Perceptions of insecurity in Mexico have worsened year on year, and more people than ever since the start of the drug war think the government crackdown is making the country less secure.
The latest opinion poll by El Universal and pollster Buendia & Laredo will be unwelcome but predictable news for President Enrique Peña Nieto and his administration. Despite government efforts to control the message around Mexico’s insecurity, the reality on the streets is making an impact on public opinion.
The findings by the latest poll were based on in-person interviews with 1,000 respondents. Although a tiny sample in a country of more than 122 million, the data provides valuable food for thought.
Sixty-nine percent of respondents to the survey published by El Universal said they think that violence related to organized crime has risen, compared to 58 percent in November 2015.
The evidence supports this conclusion. As of October, the total number of homicides in Mexico this year stood at 17,063, already more than the 17,034 registered during the whole of 2015 and the 15,653 in 2014, according to official government statistics. One think tank estimates that organized crime accounts for more than half of 2016’s homicides.
Monthly homicide rates in Mexico in the latter half of this year have returned to the levels not seen since the presidency of Felipe Calderón, Peña Nieto’s predecessor and the architect of the country’s decade-long military crackdown. September 2016 was the most violent month since Peña Nieto took office, with 1,974 homicides registered.
In addition, 71 percent of respondents said that they think the government crackdown on organized crime is making the country less safe — the highest percentage of people expressing this opinion since the drug war began in 2006. During Calderón’s administration, the biggest percentage of Mexicans who responded that way was 57 percent in 2011. Doubts about the effectiveness of the current government strategy are nothing new.
While the majority of respondents were against the legalization of weapons for civilians in Mexico — although illegal weapons are very easy to buy on the black market — a plurality of respondents (48 percent) said that they would feel much safer or significantly safer with a gun at home. Thirty percent of respondents were in favor of taking the law into their own hands if the government failed to punish criminals.
Related to that, the majority of Mexicans surveyed felt that the federal government is the most corrupt branch of government behind state and municipal administrations. Despite that fact, however, the case of the former Veracruz governor Javier Duarte topped the charts for examples of corruption people mentioned when prompted.
InSight Crime Analysis
The most recent opinion data on the issue of security in Mexico coincides with the continuation of macabre drug-related violence and rampant corruption.
Nine severed heads and 32 bodies were found last week in a series of clandestine graves in Mexico’s heroin heartland, the state of Guerrero. Over the last few years the area has been plagued by homicides, kidnappings and disappearances, prompting many to take the search for their missing loved ones into their own hands.
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The mass kidnapping of 43 young students there in 2014 has been once of the biggest scandals for the current administration. The government’s “verdad historica” (historic truth) about the events of that night have been discredited at home and abroad, eroding Mexican citizens’ confidence in the authorities.
And in the latest corruption revelations, a former agent from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) told the Mexican digital newspaper SinEmbargo that the state of Tamaulipas is controlled by crime, so much so that the US state of Texas, which lies across the border, is now becoming dependent on drug money. Ex-governors from five states in Mexico have been accused of corruption over the course of 2016.
But despite mounting evidence that the crackdown against organized crime is failing to reduce drug trafficking and other crimes and is increasing human rights abuses, Peña Nieto’s political party in Mexico is looking to expand the army’s role in the drug war, following a trend seen throughout the region.