By Eugenio Weigend
Much has been said about the causes of the rise of violence in Mexico in recent years, and former President Calderon’s Administration (2006-2012) has been consistently portrayed as the culprit. However, we can discard this argument without much fuss if we simply take a closer look into some numbers. Consider homicides: official data reveals a shift in homicides before president Calderon took office. States like Michoacan, Durango, Guerrero and Tamaulipas, which are considered entities with high levels of violence due to the territorial disputes among criminal groups, produced growing homicide rates even before 2006.
The shift in homicide rates really began in 2004, suggesting the existence of other factors affecting homicides and other variables necessary to explain violence. Certainly, an important element to consider is the increase in firearm possession by criminal groups that began precisely in 2004 after the United States removed its Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB). In fact, the first mayor murdered in nearly a decade died this same year in Durango.
Perhaps it may be argued that Calderon’s administration and strategy against criminal groups further increased violence, but there are other factors that must be considered. Unemployment rates during the global crisis in 2008 could have also affected the levels of violence in Mexico. In fact, according to the national insecurity survey carried out by INEGI in Mexico, the Mexican population considers unemployment to be the number one cause of violence. This, like the removal of the AWB in the United States during 2004 is an external factor, the crisis of 2008 being global.
Additionally, if violence in Mexico were attributed to Calderon´s Administration alone, we could expect that once President Peña Nieto took office at the end of 2012, violence would have decreased due to the change in the National Security Strategy. However, the evidence from official data shows no significant change in homicide rates. There has been a slight decrease in homicides, but kidnapping and extortion have increased noticeably.
I am far from stating that the Security Strategy pursued by Calderon was effective in deterring or controlling the increasing violence. However, it seems that with or without it, rates of violence seem to continue increasing, suggesting the presence of other far more important factors that affect the overall issue of insecurity. Taking a look at evidence, numbers, and rates is not rocket science, and anyone who studies the topic should follow annual rates to realize that there is a trend that goes beyond any single administrations. Attempting to identify the factors producing that trend seems like a better plan than blaming administrations, political parties, and poorly implemented strategies.