Incarceration in Mexico: distance decay from California?

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on Incarceration in Mexico: distance decay from California?
Jan 072014
 

In a previous post – 2013 Mexico Peace Index: Mexico becoming more peaceful –we reported the work of the Institute for Economics and Peace in devising its inaugural 2013 Mexico Peace Index (MPI).

The interactive online maps that form part of this report repay some exploring. In addition to allowing you to view the pattern for MPI on a state-by-state basis, they also allow you to see the pattern for each of the 7 main indicators:

  • Homicide (includes murder, infanticide and non-negligent manslaughter)
  • Violent crime (includes rape, robbery and aggravated assault)
  • Weapons crime (the proportion of crimes that involve a firearm)
  • Incarceration (the annual number of people per 100,000 people over the age of 18 sentenced to prison)
  • Police funding (proportion of the Federal District Public Security Contribution Fund)
  • Organized crime (includes extortion, kidnapping, and drug related crimes)
  • Justice efficiency (the ratio of sentenced homicides to total number of homicides)

Looking at these maps recently, one curiosity that struck me was that the map for incarceration rates shows a clear distance-decay pattern (the kind of pattern we older geographers love to find, even if we can’t explain it!).

The map is a screenshot of incarceration rates in 2012. The incarceration rate is defined as the number of people /100,000 people over the age of 18 sentenced to prison in that year.

Incarceration rate in Mexico, 2012

Incarceration rate in Mexico, 2012. Credit: Mexican Peace Index. Institute for Economics & Peace

In this case (see map), it appears that the rate of incarceration varies with distance from the US state of California. The closer to California, the higher the incarceration rate. Looking more closely, it becomes apparent that the states along the northwest coast of Mexico, west of the Western Sierra Madre, have higher incarceration rates than those inland or further south. This means that a better description of the pattern might be that states that are closer in travel time, or ease of travel, to California have higher incarceration rates. This has the added attraction of bringing the eastern state of Quintana Roo into the picture given the large number of flights from Los Angeles to Cancún!

Even if a pattern exists, this kind of conjectural analysis is not the same as a causal explanation. In this case, surely it is just a coincidence that incarceration rates happened to arrange themselves like this? Perhaps the analysis of incarceration rates in future years will shed more light on this spatial curiosity!

For other examples of distance decay, see

The full 96-page 2013 Mexico Peace Index report – available here – is well worth reading and offers many more insights into the changes taking place in Mexico.

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2013 Mexico Peace Index: Mexico becoming more peaceful

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on 2013 Mexico Peace Index: Mexico becoming more peaceful
Dec 142013
 

The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), an independent, non-profit research organization dedicated to promoting a better understanding of the social and economic factors that develop a more peaceful society, has released its first Mexico Peace Index. The 2013 Mexico Peace Index (MPI) is based on a similar methodology as previous IEP indices, including the United States Peace Index and the United Kingdom Peace Index; however specific measures were included to better reflect the specific Mexican cultural and national context.

For the Mexico Peace Index, seven indicators were used to analyze peace: homicide rates, violent crime, weapons crime, incarceration, police funding, efficiency of the justice system, and the level of organized crime.

The study was performed with the guidance of an Expert Panel representing various institutions such as IMCO, CIDE, Mexico Evalua and INEGI. The Mexico Peace Index 2013 uses data provided by INEGI and the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System (SESNSP).

Mexico Peace Index

Mexico Peace Index. Credit: Institute for Economics and Peace.

The headlines

  • Mexico Peace Index finds that peace improved 7.4% in past two years
  • The two-year improvement in peace was primarily driven by a 30% decrease in organized crime
  • Most peaceful states experienced an annual GDP growth of more than double the least peaceful states
  • Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Yucatan have the most improved levels of peace in the past decade
  • Mexico has the greatest potential in the world to overcome its current levels of violence and build a more peaceful society, with a strong business environment and high levels of human capital
  • The eastern region of Mexico is the most peaceful; the northern region the least

The 2013 MPI provides a comprehensive assessment of peace in Mexico detailing the level of peace in each of the 32 states over the last 10 years and an analysis of the costs associated with violence as well as the socio-economic dimensions associated with peace.

mpi-coverThe study finds that there was a 7.4% improvement in Mexico’s peace scores in the last two years, driven by decreases in organized crime, violent crime, and weapons crime. However, over the past 10 years Mexico experienced a marked increase in direct violence, with peace declining by 27%. A key factor was the 37% increase in the homicide rate since 2007.

