The extradition of one of Mexico’s most famous drug lords in January unleashed an upsurge in violence that is to blame for the soaring murder rate in Baja California Sur this year, according to a former state politician and a local community leader.
There were 451 murders recorded in the first nine months of 2017 and local newspapers report that this month’s toll has already reached 90, making it the state’s most violent month in a year that is already the worst on record.
But can this year’s spike in violence be attributed to the absence of former Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín Guzmán?
Some observers believe it can.
In an interview with the newspaper El Universal in 2016, former state deputy and businessman Victor Martínez de Escobar warned that if Guzmán was extradited, it would lead to an increase in violence.
The extradition of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera will bring a very strong rearrangement of power and the entry of small cartels, he predicted.
“We’re living a chaotic situation that has never been seen before. It’s going to be the most violent state in relation to its [number] of residents.”
The state reportedly came under control of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) in 2015 but its turf war with the Sinaloa Cartel continues.
The director of Colectivo Pericú — a Baja California Sur citizens’ group that also publishes a news blog — also believes that Guzmán’s extradition is a factor in rising crime levels.
“[The upsurge in violence is caused by] the dispute for the power vacuums within the Sinaloa Cartel and some others who take advantage of the periods of confusion or what they see as spaces of weakness [where they can] try to impose their law at gunpoint,” Cuauhtémoc Morgan said.
For Morgan, the upsurge in violence has hit close to home.
Maximino Rodríguez, a 73-year-old journalist who came out of retirement to report on crime in Los Cabos and surrounding areas for publications including the Colectivo Pericú blog, was shot dead in April this year.
Students, tourists and even a baby have also been victims of armed violence, further highlighting the extent of the problem.
However, not all observers believe that El Chapo’s recapture and extradition to the U.S. is the main cause of the alarming crime increase.
Arturo Rubio, a local human rights lawyer, argues that homicide statistics show that violence steadily increased prior to the capo’s extradition and that a poor security strategy is to blame.
National Public Security System statistics show that the homicide rate has risen by more than 300% during the administration of Governor Carlos Mendoza Davis, who took office in September 2015.
From 126 cases in 2014, the figure rose to 226 in 2015 and rose again to 281 in 2016. Rubio pointed out that the trend goes back even further.
“This is not a recent problem, it’s a natural escalation of a problem that we have been observing for the past eight years,” Rubio said.
“It’s [caused by] a lack of prevention from the government . . . security has never been a priority for the state government . . . in 2008 we were the safest state in the Mexican republic, we had the lowest rate of violent crimes . . . .”
In the 1990s, the average homicide rate was even lower, with statistics showing an average of between 20 and 30 cases per year. In 2017, those kinds of numbers have been replicated in a single week.
“We’ve been affected by the rise in violence [and] there is no dissuasive presence, let alone an operation to contain and combat the escalation in violence. The coastal tourist zones are very well protected by federal forces, the rest [of us] mere mortals don’t enjoy that condition. The federal government is only interested in the source of income,” Rubio said.
The rise in violence led the United States Department of State to issue a new travel warning in August in which it updated its advice for La Paz and Los Cabos. The upsurge in violence has also been blamed for hotel cancelations in popular tourism destinations in the state.
Source: El Universal (sp)