President López Obrador has expressed confidence that violence will be brought under control because there is no longer any collusion between authorities and organized crime.
“We have a lot of confidence that we’re going to control violence. Do you know why? Because there is no longer complicity; the … dividing line between crime and the government is now well defined,” he told reporters at his morning news conference on Wednesday.
The president asserted that his administration is making progress towards pacifying Mexico despite a dire security situation it inherited from previous governments. López Obrador said his government works every day to eradicate violence and that has not changed as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
“The special operation we’ve had since the start of this government is to work every day from six in the morning,” he said.
López Obrador noted that homicides decreased last month – preliminary figures show they were down 3.6% compared to March – and that the security situation had improved further in the first week of May.
However, he acknowledged that violence levels remain stubbornly high in Guanajuato. One-fifth of the 76 homicides recorded across the country on Tuesday occurred in that state.
López Obrador conceded that Guanajuato is problematic but stressed that security officials are not responding to the situation with their “arms crossed.”
“We have thousands of [National Guard] elements in Guanajuato but the problem is deeply rooted; they [past federal governments] allowed it to grow,” he said.
The state was the most violent in the country last year, with more than 3,500 homicide victims. A bloody turf war between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel over control of fuel theft, extortion and kidnapping is considered the main driver of violence in the state.
While López Obrador says that his administration is already responding to the situation, the head of a citizens’ group believes that the federal government needs to do more.
Municipal and state governments can’t combat the high levels of violence on their own, said José Antonio Ortega Sánchez, president of the Citizens Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice.
“They need the help of the federal government to break up all the gangs that cause the violence in Guanajuato,” he said.
Security operations in the state should not just focus on arresting José Antonio “El Marro” Yépez Ortiz, leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, but also “all his operational chiefs,” Ortega said.
“Obviously, impunity needs to be eliminated; if crimes of murder and malicious injury are not punished … violence will not go down. We have to punish [criminals], apply the law in order to be able to really overcome [the violence crisis],” he said.
Ortega also said that the government’s social programs have failed to stem the violence that plagues not just Guanajuato but many other parts of the country.
The López Obrador administration has spent three times more on crime prevention and welfare programs – part of the president’s so-called hugs not bullets strategy – than the governments of Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto yet violence persists, he said.
There are more becarios, or scholarship holders, now but there are still many sicarios, or hired killers, Ortega said.
The public security activist also charged that the National Guard, a new federal security force formally inaugurated last June, lacks a clear strategy to combat the high levels of violence.
“A clear strategy is needed; it should coordinate with state and municipal forces and be a support for the [states],” Ortega said.