The World Health Organization defines violence as “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has highlikelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or depravation”. It definitely sounds like something we have experienced or heard of through our lives. Whether is auto-inflicted, inter-personal or collective, the presence of violence speaks of an unbalance in our environment; it is a behavior that challenges the core values of a balanced and free society.
A society that undergoes constant violence, particularly collective violence against society, cannot function well. Its social, economic and political well-being will sooner or later suffer the effects of the constant sense of insecurity of its people.
Even though I do not live in Mexico anymore, I have spent many years of my life living there. Most of them were uneventful, but the last 7 years did really make an impression on me, especially the year 2011. For example, one day I was sitting in my car at night, waiting for my uncle to come out of his office and give him a ride to my grandparents’ house; I looked at the rearview mirror and saw someone walking towards me. It was a young man around 17 years old who pointed a gun to my head and asked me to get out of the car.
I did so, and nervously let him take away my wallet, phone, computer, and saw him drive away in my car followed by a group of other armed young men that were waiting for him inside a car nearby.
Violent robberies such as this one were not rare that year. Also, the number of executions by organized crime, murders of political figures and kidnappings were also high that year. Not surprisingly, the perception of insecurity in Mexico was of 69%, one of the highest in the last ten years.
The question was, and still is, why did Organized Crime get so violent? The traffic of drugs has existed for over a century. Mexico has served as a trafficking route of drugs to the United States since forever. There are many theories, in which authors identify a “diversification effect”. This means that organized crime has been pushed away from its drug markets, due to a territorial dispute with other group or due to a direct confrontation with government, and simply diversifies to other crimes to keep their income.
One of the attributes of organized Crime I mentioned in one of my previous blogs is the use of violence. The activities they might engage in differ from place to place. We saw how the United States is affected by drug smuggling between the border. But not all criminal organizations smuggle drugs.
On my previous blogs, I mentioned that If we categorize Organized Crime by its scope of action, we can identify two main distinctions made by Nathan Patrick Jones: Transnational and Territorial Profit Seeking Illicit Networks. He says the more territorial the organized criminal group is, the more it is associated activities such as extortions, kidnapping and robberies as their means to obtain profit.
Mexico is affected by both transnational and territorial violence. The first being the large executions among transnational groups for the control of drug markets and the other being the activities such as robberies and kidnappings by territorial groups.
It is a complex task to identify the cause correctly, and I am sure that there are many other factors that play a role in this phenomenon. However I dare to say that fighting a war against drugs will not be the answer. Drugs have not represented a serious threat to Mexico since drug-related crimes, such as possession, consumption and sale have kept steady rate over the years and do not have an impact on the perception of insecurity. When addressing the problem of organized crime in Mexico, violence carried out by both groups needs to be taken in consideration. The task seems to be a bit more complex to Mexico than to the USA, since this latter is only concerned with the smuggling of drugs by transnational groups.