The 2013 MPI presents comparisons between the states and the regions of Mexico, and finds that the states with the highest levels of peace are: Campeche, Queretaro, Hidalgo, Yucatan and Baja California Sur while the five least peaceful states are: Morelos, Guerrero, Sinaloa, Chihuahua, and Quintana Roo.

The study finds that Oaxaca, Chiapas and Yucatan experienced the most substantial increases in their levels of peace during the last decade. Oaxaca improved its score by 22% and Chiapas by 17%.  These states were found to be relatively peaceful in comparison with other areas of Latin America and North America. Campeche, for example, has a level of peace comparable with the states of New Mexico and Delaware in the United States.

Regionally, the research finds that the eastern region of Mexico is the most peaceful, while the northern region is the most violent.

Analysis of federal funding to state police (Fondo de Aportaciones para la Seguridad Publica) finds that increases in police funding are related to crime reporting rates, with increased funding improving the public’s relationship with the police.

The direct cost of violence to the Mexican economy is 3.8% of GDP, while the indirect costs amount to 12% for a total 2.49 trillion pesos (15.8% of GDP). Under optimal conditions, if there was no violence in Mexico, the economy would have the potential to improve by up to 27%. This figure includes direct and indirect costs and the additional flow-on economic activity that would eventuate from new money being added to the economy. The study highlights that if all the states of Mexico were as peaceful as Campeche, the most peaceful state in the country, Mexico would reap an economic benefit of 2.26 trillion pesos.

The most peaceful Mexican states in 2003 experienced the strongest economic performance in 2012. Over the past 10 years, these states’ GDP increased by 9% versus 4% in the least peaceful states.

Steve Killelea, founder and executive chairman of IEP said: “Compared to other countries with a similar level of conflict and development, Mexico has the greatest potential to increase its peace on account of the strength of the structures, attitudes and institutions that sustain peace in the long term.” He added that: “This research aims to provide the evidence base and data for a broader policy debate about how to reduce violence in Mexico”.

Mexico’s standing in regards to positive peace is encouraging: the country has a strong business environment, performs well on measures of human development, and ranks better than world averages on education.

Factors impacting peace in Mexico

It is well known that the increase in the levels of violence in Mexico has been a consequence of the war against drug trafficking, but there are other key factors at play.

The number of firearms smuggled into Mexico increased substantially during the last decade, almost three times higher in the period 2010-2012 than between 1997 and 1999.

As a consequence, the weapons crime indicator, which measures the number of offenses involving the use of weapons, recorded a significant increase of 117% per 100,000 people during the last decade.

The measure of the efficiency of the justice system has recorded a significant deterioration. In some states up to 95% of homicides remain unpunished.

In addition, the public perception of corruption is very high and one of the greatest challenges facing Mexico.

Prison capacity is overstretched with a Mexico Evalua 2013 report stating that 52.4% of prisons in the country are over-crowded and house 74% of the prison population in Mexico.

There is a high level of unreported crime in Mexico. According to data from the National Survey of Victimization and Perception of Public Safety 2012 (ENVIPE), only 19% of theft, 10% of fraud and 10% of extortion cases are reported.

It is important to address all of these key challenges in order to reduce violence and realise the social and economic benefits of peace in Mexico.

This post is the text of a press release from the Institute for Economics and Peace. For more information about the report, visit http://visionofhumanity.org/#/page/news/812 and http://visionofhumanity.org/#/page/indexes/mexico-peace-index

The full 96-page report – available here – is well worth reading and offers many more insights into the changes taking place in Mexico.

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Survey in March 2013 identifies crime as Mexico’s biggest public concern

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Oct 262013
 

The Pew Research Global Attitudes Project (released 24 October 2013) provides results of face to face interviews with a national sample of 1,000 adult Mexicans. The report revealed opinions concerning a wide variety of issues including the country’s direction, most important concerns, law and order, drug war, national institutions and attitudes toward the USA. Mexicans are generally dissatisfied with their country. In March 2013, 69% of Mexicans said they were dissatisfied, up from 63% in 2012, but down from 79% in 2010. The survey suggests that crime is a major cause for dissatisfaction.

