President Enrique Peña Nieto is certain to leave office later this year having reached an unwelcome record: the highest number of kidnappings ever registered in a six-year presidential term.
Between December 2012 — when Peña Nieto was sworn in — and February 2018, there were 6,582 reported cases of kidnapping, according to official statistics from the National Public Security System (SNSP).
The figure is just two fewer than the previous high recorded during Felipe Calderón’s entire term in office from 2006 to 2012.
Compared to the first five years and two months of Calderón’s National Action Party (PAN) administration, kidnappings reported in the same period of Peña Nieto’s presidency are up by 22%.
However, the non-governmental organization Alto Al Secuestro (Stop the Kidnappings) today questioned the government’s numbers, claiming that there have in fact been 10,898 kidnappings during the current administration, or 97% more than the number it says were committed during Calderón’s presidency.
Tamaulipas is the worst affected state, according to SNSP figures, with 1,004 cases followed by México state with 962, Veracruz with 676, Guerrero with 549 and Tabasco 449.
Morelos (382), Michoacán (367), Mexico City (265), Oaxaca (194) and Nuevo León round out the top 10.
The worst year for kidnappings during the current administration was 2013 with 1,688 cases reported, followed by 2014 with 1,396. Last year was the third worst, with authorities opening 1,149 new investigations.
To July 2017, the federal government had allocated 2.27 billion pesos (US $125.7 million) in an attempt to combat the crime.
The central states of México, Puebla, Hidalgo, Querétaro, Tlaxcala and Mexico City — one of five regions where resources were allocated — were the biggest beneficiaries, together receiving 681 million pesos (US $37.7 million) to fight it.
However, the head of the National Anti-Kidnapping Coordination (Conase) — a division of the Interior Secretariat created by Peña Nieto — has previously said the amount of money allocated doesn’t match the reality of what states are actually spending to fight the crime.
Patricia Bugarín Gutiérrez explained that in many cases state authorities request and receive additional resources but months pass without them being used, at least for their designated purpose.
Notwithstanding, the federal official responsible for the coordination of the country’s 32 state-level specialized anti-kidnapping units (UECS) argued that the government’s strategy has, in some cases, worked.
“In Michoacán, the rate has reduced by 70%, it’s one of the biggest achievements in the state. It’s no longer one of the states with the highest rates,” UECS director Sandra Aguirre said.
In contrast, a legal academic at the Panamerican University contends that the federal and state governments’ anti-kidnapping strategy has failed.
Rodrigo Soto said that in order to combat kidnapping and other crimes, such as homicide, whoever wins the July 1 presidential election must rethink the current strategy.
He argued that state authorities have a “parasitic dependency” on federal security institutions, adding that the current arrangement “can’t continue.”
“Attention to public security depends a lot on state police and to ask federal authorities to have the greatest responsibility for state security is a strategic error,” Soto said.
According to a criminologist who specializes in kidnappings, a large part of the problem during the past five years has been a lack of confidence in state police because some officers have colluded with criminals to carry out kidnappings.
“For a state police force to be able to perform, there must be confidence in them and in the states there is little [of that confidence]. In addition, the states don’t have forces that are properly trained to deal with this crime,” Pablo Carstens Madero said.
“There are police officers in some states that have done a god job, but it also must be recognized that some state forces haven’t done anything and some police officers are even involved with the criminals,” he added.
The Iguala mass kidnapping, in which 43 teaching students disappeared, is the most high-profile case of several kidnappings where police were allegedly complicit with criminals.
Better training for police on the prevention and investigation of the crime is one measure required to reduce the incidence of the crime, Carstens said.
Source: El Universal (sp)