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A soldier in a Guerrero poppy field. A soldier in a Guerrero poppy field.

There has been a major decline in homicides in Guerrero: is fentanyl the reason?

Security analyst suggests that decline in poppy production due to fentanyl has had a pacifying effect

Homicides in Guerrero declined by 44% in April compared to the same month last year, statistics show, continuing a downward trend that began more than six months ago.

There were 111 intentional homicides in the southern state last month, according to the National Public Security System (SNSP), compared to 201 in April 2018.

During the first four months of the year, there were 504 intentional homicides in Guerrero, a decline of 35% in comparison with the 774 murders recorded between January and April 2018.

Last month, some Guerrero municipalities recorded even greater declines than that recorded statewide.

Homicides in Acapulco – described by the Washington Post in 2017 as Mexico’s murder capital – fell 51%, while in the state capital Chilpancingo they declined 58%.

Iguala and Chilapa recorded even bigger drops, with homicide numbers decreasing by 67% and 70% respectively.

A report in the newspaper Milenio said the falling murder rates were the result of the security and social strategies implemented by Governor Héctor Astudillo Flores.

It specifically cited the rehabilitation of public spaces, including parks and beaches, and the construction and remodeling of schools as factors that have contributed to greater social cohesion and the reduction of violence.

However, writing in El Universal, security analyst Alejandro Hope presented a different theory.

Hope discounted a decision by the federal government to send 600 additional security elements to Acapulco and Chilpancingo in February, writing “that wouldn’t explain a decline that began several months before and which has extended to regions where there hasn’t been a greater federal deployment.”

Has there been a particularly successful security strategy implemented at a state and municipal level, he wondered.

“Perhaps, but it’s difficult to find something decisively new and different in the policies implemented by the state government or the municipal governments in the past year,” Hope wrote.

“The answer to the enigma could instead be in an external factor: the substitution of heroin with fentanyl . . . in the United States market,” the security analyst proposed.

Fentanyl – a synthetic opioid whose popularity in the United States has soared in recent years – and its precursor chemicals arrive in Mexico from China and other Asian countries. The drug is subsequently smuggled across the northern border into the United States by cartels, according to Mexican and American authorities.

The rising demand for fentanyl in the United states caused the price of opium gum to plummet by as much as 80% last year, according to a study completed by the Network of Researchers in International Affairs (Noria).

“That effect has been particularly notable in Guerrero, the main area of poppy production in Mexico,” Hope wrote.

“The contraction of the poppy economy has produced a social crisis in producing communities but it could [also] be generating a pacifying effect: there are less illicit transactions, less criminal income and fewer incentives to resolve disputes with bullets,” he continued.

“If that hypothesis is correct, we could be facing a structural reduction of violence in Guerrero and given the relative weight of the state (in 2018, one of 12 homicides in the country was recorded in Guerrero’s territory), that would be noted in national statistics.”

Source: El Universal (sp), Milenio (sp) 

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