The biggest concern identified in the survey is crime which 81% said was a very big problem, up from 73% in 2012. Several other crime-related issues topped the very big problem list: cartel-related violence (71%), illegal drugs (70%), human rights violations by the military and police (70%) and corrupt political leaders (69%). The concern for crime causes real fear. The survey noted that 63% say they are afraid to walk alone at night within one kilometer of their home, up 7% from 2012 and 13% from 2007. Women were only slightly more concerned about their safety than men (65% versus 60%). Those in urban areas were significantly more worried about safety than those in rural areas (70% versus 43%). On the other hand, the fact that over four in ten in rural areas were worried is both surprising and startling.

Unfortunately, we do not have a complete regional breakdown of the survey respondents. We speculate that crime is perceived as a bigger problem in high crime areas such as the north. Attitudes toward bribery appear to support this view. While 32% said they had to pay a bribe to a government official in the past year; the percentages ranged from 51% in the north to 18% in the Mexico City Region.

Over two-thirds (68%) felt that government should focus on maintaining law and order rather than protecting human rights (18%). Only 11% said that both were equally important. It is interesting that respondents from all three major political parties gave almost equal high priority to law and order: Party of the Democratic Revolution (PDR) – 66%; National Action Party (PAN) – 69% and Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) – 70%.

The drug war continues to be a problem; only 37% think the government is making progress, compared to 47% in 2012. Fully 29% said the government is losing ground in the drug war and 30% think it is about the same as it has been in the past. Over half (56%) blame both Mexico and the USA for drug violence. Only 20% blame just the USA, while 17% blame just Mexico. The vast majority (85%) want the Mexican army to fight drug cartels and over half (55%) would like the US government to provide weapons and training to fight the drug war. Only 34% would like to have US troops in Mexico fighting the cartels.

Given that the drug war is not going well and the military is implicated in many human rights violations, it is surprising that 72% of survey respondents feel that the military has a good influence on Mexico. This was higher than any other institution. About 68% felt the national government has a good influence. Other institutions got lower scores: the media – 66%, President Peña Nieto – 57%, Congress – 45%, court system – 44%, and police – 42%.

Aside from crime and related issues, Mexicans identified several other major problems. About five in eight (63%) considered poor quality schools a very big problem, way up from 49% in 2012. This increase was probably related to the arrest of the teachers’ union president and focus on the dire need for education reform. Other very big problems were pollution (60%), terrorism (59%) and people leaving Mexico for jobs (53%). This last item is a bit surprising since in recent years (since the Great Recession) relatively few Mexicans have left in search of jobs.

The percentage viewing the USA favorably has changed considerably in recent years. In early 2010, before passage of Arizona’s restrictive immigration law, 66% viewed the USA favorably. After passage of the law, this dropped to 44%, compared to an unfavorable view of 48%, up from 27% before the law. Clearly passage of that law had a very big impact on Mexicans. However the favorable ratings increased to 52% in 2011, 56% in 2012 and 66% in 2013. Meanwhile the unfavorable ratings dropped to 41% in 2011, 34% in 2012 and 30% in 2013.

Only 17% said they had traveled to the USA, but 21% indicated their families received money from relatives north of the border. About 47% indicated that moving to the USA leads to a better life, while 18% say it leads to a worse life. However, 44% say having citizens living in the USA is bad for Mexico, an equal number say it is good for Mexico. Apparently, the view is that it is good for individuals to move to the USA, but such moves may not necessarily be good for Mexico as a whole. Consistent with this, 35% said they would move to the USA if they had the means and opportunity, 20% would migrate without authorization while 15% would only migrate if they had authorization.

It will be interesting to see how these opinions change when the 2014 survey is conducted.

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The pattern of homicides in Mexico in 2012

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Aug 172013
 

Homicide rates in Mexico increased between 2010 and 2012, though there is some evidence that they are now beginning to fall again. Did the pattern of homicide rates also change since 2010?

The top map shows the pattern of intentional homicides in Mexico in 2010. As we commented at the time, this map shows “that many northern states like Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Nuevo León and Durango are plagued by drug war violence and have very high murder rates. On the other hand, most states in the south and southeast, like Yucatán, Campeche and Tlaxcala are relatively free of drug war violence and historically have had low murder rates. One significant anomaly in the overall pattern appears to be Guerrero which is well to the south but has a high murder rate and a very significant amount of drug violence.”

