Monday, April 17, 2017

Violence in Mexico and Juarez; Part I, Background

Drug-related violence in Mexico has been both rising and spreading during the final years of the Pena Nieto administration (2012-2018).  The twelve-year presidential run (2000-2012) of PAN presidents Fox and Calderon saw an enormous spike in narco-violence as the old rules of the game under PRI management were abandoned, only to be replaced by highly ineffective policies that neither curbed drug trafficking nor managed it well enough to prevent what amounted to a free-for-all competition among rival gangs for lucrative trade routes throughout the country.  The competition generated violence, especially in the form of homicide.  Ground zero for this free-for-all was the prized city of Juarez, where the Sinaloa cartel was able to compete with the decades-old but battered Juarez cartel for supremacy.  

President Calderon naively believed institutional improvements in law enforcement capabilities (urged on by the US government) such as better training, more reliance on intelligence, and judicial reform, would manage official corruption enough to make a difference.  But he only worsened matters in Juarez when, in early 2009 as violence was rising he sent in 10,000 military troops, but with little notion of what to do or how to do it.  Within weeks, after an initial drop in violence, it was clear drug trafficking violence would continue unabated.  Meanwhile, the ordinary criminal class discovered the presence of armed troops roaming through town had simply disrupted local management of crime, and there was a huge spike in kidnappings and an agonizing period in which practically every business establishment in Juarez, large or small, was being extorted by protection racketeers.  By the end of 2010 Juarez had become the most dangerous city with populations over 300,000 in the world.

Gradually the homicide rate declined in Juarez.  By 2012, when Pena Nieto was elected President, Juarez ranked 19th in the world, and then 37th in 2013.  After falling off the list of the most violent 50 in 2015, it returned in 2016, ranked 37th once again.

Let us put that in some perspective.  St. Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans, and Detroit in 2016 ranked higher in homicides than Juarez.  If drug-related violence is driving the world-class ranking in Juarez, what do you suppose is driving the violence in these US cities?  And remember:  El Paso is one of the very least violent cities in the U.S.

Tomorrow:  What is happening with Drug Trafficking in Mexico and Juarez today?

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