Special report: Calderón years trail others for Mexico homicides
Posted: 01/26/2012 07:46:44 AM MST
Copyright 2012, El Paso Times
Mexico had higher homicide rates under three presidents before current President Felipe Calderón, who is being blamed for most of the violence because of his war against drug cartels, according to El Paso Times research and analysis.
The country's homicide rates were higher during the presidencies of Miguel De la Madrid, at 19.22 per 100,000 population; Carlos Salinas de Gortari, at 18.92; and Ernesto Zedillo, at 15.1.
Between 2007 and 2011, the homicide rate for Mexico under Calderón was 14.53 per 100,000. The homicide rate in the Vicente Fox administration was 9.78 per 100,000.
The El Paso Times calculated the rates for the first five years of the past five presidents. Calderón, who has completed five years of his six-year term, initiated the crackdown against the drug cartels that's led to highly regionalized brutal violence. The Times gathered statistics from a variety of agencies including the United Nations, Mexican law enforcement agencies, the Mexican census bureau and the World Bank.
Salinas, who pioneered the North American Free Trade Agreement in Mexico, finished out his six-year term with the country reporting a record 92,927 homicides. Calderón would have to finish his last year in office with nearly 13,000 morehomicides to match the number of deaths in Salinas' term.
"The numbers are significant and illuminating," said L. Ray Sadler, an author and expert on Mexico at New Mexico State University. "It was under De la Madrid that DEA Agent Enrique 'Kiki' Camarena was killed."
Before Camarena was kidnapped, tortured and murdered, he was investigating suspected links between drug-traffickers and officials, according to Drug Enforcement Administration officials. By then, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo and
Fonseca is the uncle of the late Amado Carrillo Fuentes, whose organization is now involved in a bloody battle involving Juárez against the cartel allegedly led by Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman. Felix, a former federal police official, is related to the Arellano Felix siblings who founded the Tijuana drug cartel.
Sadler said it's traditional in Mexico for people to think in terms of the presidential "sexenios" (the six-year) terms, when the past is quickly forgotten.
"Sexenios in Mexico have a profound cultural and political impact," Sadler said. "It's the idea that everything begins and ends, and then begins again with each new sexenio."
The Times research showed that homicide rates were even higher in Mexico's early modern history than they are today.
In 1931, when the federal government began recording homicide statistics, the rate for that year was 50.78 per 100,000 and the total number of slayings was 8,551. The national population was about a fifth of what it is today. Other previous homicide rates are telling: 67.04 in 1940, 35.93 in 1955, 25.48 in 1950, and 25.48 in 1962.
"Most murders back then probably involved land disputes and disputes between different families," said Manuel Aguirre, an independent statistics researcher in Mexico. "The population was smaller in those years and drug-trafficking was hardly noticeable. Between 1970 and 1986, the rates rose slightly again, likely due to the economic crisis, which is also when widespread crime began to increase."
In its past, Mexico suffered major currency devaluations at the end of almost every presidential term. The trend for the peso's free fall ended with Fox's administration.
The Mexican government did not publish any homicide rates for the last two years of Luis Echeverria's presidency and the first two years of his successor, José Lopez Portillo. They ruled with an iron fist during one of Mexico's most notorious crackdowns against dissidents.
The years of missing data coincide with the Mexican government's notorious "dirty war" against guerrillas and dissidents. Six years ago, the government under Fox sought to prosecute high-level officials implicated
According to the George Washington University National Security Archive, three presidents (Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, Echeverria and Lopez Portillo) were implicated in a Mexican government report "of a sustained policy of violence targeting armed guerrillas and student protesters alike, including the use of massacres, forced disappearance, systematic torture, and genocide."
Nothing came of the charges against Echeverria, and Lopez Portillo and Diaz Ordaz both died before they could be tried.
Minerva Martinez, a spokeswoman for INEGI in Mexico, said only that "no information is available for those years (1974-78), and explained that INEGI simply collates the statistics that other agencies provide.
INEGI, similar to the U.S. Census Bureau, is a source of information about deaths in Mexico, along with SINAIS (National System of Health Information), the World Bank and the United Nations.
Similar statistics were not available for Juárez, the epicenter of Mexico's drug cartel wars, which have claimed more than 9,400 victims since 2007.
Fernando Alvarez, a retired teacher and math expert in Chihuahua state, said he suspects that deaths are underreported as a whole in Mexico.
"We may never know the true number of casualties from the dirty-war years or from the drug cartel wars we are experiencing," Alvarez said. "We are living another history lesson that we hope never to repeat again."
The country's historical statistics suggest that Mexico was at least as violent in the past as it is today. However, the drug violence, which is concentrated in certain areas, is getting all the attention because it is being carried out in dramatic and public ways.
In 2010, the states with the highest homicide rates were Chihuahua, Durango, Guerrero, Sinaloa, Morelos, Nayarit and Michoacan.
During Calderón's administration, the government began to report separate statistics for drug-related slayings, which it labels as "executions," and other homicides.
For example, the government said that between 2007 and 2010, 30,858 out of a total of 64,759 homicides were linked to drug violence.
Calderón's staff was hoping that publishing statistics in this manner will take some of the pressure off the president to control the violence.
"I don't think the presidents of Mexico since Fox have the kind of power they need to control the violence," Salder said.
Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6140.