement by the foreign and interior secretariats, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto called IISS’s assertions “unsubstantiated” and said the report was based on “dubious methodologies.”

He also argued that the report incorrectly used legal terms related to armed conflicts, asserting that not all homicides in Mexico are related to the war on drugs and that neither organized crime groups nor the involvement of the army in law enforcement can be legally considered evidence of an armed conflict.

Trump officials recanted his citation of the IISS report after conferring with Mexican officials.

Technically, the Mexican government’s critiques are correct. Criminologists usually calculate crime rates as the number of crimes reported to law enforcement agencies for every 100,000 persons – not as a gross figure, as IISS has done.

Using that methodology, UN figures places Mexico’s homicide rate at 16.4 murders per 100,000 residents, which is significantly lower than Brazil (25.2), Venezuela (53.7) and Honduras (90.4).

But the numbers are still bleak: according to the Peña Nieto administration, Mexico had 7,727 homicides from January to April 2017. If this trend continues, warns Alejandro Hope, a public security expert in Mexico, some 30,000 people will have been killed by the end of this year. This would be Mexico’s highest murder rate since the 1960s.

This nightmare of unremitting violence is inflicted by both criminal organizations and agents of the Mexican state: national death by anomie, or lawlessness.

The same day that the government denounced IISS’s report, the Mexican news agency Diario Cambio published a video of the Mexican army carrying out what appeared to be an extrajudicial execution. After a skirmish with suspected fuel smugglers in the town of Palmarito, Puebla, a soldier fired directly into the back of an injured man’s head.

The video reveals, in cold blood, the worst of the human rights violations perpetrated by the army during the decade-long war on drugs.

Just hours later, in the northern state of Tamaulipas, a group of gunmen killed a human rights activist, Miriam Elizabeth Rodríguez Martínez. Rodríguez had become a leader in the movement of families searching for missing loved ones after she found the remains of her 14-year-old daughter Karen, who disappeared in 2012, in a hidden grave in the town of San Fernando in 2014.

In Mexico, 13 persons “disappear” each day, according to research by the weekly magazine Proceso and the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económica (CIDE).

Five days after Rodríguez was murdered, Javier Valdéz, an award-winning Mexican journalist known for covering the drug cartels, was killed in Culiacán, the capital of the western state of Sinaloa and former home of the infamous drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

Valdéz was pulled from his car by several gunmen and shot dead in the street around noon. He was the sixth journalist murdered in Mexico in 2017, making the country the world’s third-deadliest place for reporters, after Syria and Afghanistan.

Mexico’s president responded to the violent events of May by gathering his cabinet and the country’s governors and promising more resources to help journalists and human rights advocates under threat. He also increased funding for the special prosecutor’s office tasked with investigating crimes against these groups and called for better coordination between federal and state authorities.

After announcing these measures, Peña Nieto held a moment of silence for the murdered journalists. In a symbolic and emotional scene, shouts of “justice!” were heard from reporters covering the event – an indictment of the Mexican state’s guilty silence in the face of so many murders.

The state, simultaneously bloated and impotent, has few answers to offer the Mexican people, in part because it is simply waging a war owned by someone else, namely, the United States.

On May 18, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged the role American drug consumers play in driving Mexico’s lawlessness crisis, telling reporters that Americans “need to confront” that the U.S. has caused the ongoing drug-related violence in Mexico.

“But for us,” Tillerson said, “Mexico wouldn’t have a trans-criminal organized crime problem and the violence that they’re suffering. We really have to own up to that.”

Yet days later, the Trump administration, full of contradictions, released a budget proposal foreseeing US $87.66 million in counter-narcotics aid to Mexico in 2018 – a 45% reduction from the 2016 outlay.

And so Mexico has become Rulfo’s Comala, the phantom realm of damnation in which “those who die come back to get a blanket after going to hell.”

Amid the bloodshed, though, there is hope.

On May 28, hundreds of indigenous representatives came together at the National Indigenous Congress to nominate María de Jesus Patricio Martínez as their independent candidate for Mexico’s upcoming 2018 presidential election.

Patricio Martínez is a Nahua woman and a traditional healer. “Our participation in politics,” she said, “does not seek votes [but rather] pursues life.”

Before representatives of the Mayas, Yaquis, Zoques and other indigenous peoples, Patricio Martínez called for healing, resistance and renewal. The time has come to work for “reconstituting our peoples, who have been beaten for many years,” she said.

The ConversationIn Mexico, as in Comala, survival is the ultimate political challenge. But, alas, the Peña Nieto government does not dare to embrace it.

Luis Gómez Romero is senior lecturer in human rights, constitutional law and legal theory at the University of Wollongong in Australia. This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Stories from our archives that you might enjoy

  • softunderbelly

    Platitudes 101. This is what the government offers Mexican society.
    For years, the average cholo slid past hard corners with a wave of
    the hand and a cheerful Qu’vo Tocayo, que onda. Now, as things
    get really serious and they don’t slide so easily past those very same
    hard corners of life in Mexico. They pull out AK-47s and in effect
    DARE the government to do something about it.
    It’s going to take generations. Generations! and that’s IF they have
    the will. They don’t. Is a wall really necessary? You damned right it
    is.

    • csb4546

      Correct – these problem, under the best of circumstances, will not be solved for DECADES.
      And it’s probably only 50/50 that they will EVER be solved.

  • lang_eddy

    the first deadliest country in the world is the good old U.S.A…..perhaps Canada should also build a wall to keep out the american gringo’s……..

  • csb4546

    This article has one clear objective:
    Find a way to minimize, downplay, conceal, redefine, re-frame, divert, and distract from the facts.
    Academics love these exercises in semantics.
    Mexico’s citizens know better.

  • Donnie W. Jennings

    I did not agree with the original article that this one refers to for the same reasons outlined in this article, deaths rates should have been taken vs the total population or per 100,000 as suggested. I actually made that computation myself when I read the original article.

    There is no doubt much of the drug demand is coming from the north. But suggesting that this makes the US responsible for the killings in Mexico is total BS! The corruption and the lack of appreciation for human life in Mexico pre-dated the drug problem. It probably pre-dated the USA as well! While I don’t know what the accurate numbers are, I believe most of the drug related deaths are one gang vs another for preferred routes and not in actual confrontation with army or police forces. Plus, who knows how many of these deaths are for trade routes to Europe and other places other than the USA and Canada.

    Narcos has become a word used in Mexico by locals for any and all criminals. Many deaths attributed to the Narcos have nothing to do with drugs. Extortion and kidnappings are big business and big killers in Mexico! Of course, many of the Narcos involved in drug trade are also involved in many other activities including, extortion, kidnappings, thief of minerals, tapping gas lines, sex trade, child/slave trade, transporting of illegal immigrants, and many other illicit activities. Many of these gangs are very well diversified!

    The same corruption that allows one illegal activity , allows the other illegal activities. One only has to read this very news site with the countless articles on the constant reports of corruption on all levels to understand this!

  • K. Chris C.

    Got to love when the pols and crats lament a symptom of their theft, violence, and war on the people.

    An American citizen, not US subject.

FreeCurrencyRates.com
ADVERTISEMENT