Map of intentional homicide rate, 2010

Map of intentional homicide (murder) rate, 2010 Credit: Tony Burton / Geo-Mexico

The second map shows the pattern of intentional homicides in Mexico in 2012. (Note that the values on the key are slightly different to reflect the increase in Mexico’s average (nationwide) homicide rate between 2010 and 2012).

Map of homicide rates in Mexico, 2012, Credit: Tony Burton/ Geo-Mexico

Map of intentional homicide (murder) rates in Mexico. Credit: Tony Burton/ Geo-Mexico

At first sight the pattern in 2012 look pretty similar to that for 2010. The adjoining states of Sinaloa, Chihuahua and Durango continue to have rates well above the national average, as does Guerrero further south. However, the homicide rate in Nuevo León, which was “well above average” in 2010 has declined somewhat to “above average” in 2012. Since 2010, the north-eastern state of Tamaulipas has seen its homicide rate increase from “above average” to “well above average”. Perhaps more significantly, the border state of Coahuila has witnessed a jump from “below average” to “well above average”. Homicide rates in the two north-west border states of Baja California and Sonora have fallen since 2010 to “below average”.

Elsewhere, homicide rates have increased in both Zacatecas and in Colima since 2010, while rates in Veracruz have declined to “below average”. The shift in Veracruz means that a broad swathe of southern Mexico, including the Yucatán Peninsula, Oaxaca and Chiapas, now has a homicide rate “below average” or “well below average”, good news for tourists headed for Oaxaca, Cancún and the Riviera Maya!

On a more cautionary note, the state of Michoacán has seen increased violence in 2013; its homicide rate is headed upwards.

The changes in pattern of homicides between 2010 and 2012 are partially attributable to the “zones of contention” between rival drug gangs. For instance, the Knights Templar cartel (currently thought to be Mexico’s third largest cartel, behind the Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel) has its origin in  Michoacán but has expanded its geographic influence very rapidly in the past few years. Equally, the capture of key cartel leaders in recent years seems to herald increased violence as rivals compete to fill the perceived power vacuum left behind. This unfortunate outcome from the arrest of leading cartel operatives is continuing this year following the capture of Zeta leader Z-40.

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Has the homicide rate in Mexico begun to fall?

 Mexico's geography in the Press, Updates to Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on Has the homicide rate in Mexico begun to fall?
Aug 102013
 

The National Statistics Institute (INEGI) recently published state-by-state intentional homicide (murder) statistics for 2012. The values calculated by INEGI for rates/100,000 population rely on CONAPO’s estimates for the population each year. The INEGI report includes homicide trends from 1990 to 2012.

From 1992 to about 2007, homicide rates in Mexico declined (see graphic) to 8/100,000 in 2007. However, during former President Felipe Calderón’s “War on Drugs”, the homicide rate almost tripled. In 2010 and 2011, the national rate averaged 23/100,0000. These national averages mask a huge difference between males and females. For example, the 2011 rate for males was 43/100,000, about eight times higher than the 5/100,000 recorded for females. As the graphic shows, there is some slight evidence that the homicide rate for males is beginning to fall again.

Trends in homicide rate, 1990-2012 (Data: INEGI)

Trends in homicide rate, 1990-2012 (Data: INEGI)

Mexico’s intentional homicide rate is about the same as that in Brazil (21/100,000). Both countries have rates that are very high compared to Peru (10), the USA (5), Canada (1.6) or the UK (1.2). On the other hand, the intentional homicide rates in Mexico and Brazil are quite low compared to Honduras (92), El Salvador (69) Venezuela (45) and South Africa (32). [Figures for other countries from wikipedia]

In a later post we will look at the pattern of homicides in 2012, and compare a map of homicide rates in 2012 to our previous analysis of the homicide pattern in 2010:

 Posted by at 7:09 am  Tagged with:

How does corruption in Mexico compare to Brazil, China, India and Russia?

