The number of homicides in Cuernavaca, Morelos, almost doubled in the first quarter of 2019 compared to last year, while murders across the state rose by a third, a situation that prompted the observation by a local activist that the state has kicked out the corrupt only to replace them with the inept.
The state capital recorded 37 intentional homicides between January and March, an 85% increase on the 20 registered in the first three months of 2018.
Statewide, there were 236 homicides in the first quarter, according to statistics from the National Public Security System (SNSP), a 33% spike compared to last year and almost double the 2016 figures.
A common denominator in the high levels of violent crime recorded in Cuernavaca in recent years and across the state in late 2018 and early 2019 is the governance of Cuauhtémoc Blanco.
The former soccer star became mayor of Cuernavaca at the end of 2015, a year in which there were 70 homicides in the state capital.
Last year, there were 103 murders in the city, a 47% increase compared to 2015.
Blanco was officially mayor until September 26, and four days later was sworn in as governor of Morelos.
Since he took the top job, there have been 580 homicides, the newspaper El Economista reported.
Javier Sicilia, a poet and founder of a group known as the Movement for Peace with Dignity and Justice, led a protest yesterday in front of state government offices in Cuernavaca to denounce the security situation and to urge authorities to take urgent action to combat violence not just in Morelos but across the country.
“[Former governor] Graco Ramírez was bad and it seems that this one [Blanco] is going to be worse,” Sicilia said, observing that the inept had replaced the corrupt.
Referring to a shootout in Cuernavaca’s central square Wednesday that left two people dead and another two injured, the activist said:
“That was the safest public space the state had, now nowhere is safe. There is negligence and idiocy on the part of state authorities not to mention the federal authorities, who aren’t taking the situation seriously . . .”
According to the Morelos interior secretary, turf wars are behind the high levels of violence.
Pablo Ojeda Cárdenas said that at least five competing cartels operate in Morelos, which is strategically located between Guerrero – a large drug producing state – and Mexico City.
Criminal groups, most notably the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and Los Rojos, are fighting over the route between the two locations, Ojeda explained.
Authorities have introduced a single-command policing system as part of the efforts to fight crime but Cuernavaca has not yet joined the other 35 municipalities in the program.
That situation makes statewide coordination more difficult, Ojeda said, adding that the application of a decree to bring Cuernavaca into the single-command system is needed.
The secretary said the only way to achieve positive security results is via coordination between all three levels of government, pointing out that Morelos security authorities meet every day with their federal counterparts, including the army.
However, Ojeda argued that Morelos needs more state police because it currently only has a force made up of 600 officers.
He added: “The municipal police forces are in very disparate conditions with salary levels which sometimes are not enough to have the minimum levels needed to keep them honest.”
Ojeda expressed confidence, however, that with a future deployment of the National Guard, recruitment of more police officers and greater coordination, authorities will be able to significantly improve the security situation.
Jorge Mátar Vargas, president of the Morelos branch of the National Chamber for Industrial Transformation (Canacintra), said that state authorities have lost control of security and that “the National Guard, soldiers, marines need to come.”
The first unit of the Guard began operations in Minatitlán, Veracruz, last month but Cuernavaca Mayor Francisco Antonio Villalobos said that he hasn’t yet received a response to his request for the new security force to be deployed to the Morelos capital.