Friday, November 30, 2012

MILENIO claims nearly 59,000 died on Calderón's watch; Peña Nieto promises to cut murders, kidnappings by 50%

How many have died in Mexico's six year drug war? An accurate count may never be delivered on the politically charged question, but network says it was over 800 persons per month

*Updated Apr. 8, 2013*
Guadalajara -
On his last full day in office, Mexico's Milenio news network today reported that the drug war launched by president Felipe Calderón six years ago has claimed almost 59,000 victims.

There was no immediate response by the outgoing National Action Party (PAN) administration. The presidency will change hands at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, when Calderón yields power to president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto in a brief ceremony at Los Pinos, Mexico's equivalent of the White House.

Eleven months ago, on Jan. 2, Milenio reported that the drug war toll through the last quarter of 2011 was just under 47,000 (Five year drug war death toll is 46,969, claims Milenio). Nine days later, in a report which surprised some, the Calderón administration said the number was slightly higher (47,515 have died in Mexico's five year drug war, says the country's Attorney General). Many had expected a much larger discrepancy between the network's report and the government's internal figures.

Drug war critics and Calderón's political opponents, together with some human rights groups, have claimed in recent months that the drug war tally is much higher, and may exceed 100,000 persons. Little hard evidence has been offered in support of those claims, which appear to be based largely on anecdotal reports or highly suspect calculation techniques. Today's far more conservative estimate by a major national news network - no political ally of PAN or Felipe Calderón - is likely to recharge the ongoing debate.

The PAN president launched the drug war on Dec. 11, 2006, 10 days after taking office. Although the anti-cartel, anti-organized crime offensive was plainly a domestic law enforcement operation, it placed unprecedented reliance upon Mexican military forces to carry out assigned tasks. Some condemned the war from the outset - and especially armed forces participation in it - as a violation of the country's constitution. But Calderón repeatedly argued that local and state police forces were not prepared to take on the powerful and enormously wealthy narcotics traffickers, and were internally corrupt as well (see: Mexican Army commander: Cancún police infiltrated by drug traffickers and organized crime).

According to Milenio's report today, the drug war has claimed an average of 819 victims every month since Calderón has been in office. But the outgoing president and his supporters point out that many key narcotics bosses have been killed or decommissioned during his sexenio, or six year term, and claim that 90% or more of those killed were criminals, most of them eliminated by desperate rivals.

Mexico's incoming president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has acknowledged that he'll follow essentially the same strategy when he begins his 72 month term tomorrow. He's also guaranteed that "there will be neither deals nor negotiations with drug traffickers." But in last spring's campaign promises of which Milenio reminded its readers this morning, the Institutional Revolutionary Party and it's 46 year old standard bearer - the first PRI candidate to capture the nation's highest office since 1994 - assured 112 million Mexicans that he'd cut murders and kidnappings by half, and "bring peace to the country."

Many will be watching in the days just ahead to see if Peña Nieto can deliver on those promises.

Note: In a farewell address to the nation earlier today, Calderón said, "Me voy con la conciencia de haber cumplido con mi deber - I leave with the clear conscience that I've carried out my duties."

Apr. 8, 2013 - In a tortured analysis, Milenion reports why it has now decided that 65,362 people died in violent acts during former president Calderón's six year term. The truth of the matter is that all the numbers, whether from official government sources or news networks, are reasoned guesstimates.

Apr. 2, 2013 - Mexico's March drug war tally: 1,025 dead, with Jalisco state in fourth place nationwide
Dec. 2 -As new PRI administration begins, narcos send Peña Nieto a message: nothing has changed
Nov. 21 - Mexican security survey gives poor marks to Calderón, reveals low confidence in Peña Nieto
Dec. 30, 2011 - Opinion: Calderón drug war strategy has been the right one

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