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Mar 282013
 

Corruption is a serious concern in Mexico and these other four major emerging economies. Corruption is rather subjective and not an easy concept to measure. This post looks into corruption in Mexico, Brazil, China, India and Russia, as reported by Transparency International (TI) in its Perceived Corruption Index 2012 and the World Justice Project (WJP) Rule of Law Report for 2012-2013.

Transparency International’s “Index of Perceived Corruption” is based on a wide array of surveys, polls of international experts and interviews with knowledgeable residents. In TI’s analysis of 2007 results, Mexico, Brazil, China and India were all tied at 72nd out of 179 countries. Russia was far behind at 143rd However, by 2012, Mexico had slipped to 105th; India had dropped to 94th, China to 80th, while Brazil improved a bit to 69th. (See also Tim Padgett’s “Tale of Two Corruptos: Brazil and Mexico on Different Transparency Paths”.) Russia moved up a bit, but still was 133rd. Mexico’s fall in the rankings might have been associated with the explosion of drug cartel violence between 2007 and 2012.

The World Justice Project (WJP)’s 2012-2013 Report “Absence of Corruption” ranked Brazil and China at 38th of 97 countries; Russia was ranked 70th, Mexico 74th and India 81st. These WJP rankings do not correlate very well with those of Transparency International (IT). For example, Russia appears far more corrupt in the TI rankings, while India looks more corrupt on the WJP rankings.

The WJP looks into four separate corruption sub-factors. These are listed below with the ranks of the five countries:

1. Government officials in the executive branch do not use public office for private gain.

  • Brazil (40th of 97), Mexico (49th), China (49th), Russia (56th) India (89th)

2. Government officials in the judicial branch do not use public office for private gain.

  • Brazil (33rd), India (52nd), Russia (67th), China (70th), Mexico (84th)

3. Government officials in the police and the military do not use public office for private gain.

  • China (36th), Brazil (37th), Russia (67th), Mexico (84th), India (86th)

4. Government officials in the legislative branch do not use public office for private gain.

  • China (30th), Mexico (51th), Brazil (75th), Russia (77th), India (81st)

The results suggest that Mexico’s main corruption problems are not with the executive and legislative branches, perhaps because the Mexican constitution limits elected officials to only one term. The main problems are with the judicial and police/military branches. Mexico’s judicial reform program which is currently being implemented, should reduce judicial and police corruption. Also police and penal code reforms advocated by President Peña Nieto’s “Pact for Mexico” should help. Mexico’s future corruption ranks according to both TI and WJP could be a bit better because the “Pact for Mexico” identifies corruption as a priority. Only time will tell.

Does Mexico have an “Open Government”?

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Mar 122013
 

The World Justice Project (WJP) 2012-2013 Report recently assessed 97 countries on eight Rule of Law factors. The “Open Government” factor involves engagement, access, participation, and collaboration between the government and its citizens. It includes accountability, freedom of information, and ability to petition the government.

The WJP ranked Mexico 32nd of 97 countries in terms of “Open Government”. Brazil ranked one better at 31st, while India (48th), China (69th) and Russia (70th) trailed significantly. For comparison, Sweden was ranked 1st, Canada 6th, USA 13th, Ghana 30th, Italy 47th, Guatemala 58th. Four African countries occupied the very bottom places: Ethiopia, Cameroon, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe (94th to 97th , respectively).

In assessing open governments, the WJP uses four subfactors (with Mexico’s rank among the 97 countries in parentheses):

  1. The laws are publicized and accessible (48th)
  2. The laws are stable (26th)
  3. Right to petition the government and public participation (53rd)
  4. Official information is available on request (39th)

These scores suggest that Mexico is pretty much in the middle of the 97 countries assessed. It would do well to focus attention on better publicizing laws and encouraging public participation.

A previous post focused on the WJP analysis of Mexico’s “Criminal Justice System”. Future posts will investigate other “Rule of Law” dimensions of the WJP study.

Reforms badly needed for Mexico’s criminal justice system

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Mar 052013
 

The World Justice Project (WJP) 2012-2013 Report recently assessed 97 countries in terms of Rule of Law, which the WJP defines as “the underlying framework and rights that make prosperous and fair societies possible… where laws protect fundamental rights, and where justice is accessible for all”. Its definition includes four universal principles:

  1. The government and its officials and agents are accountable under the law.
  2. The laws are clear, publicized, stable and fair, and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property.
  3. The process by which the laws are enacted, administered and enforced is accessible, fair and efficient.
  4. Justice is delivered by competent, ethical and independent representatives and neutrals, who are sufficient in number, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.

