Wednesday, March 28, 2012



Mexico's drug killings soar above US figures
By Diana Washington Valdez \ EL PASO TIMES
Posted: 03/28/2012 08:51:52 AM MDT

Based on the Times' calculations, the U.S. had 2,049 drug-related
homicides during those four years, or 0.66 for each 100,000 of
population. During the same period, Mexico had 30,858 drug-related
homicides, or 27.4 per 100,000 population. (Times file photo)
From 2007 to 2010, Mexico had nearly 15 times more drug-related
murders than the United States, according to an El Paso Times analysis.
Based on the Times' calculations, the U.S. had 2,049 drug-related
homicides during those four years, or 0.66 for each 100,000 of
population. During the same period, Mexico had 30,858 drug-related
homicides, or 27.4 per 100,000 population.

Mexico began reporting drug-related homicides in 2007 during
President Felipe Calderón's administration, referring to them as
"executions," a term officials used whenever they attributed deaths
to the drug-cartel wars.

In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation compiles
drug-related murder statistics through its Uniform Crime Reporting
Program. The
FBI defines this category as "murders that occurred specifically
during a narcotics felony, such as drug-trafficking or manufacturing."

Mexico's drug-related homicides averaged 46 percent of its total
67,053 homicides during 2007-2010. In the U.S., only 3.6 percent of
the country's 55,867 homicides were classified as drug-related,
according to law enforcement reports.

For this analysis, the Times used figures from the FBI's Uniform
Crime Reporting Program, the United Nations Crime and Drug Control
Office, Mexico's federal Public Security Secretariat and the census
offices of both countries.

El Paso sociologist Cheryl Howard said there may be significant
caveats that make the figures from both countries incomplete.
"The figures for both seem awfully low," Howard said. "One of the
problems may be how each country defines and reports its 'drug-
related' homicides."

The Uniform Crime Reporting Program relies on local jurisdictions to
provide accurate statistics, and the motives for many homicides each
year are unknown.
In the Mexican government's case, the Instituto Nacional de
Estadistica y Geografia, or INEGI, also relies on local jurisdictions
to submit complete and accurate information.
Mexico's drug-related homicides rose dramatically after Calderón
announced the government's crackdown against the cartels in late 2006.
There might have been more total homicides (93,505) during President
Carlos Salinas' administration of 1988 to 1994, but the government
did not indicate how many of those were related to drugs.

Unlike Mexico, the United States saw dramatic reductions in its
yearly average of drug-related homicides over a 22-year period from
1988 through 2010. Highlights from these years include:
1,243 average yearly drug homicides in 1988-1995.
681 yearly average in 1999-2003.
541 yearly average in 2004-2010.

The fluctuations appear to reflect changes within the drug syndicates
and a gradual decline in U.S. homicides.

In El Paso, the number of homicides peaked between 1991 and 1996,
when they averaged 45 a year, before settling during the past decade
into an average of 16 a year. Police did not indicate how many of
them were drug related.

El Paso has been ranked as one of the safest cities for its size in
the U.S. since 1997.
In contrast, Juárez -- the epicenter of Mexico's drug-cartel wars --
has reported more than 9,400 homicides since 2008, and authorities
say about 80 percent are drug related.
Compared with Juárez, El Paso and its vicinity have not seen much in
the way of drug-related homicides.

George McNenney, a former special agent in charge of the then-U.S.
Customs Service in El Paso, said there are reasons why U.S. drug
homicides may be down.
The mayhem and slaughter in Juárez magically stops as soon as one
crosses the border.
"Those involved in the (U.S. drug trade) began to understand that
murders are bad for business," McNenney said. "As newer, more
business-savvy people started to take over, and the need to control
certain 'puntos' (meaning narcotics distribution points) became less
violent, they wanted to have the least amount of 'heat' from law
enforcement authorities as possible."

McNenney, a veteran drug investigator, worked in Florida during the
Miami "Cocaine Cowboys" era of the 1970s and 1980s.
"There were no rules other than the brutal control of the trade and
the 'punto' -- whatever it took," McNenney said. "This is why you had
shootouts with many dead in the middle of the day in a major mall in
a suburb of Miami."

Eventually, U.S. anti-drug agencies, including the Drug Enforcement
Administration, managed to disrupt crime organizations that were
contributing to high levels of violence in Florida and in U.S. cities
The U.S. crackdown shifted the cocaine trade in this country to
Central America and Mexico, enabling the Mexican drug cartels to
expand their distribution networks in the U.S. while battling each
other back home in Mexico for ultimate power.
"When it comes to El Paso, it is important for the Mexican narcotics
traffickers to keep El Paso 'safe and low key,' so as not to draw
attention to themselves," McNenney said. "This, however, is not the
case in Juárez and many other parts of Mexico where the traffickers
are violently asserting control over their areas."

McNenney said what is happening in Mexico is similar to what happened
in Colombia, which was under total control of the traffickers until
the Colombian government decided to tackle the problem with help from
U.S. authorities.

James Kuykendall, a retired DEA official in South Texas, said it is
difficult to tell which homicides in Mexico are drug related because
the Mexican government is notorious for not investigating most murders.

Mexican officials have a different point of view.
"We have in place a number of measures to reduce organized-crime
related violence in particular, and violence in general," said
Ricardo Alday, spokesman for the Mexicam Embassy in Washington, D.C.
"Measures include, among others, actions on law enforcement
(strengthening security and justice institutions), social development
and political reforms."
Mexico has captured, arrested or disabled 22 of the 37 most-wanted
criminals in the country, Alday said, and 143,476 weapons have been
confiscated, 66 percent more than in the previous two administrations

"The number of federal police in Mexico has increased from 6,500
officers in 2006 to 36,000 in 2011," Alday said, "and the country is
purging and strengthening its federal police through training and
equipment, as well as through strict vetting procedures."

Mexican officials also said that places hit hard by the violence,
such as Juárez, Tijuana and Tamaulipas, received additional resources
to help reconstruct the social fabric, in addition to receiving
support from the army and federal police.

Kuykendall said the U.S is just beginning to notice the violence in
"The drug homicides and kidnappings in Mexico have been going on for
years, except we're just now paying attention to them," Kuykendall said.

The Mexico Evalua (Mexico Evaluates) Observatory recently released a
study that found 80 percent of all serious crimes in the country,
such as homicides, go unpunished.

"In the United States, we investigate because we care about these
things," said Kuykendall, who wrote a book ("O Plata o
Plomo?"/"Silver or Lead?") about the 1985 slaying of DEA Special
Agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena in Mexico.
After the 1999 FBI-Mexico "Operation Plaza Sweep," it was the U.S.
government and not Mexican officials that indicted suspected drug
kingpin Vicente Carrillo Fuentes in connection with six of the nine
bodies the FBI unearthed on ranches in South Juárez.

The Carrillo-Fuentes organization currently is battling the Joaquin
"Chapo" Guzman organization for the right to control the Juárez-El
Paso smuggling corridor, a fight that's killed more than 9,400 people
in Juárez since rivalries broke out in 2008.

Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at;

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