Calderon Offers Conflicting Statistics on Fall in Mexico’s Homicides

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President Felipe Calderon declared that Mexico’s homicide rate fell seven percent in the first half of 2012, contradicting earlier claims that it had fallen by as much as 20 percent in the same period.

Speaking at the 33rd session of the National Public Security Council on August 2, President Calderon announced that Mexico’s homicide rate fell seven percent in the first six months of 2012, in comparison to the same period in 2011. He also reported that homicides “presumed to be related to criminal rivalry” fell 15 percent, and that his administration had killed or captured 22 of the 37 “most dangerous criminal leaders” in Mexico. He declined to give specific figures about the number of murders.

Calderon added that over the course of his time in office, organized criminal groups in Mexico have transitioned away from fighting only for control of trafficking routes to the US and towards developing a domestic market for drugs. The president noted that in order to consolidate control over these markets, known as “narcomenudeo,” or “micro-trafficking,” groups coerce citizens and authorities into working with them, often through the threat of violence.

InSight Crime Analysis

Calderon’s assertion that homicides dropped seven percent is curious in light of recent announcements regarding the fall. On June 13, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Calderon stated that drug-related murders were down 12 percent in the first half of 2012 while on July 15, he told Spanish newspaper El Pais that violent homicides had declined between 15 and 20 percent over the first six months of 2012.

Calderon explained that his refusal to cite specific figures stemmed from criticism from human rights groups that his administration pre-judges whether homicides are related to organized crime without waiting for verdicts from the judicial system.

The conflicting numbers and methodologies used by different government branches, newspapers, and NGOs makes drawing conclusions on official figures for Mexico’s violence difficult. The most recent official report, released in January by the Attorney General’s Office, counted 12,903 crime-linked homicides in 2011, bringing the total number since December 2006 to 47,515. Many observers, however, have expressed scepticism over these numbers; Molly Malloy, a researcher at the New Mexico State University Library who maintains an exhaustive tally of Mexico’s drug casualties using a variety of sources, places the total homicides from December 2006 to June 2012 at 99,667.

As analyst Alejandro Hope noted in January, drug violence does seems to have stabilized since 2010, with homicides in 2011 increasing at a much slower rate than in the three preceding years. But even with this improvement, Mexico will not return to the 2007 homicide rate until 2018.

Regardless of whether the number of homicides has stabilized or decreased, other forms of drug-related crime continue to rise. Due to gang fragmentation and the transition Calderon mentioned towards domestic drug markets, the number of kidnappings, cases of extortion, and violent robberies increased in 2011. By some estimates, the rate of extortion has more than doubled over the course of Calderon’s presidency.

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