Boom in Mexico Extortion Reflects Failing Govt Measures: Report

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A report by Mexico’s National Citizen Observatory reveals that extortion has grown nine-fold over the last 17 years, underscoring a fundamental flaw in the state’s enforcement measures and a growing revenue stream for the country’s organized crime.

The report reveals that extortion in the country rose 818 percent between 1997 and 2013, with last year displaying the highest figures yet.

The data shows that in 2013, the first year of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration, the number of reported extortions in Mexico was 8,042 — a rate of 22 per day, or nearly one every hour.

Figures were up 10.6 percent from 2012, the last year of Felipe Calderon’s presidency, and up 501 percent from 2001, the first year of Vicente Fox’s presidency.  The rate of extortion per 100,000 inhabitants went up 56.8 percent between 2011 and 2012. By 2013, it had reached 6.79 per 100,000 people, a 9.3 percent increase from the year before. The data collected focuses on telephone scams, blackmail and extortion rackets.

InSight Crime Analysis

The rapid escalation of extortion in Mexico can be linked to various trends in the underworld. In one respect, it is part of a pattern of criminal diversification, which has seen organized crime seek revenue sources outside of drug trafficking. However, it is also a side effect of the fragmentation of cartels, as they have lost the leaders that maintained centralized networks and different criminal elements have been forced to become self-financing. Authorities have so far proven incapable of stopping or even slowing this rise. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Extortion

One of the main obstacles to tackling extortion is a lack of public confidence in state institutions — in 2012 an estimated 97.8 percent of extortions were not reported, according to the study. In this area, it highlights how the most successful anti-extortion measures focus on informing citizens how to report extortion, a simple step towards building trust.   

However, despite the launch of a government-run awareness campaign in 2013, the report say Mexico’s authorities are displaying a lack of will to enforce measures, as shown by their failure to differentiate between the various types of extortion or gain better intelligence on the workings of criminal groups dedicated to this crime.   

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