The WJP looks at eight “rule of law” factors: limited government powers, absence of corruption, order and security, fundamental rights, open government, regulatory enforcement, civil justice and criminal justice. Rather than attempt to combine all these factors into one rule of law index, the WJP looks at each factor separately. National scores on each factor are developed by surveying 1000 respondents in each country, as well as collecting questionnaires from in-country experts. This post looks at criminal justice; future posts will look at other rule of law factors.

Mexico scored particularly poorly with respect to “Criminal Justice” which the WJP defines as “a key aspect of the rule of law, as it constitutes the natural mechanism to redress grievances and bring action against individuals for offenses against society. An effective criminal justice system is capable of investigating and adjudicating criminal offences effectively, impartially, and without improper influence, while ensuring that the rights of suspects and victims are protected.”

According to the WJP report, Mexico’s criminal justice system ranks a very low 89st of 97 countries. It was 13th of 16 Latin American countries, and 29th of 30 middle income countries. These very low ranks are startling, given Mexico’s relatively high marks on most development indicators. Mexico even ranked below such economically poor countries as Pakistan (80th), Guatemala (84th), Egypt (56th), Ethiopia (49th), Senegal (54th) and Tanzania (47th) as well as behind Brazil (52nd), Russia (75th), India (64th) and China (39th). By way of comparison, Denmark ranked 1st, Canada 13th , Botswana 18th, and the USA 27th.

In assessing criminal justice, the WJP uses seven subfactors (with Mexico’s rank among the 97 countries):

  • criminal investigation system is effective (77th of 97),
  • criminal adjudication system is timely and effective (84th),
  • correctional system is effective in reducing criminal behavior (85th),
  • criminal justice system is impartial (89th),
  • criminal justice system is free of corruption (87th),
  • criminal justice system is free of improper government influence (57th),
  • due process of law and rights of the accused (78th).

Mexico ranked behind Brazil, China, India and Russia on all seven of these subfactors with only a couple of exceptions. China ranked 97th (dead last) and Russia ranked 80th in “criminal justice system is free of improper government influence.” Also Russia ranked behind Mexico at 84th in “due process of law and rights of the accused.”

These really poor ranks indicate that virtually all aspects of the Mexican criminal justice system are in dire need of reform and improvement. Fortunately, reform is on the way. “Judicial Reform in Mexico,” (published by the Trans-Border Institute of the University of San Diego in May 2010) summarizes the four main elements of Mexico’s Judicial Reform Law, approved by Congress in 2008, as:

  1. new oral, open to the public, adversarial procedures
  2. presumption of innocence and adequate legal defense for all accused
  3. modification of police and investigatory procedures
  4. tougher measures for combating organized crime

The reforms are scheduled for implementation by 2016, but may take a bit longer.

Some states, like Chihuahua, State of México, Morelos, Oaxaca, Nuevo León and Zacatecas, have already started implementing reforms, but some other states are lagging well behind. Full implementation of all the much needed judicial reforms will take many years, perhaps decades. On the bright side, at least reforms are in the process of being implemented.

The geography of Mexico’s drug trade: new cartels involved in turf wars

 Mexico's geography in the Press, Updates to Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on The geography of Mexico’s drug trade: new cartels involved in turf wars
Feb 202013
 

As we suggested a year ago – Mexico’s drug cartels and their shifting areas of operation, a 2012 update  – it is increasingly difficult to track the areas of operation of the major drug trafficking groups in Mexico. The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control recently added a new narcotrafficking group in Mexico, the Meza Flores family, to its list of Foreign Narcotics Kingpins. (This designation prohibits people in the USA from engaging in transactions with the named individuals or their organization, and freezes any assets the individuals or organization may have under U.S. jurisdiction).

According to the Treasury Department’s statement, the Meza Flores family began operations in about 2000 and is responsible for the distribution of considerable quantities of methamphetamines, heroin, cocaine and marijuana in the USA. It is headed by Fausto Isidro Meza Flores (aka “Chapito Isidro”) and is based in the town of Guasave, in the state of Sinaloa. (Meza Flores was previously in the Juárez cartel before becoming a high ranking member of the now defunct Beltran Leyva cartel).

