On January 11, 2012, the Mexican Attorney Generals Office (AGO) released the latest casualty figures in the government’s war against organized criminal groups. The AGO confirmed that there have been 47, 515 drug related killings since December 2006—when President Calderon gave the military full rein to combat drug trafficking and organized crime. To put this in perspective, in Afghanistan, there were 18,389 civilian and security deaths from January 2007 to November 2011. In the first nine months of 2011, 12, 903 people died in Mexico due to the violence, compared with 11,583 killed during the same period of 2010. While most people would logically think this means the war is getting worse, the Mexican AGO has tried to spin this as encouraging news by stating:
It’s the first year (since 2006) that the homicide rate increase has been lower compared to previous years. (Emphasis added.)
Apparently the situation is getting worse at a slower rate than before, thus indicating that this is good news! This is not the first time that the AGO and the Mexican government attempt to distort facts regarding the war on drugs, such as last week when they announced that they would not release official casualty figures. They recanted this position under pressure and agreed to share partial figures from the first nine months of 2012. Since the government has increasingly withheld information from the public, society has depended on newspapers to keep a tally.
The government claims to be waiting to verify numbers before divulging them, however most Mexicans suspect there are other reasons. For one, the government could be keeping these numbers hidden in light of the upcoming presidential election, which Calderon’s party is expected to lose—in large part because of the way he has handled the violence. The government also had their credibility damaged in 2010 when different agencies released contradicting statistics. With these experiences, it became clear that Mexican society doesn’t believe official figures even when they are released.
The failure to disclose statistics further exacerbates this issue, fueling increased doubt and suspicion and creating the perception that casualty rates are higher. In addition, without credible statistics, society loses even more confidence in the capacity of institutions.
The government has also pointed to supposed successes such as the capture or killing of leaders of drug-trafficking organizations, however this has only triggered a fragmentation of bigger groups into smaller groups that turn to other crimes such as extortion, kidnapping and human smuggling. Once society begins to witness violence on a daily basis, these copycat crimes occur more frequently and lead society to conclude that no one is in control.
Although there is a burgeoning peace movement and greater civil society engagement, it often feels like an uphill battle—particularly with the United States so involved with the war. When you think that this war is simply fueling the U.S. demand for drugs, that the guns supplied come from the United States, but that it is Mexicans losing their lives—it feels like a vicious cycle. Here’s to hoping the next Mexican President will choose a different route!
This post used material from the following sources: