"We're not able to say that things are good, but there is reason to say they are getting better" - SEGOB undersecretary
In statements which will cast further doubt on claims by the 18th month old administration of president Enrique Peña Nieto that homicides have dropped precipitously since he took office on Dec. 1, 2012, an undersecretary of government acknowledged this week that the country is still recording 50 murders a day, or about 1,500 monthly.
But Roberto Campa, Undersecretary for Crime Prevention and Citizen Participation, a department of the Secretary of Government (SEGOB), insisted that "advances in security are being made."
"The situation in the country in terms of crime and violence remains delicate," said Campa at a forum yesterday. "It appears to me that overall things are getting better, but we are still having to deal with local crises, on which we are focused intensely."
The latter statement was a clear reference to the ongoing violence in Michoacán, and especially in the border state of Tamaulipas, where the drug war has claimed more than 60 lives in the past month, including a senior public security investigator who was killed in the capital city of Ciudad Victoria on Monday after being attacked by a team of cartel operatives. Mexican marine units have been sent to reinforce local law enforcement in Tamaulipas, where the Gulf Cartel is fighting hard to maintain control of north bound drug routes targeted by interloping traffickers, including Los Zetas. The state lies just south of Brownsville and McAllen, Texas. Mexican army captures leader of Gulf Cartel.
Brutal drug war violence in Tamaulipas, 2013
President Peña Nieto took office on a pledge to dramatically reduce drug war violence in the first 100 days of his administration. Three months after being sworn in, he admitted that his promise was too optimistic, and said "measurable results" were a year away. On Dec. 12 Secretary of Government Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong - Campa's boss - promised the administration would deliver a detailed domestic security evaluation in March, but it failed to do so.
Two months ago Mexico's National Public Security Ministry reported that in the first 14 months of the administration, over 21,000 persons died in organized crime violence. Mexican press sources said the number was actually almost 24,000. At 14 months of PRI administration, 21,258 drug war dead.
"We're not able to say that things are good, but there is reason to say they're getting better," Campa noted, while claiming that the national homicide rate has dropped from 19 to 16 per hundred thousand persons since 2013. "Moving from 60 to 50 murders a day is a very important drop, when compared to former president Felipe Calderón's term in office."
SEGOB Undersecretary Roberto Campa
Huge financial cost of Mexico's drug war
Drug war death statistics weren't the only bad news Campo delivered. He reported that in 2013 crime and violence cost the country 215 billion pesos, well over $16 billion dollars. That number represents 1.34% of Mexico's gross domestic product, Campa added.
In 2012, the last year for which complete data is available, Mexico's GDP was $1.758 trillion USD, the world's 11th largest economy.
Campa said the calculation was based upon businesses which closed their doors, investor flight and the huge sums of money which the federal, state and local governments must pump into domestic security. Mexican states will spend $1.17 billion on security in 2013. "We have to make an effort to reduce that statistic," he said, "while bearing in mind that violence has far more than just economic consequences. It affects our citizens' peace of mind, and perceptions of our society."
A 2013 national survey indicated that more than 70% of Mexicans feel insecure in the communities where they live, to which Campa referred in his comments.
"Mexico's government is focused on reconstructing the social fabric, and on reuniting communities which have been damaged and torn apart by violence in recent years. We recognize the importance of strengthening citizen confidence in government, and of encouraging their participation, which is vital to the democratic life of our country," said Campa.
In a February analysis, Merill Lynch-Bank of America cautioned investors that domestic insecurity would present a significant challenge to Mexico's faltering economy in the year ahead. This week private economists surveyed by the country's central bank, Banixco, downward revised their 2014 growth estimate for the fourth time this year, to an average of 3.01%. When asked why, the plurality response (20%) was that security concerns continue to interfere with orderly GDP expansion.
Mar. 25, 2014 - Mexican economy off to a shaky start in 2014, January data shows
Jan. 30, 2014 - Mexico gets a very poor 2013 economic report card
Dec. 28, 2012 - Mexico pays enormous price for domestic insecurity
Drug war deaths during the Felipe Calderón administration continue to be the subject of debate and disagreement. In late November 2012, just before the former PAN president's term ended, Mexico's Milenio news network reported the tally was 59,000, or about 820 per month. But in a complicated analysis published Apr. 8, 2013 it spontaneously revised that figure and said the number was 65,362, or 908 per month. Undersecretary Campa's claims notwithstanding, both versions are a fraction of the drug war stats being racked up by the new PRI government, which in theory could lead to a death toll of over 100,000 during its six year term in office, which ends Nov. 30, 2018.
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