The Meza Flores group is a direct rival of the long-established and very powerful Sinaloa cartel. The Sinaloa cartel is headed by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, who has been on the run since escaping from the maximum security jail in Almoloya de Juárez, near Toluca, in 2001. According to Forbes Magazine, Guzman Loera is currently Mexico’s 10th richest individual, with assets of around one billion dollars.

Mexico’s “War on Drugs” in recent years has led to a fragmentation of the major cartels. Some experts claim that as many as 80 distinct groups are now involved in drug production and trafficking. Many of these groups are small and highly localized, but this fragmentation has increased the incidence of turf wars between rival groups. These turf wars have caused extreme levels of violence in some parts of the country. Once one side is firmly in control, the violence drops.

The current federal administration has said that some 70,000 people died in Mexico between 2006 and 2012 as a result of the activities of organized crime. Recent press reports such as Jalisco: La invasión de Los Templarios claim that one on-going boundary war is along the state boundary between Michoacán and Jalisco. This conflict is between the Michoacán-based Knights Templar (Los Caballeros Templarios, LCT) and the Jalisco-based New Generation cartel (CJNG).

The LCT is comprised largely of former members of  La Familia Michoacana (LFM), a group which is now almost defunct. Other members of LFM joined the Zetas, the Sinaloa cartel’s arch enemy. The CJNG started out as enforcers for the Sinaloa Cartel.

Violence linked to this particular turf war has occurred in numerous municipalities including Jilotlán de los Dolores, Pihuamo, Mazamitla, San José de Gracia, La Barca, Atotonilco, Ayotlán, Tizapán el Alto, Tuxcueca, Jocotepec and Chapala (all in Jalisco), as well as Briseñas, Yurécuaro, Sahuayo, Marcos Castellanos, La Piedad, Zamora, Cotija de La Paz, Tepalcatepec, Los Reyes, Peribán and Apatzingán (all in Michaocán).

This is not the only turf war currently underway in Mexico. For example, further north, another recent hot spot has erupted along the Durango-Coahuila border, especially in the La Laguna area centered on the city of Torreón.

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Mexican attitudes on the drug war, violence and crime

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Jul 162012
 

Mexican drug cartels and related violence have received enormous attention. For an overview, see Mexico’s drug cartels and their shifting areas of operation, a 2012 update. All Mexicans are aware of the issue and millions have been affected directly. What are their current views and attitudes? A face-to-face survey in April 2012 by the Pew Research Center of 1,200 Mexicans in Mexico sheds light on this issue.

Most Mexicans (80%) support President Calderon’s decision to use the military to fight drug traffickers. On the other hand, less than half (47%) think the campaign against drug traffickers is “making progress”. Fully 30% feel the government is losing ground. While they support use of the military, 74% indicate that human rights violations by the military and the police are a “very big problem”.

Mexicans are not sure which political party is better for dealing with Mexico’s drug problems. Just over a quarter (28%) think President Calderon’s National Action Party (PAN) (28%) would do a better job compared to 25% for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and only 13% for the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Fully 23% said that none of the three major parties is capable of resolving the issue. A possible reason for this is that only 14% blame mostly Mexico for the problem, compared to 22% who mostly blame the USA and 61% who blame both countries.

In general, Mexicans want the USA to help solve the drug problem. Fully 75% favor the USA training Mexican police and military personnel and 61% also approve of the USA providing money and weapons to the country’s police and military. On the other hand only a third favor deploying USA troops within Mexico, while 59% oppose this.

Mexicans feel that their country is facing some serious problems. Three-quarters of Mexicans think cartel-related violence (75%) and human rights violations by police and military (74%) are “very big problems”. The related issues of crime (73%), corruption (69%) and illegal drugs (68%) were also identified as “very big problems” by most survey respondents. Apparently, Mexicans do not feel very safe. More than half (56%) said they were afraid to walk alone at night within a kilometer of their home, 61% for women and 51% for men. Unfortunately, Mexicans are not very optimistic that the country’s drug violence problems will go away any time soon. On the bright side, 51% of the surveyed Mexicans felt their economy would improve in the next year compared to only 16% who thought it would worsen.

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