July 28, 2013
In what amounts to be the most frank discussion of a state official in Mexico’s six year war on the cartels, last week Chihuahua state attorney general told Mexican press that the area in southern Chihuahua has a “grave problem” in security, according to Mexican news accounts.
The report which appeared in an online edition of El Norte Digital, Carlos Manuel Salas, Fiscalia General del Estado (FGE) said that the problem with crime in southern Chihuahua state particularly around Guadalupe y Calvo municipality is compounded by the lack of state and municipal police personnel.
According to the report, Salas said the the dramatic reduction in murders in Chihuahua state has been realized in Ciudad Juarez and in Chihuahua, the state capital, which he said was because of state efforts in those areas to reduce violent crime.
“It is not a pretext,” Salas was quoted as saying. “The territory (in Guadalupe y Calvo) is vast, we continue to work and the help of the army is more intense.” He also said that more police are being appointed and that cooperation with the military is increasing.
But Guadalupe y Calvo municipality is not the only southern and western municipality affected by violent drug related crime.
A column which appeared Saturday in the online edition of El Diario de Juarez news daily by Javier Flores Luis Valero, quoted a count provided by Reforma news daily that 40 people have been executed in the last 60 days in several remote mountain communities in the sierras of Chihuahua, including Guadalupe y Calvo, Madera, Balleza, Bocoyna and Moris in just the past two months. Those municipalities compose the Chihuahua state part of La Triangulo Dorada or Golden Triagle. The communities are also part of the area called La Tarahumara, after an Indian tribe which resides in the area, colloquially known as the Raramuris.
According to the same report, data compiled by staff of El Diario de Juarez indicated that the murder rate statewide is about two per day, which is well above the average in 2007, when then Mexican president Feilipe Calderon Hinojosa began to use his military against the drug cartels. According to the report murder statistics are on track to rival the 755 murders in 2012, the high water mark for violence in Chihuahua state.
The report dismisses the government’s claim that federal and state efforts have been instrumental in the documented reduction of violent, but the report claims the reduction is more likely fighting between criminal gangs have shifted from the cities where the most noticed reductions have taken place to ares such as La Tarahumara.
Another disturbing long term trend has been noted as well. According to Jose Antonio Ortega, president of the Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Pública y la Justicia Pena or Citizen’s Council for Public Security and Penal Justice, compounding the problem of violence has been impunity, or the lack of criminal convictions for the crime of murder.
A separate news item which appeared in El Diario de Chihuahua news daily last December said that the conviction rates for murder in Mexico nationwide in 2012 are the second lowest since 1997, and has been declining since 2007. Specifically in Chihuahua state, in 2005, 326 were convicted for murder, while in 2012 145 were convicted and in 2011, 199.
The state government of Chihuahua is under increased pressure from residents in La Tarahumara. According to a news account which appeared in the online edition of Yancuic.com, a letter sent to governor Cesar Duarte Jaquez last July 6th has criticized the state government for “shouting from the rooftops” about the reduction in violent crime, while violence has been increasing in the area.
The letter was signed by 100 residents of the region including a sectional president of Creel in Bocoyna municipality, Salvador Bustillos, and Javier Avila, a Jesuit priest who is part of a human rights group in the area, Comision de Solidaridad y Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, AC.
The letter says that residents of the region have complained repeatedly to authorities about murder, kidnapping and assaults only to be greeted with more murders, kidnappings and assaults. Another problem in the region, as with Guadalupe y Calvo municipality, is the constant existence of checkpoints operated by criminal groups which rob residents in the area on pain of having their children assault or raped.
What is most astonishing about the charges against the government is that the Mexican Army maintains at least one permanent infantry company base in Creel municipality.
The authors complained in the letter that government officials have little problem in coming to the area to boast projects, but have failed to have a dialogue with constituents about security issues.
Governor Duarte for his part, has dismissed charges of increased violence in La Tarahumara, and has apparently failed to address concerns in the letter. He said the letter was a ” political manipulation of reality”. He said the violence in the region not as bad as in Michocacan state.
In Michoacan state, by all press reports, the Mexican government has claimed to have 6,000 federal security effectives in the region. However, that number is dwarfed considerably by the number report only a little over a year ago where then Mexican president Felipe Calderon had maintained some 8,000 federal security effectives in the region.
Since the Mexican federal government maintains an effective clamp on drug war news, it is impossible to say if the 6,000 troops are the total in the state after a February, 2013 promise to sent about 1,000 troops to the area or in augmentation to that number.
In his inauguration speech three years ago Governor Duarte pledged a crackdown on crime to include life sentences for kidnapping.
Despite the current claims of additional federal security, violence in the Michoacan has skyrocketed. Violence in Chihuahua state has also become grave enough that Duarte’s Fiscalia had to respond.