By David Agren - Monday, January 28, 2013 - 0 Comments
A survey finds more than a quarter of Mexican junior high school students see a career in organized crime
Cartel kingpins could hardly be considered role models in a country where the drug wars have claimed more than 50,000 lives in the last six years. But an increasing number of Mexican youth see career opportunities in organized crime, whose activities range from running extortion rackets to producing methamphetamines and peddling pirated merchandise.
A recent survey of 1,400 junior-high school students in eight Mexican states found that more than 26 per cent of respondents aspired to careers as “narcos” (drug dealers) or “sicarios”—their toughs. “They see it as an option, a chance to quickly climb the social ladder,” says researcher José del Tronco of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Mexico City.
Slightly more than 17 per cent aspired to be business people, but the prospect of easy money seduces kids, del Tronco says, especially in regions where “the state is absent” and criminal groups offer security, employment and sometimes charity. There’s also the oft-glorified narco culture, reflected in the catchy and popular narcocorridos (drug ballads).
New President Enrique Peña Nieto says the country needs to see six per cent annual growth to accommodate those entering the job markets. It might also keep kids from a life of crime.
By David Agren - Monday, December 17, 2012 at 4:45 PM - 0 Comments
A small effort to find more than 25,000 men, women and children
In the U.S., milk cartons carrying smiling images of missing children once served as grim reminders of the unimaginable each morning around the breakfast table. Mexicans eat tortillas the way Americans drink milk; now tortilla wrappers are being used to drum up information on Mexico’s missing men, women and children. This month, three dozen tortilla mills in Ciudad Juárez’s bad barrios began wrapping their hot tortillas in paper ads pleading for information on the missing. Over the course of the drug wars, the border city has become notorious for brutal murders and disappearances. “The disappearances in Juárez have to disappear,” read the government-sponsored wrappers.
The scourge of disappearances there—once the murder capital of the hemisphere, but now calm enough to have recorded its first murder-free weekend in five years—dates back two decades, and has included hundreds of young women, whose cases have gone mostly unsolved. The tortilla industry seems anxious to be of assistance. “A friend of mine has been unable to find her daughter for a few years,” Esperanza Lozoya, a shop owner, told media. “We have to help out.”
The problem of missing persons in Mexico goes beyond Ciudad Juárez. New government data estimates a staggering 25,000 Mexicans have gone missing in the last six years. The government list, obtained by Maclean’s, collates physical characteristics—nose shape, tattoos and piercings—but often gives little more information than the missing person’s name, address and birthdate. “Went out to buy cigarettes, but never returned,” is the extent of information relating to a woman who went missing in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas. Her case remains unresolved, like so many in Mexico, where the country’s human rights commission estimates that just one per cent of murders result in a conviction.
By David Agren - Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:50 AM - 0 Comments
Media darling Enrique Peña Nieto leads the pack in the run-up to the 2012 vote—despite some stumbles
Mexican politicians deliver annual reports known as informes, serving up pomp, pageantry and political theatre. Informes glorify accomplishments and gloss over failures, perhaps making it no surprise that recently departed state of Mexico governor Enrique Peña Nieto—the early front-runner for the 2012 presidential contest—served up some unbelievable crime numbers this fall. Peña Nieto bragged of achieving a 54 per cent reduction in the murder rate between 2005 and 2010—and friendly media outlets trumpeted the claim. “Peña Nieto lowers homicides 50 per cent,” screamed the tabloid La Razón. It took The Economist magazine, however, to take Peña Nieto to task, calling his figures “absolutely false” because a statistical revision in 2007 caused the homicide rate to tumble, and forcing the presidential contender to subsequently issue a rare mea culpa.
Such scrutiny is rare for Peña Nieto, who presented new statistics showing a three per cent decline (during the same years the federal murder rate more than doubled to 21.9 per 100,000 inhabitants). For the most part, his ascent from provincial politician to presidential front-runner has been marked by deft media and crisis management—and, critics allege, plenty of positive coverage from Mexico’s dominant media empire, Televisa. Peña Nieto leads the early polls for the July 1, 2012, election in which his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)—which ruled Mexico for 71 uninterrupted years until 2000—will attempt to regain the presidency. Polling ﬁrm Consulta Mitofsky gives the telegenic Peña Nieto a nearly 30-point advantage over his closest competitor. “He’s emphasized personality more than issues so far,” says George Grayson, Mexico expert at the College of William & Mary in Virginia.
Peña Nieto recently unveiled proposals for economic and structural reforms, many of which PRI lawmakers have actually torpedoed in congress for the past 11 years. And he spent much of his six-year gubernatorial administration, which concluded on Sept. 15, promoting public works projects. “Government that delivers,” boast signs all over his state. He didn’t speak that much about crime during his time in office, even though drug cartels have waged turf wars in the state of Mexico, which surrounds most of Mexico City and contains its grittiest suburbs. The 45-year-old contender’s stated ideas for quelling violence, including gradually withdrawing the military from the streets and generating better intelligence, generally differ little from those of President Felipe Calderón. And he’s rejected the idea of brokering a deal with the deadly drug cartels that are behind most of the country’s violence—although PRI politicians allegedly did just that in past years to keep a lid on crime. It’s something some voters expect will happen again, in spite of Peña Nieto’s statement. “The PRI is returning to put this all under control,” says engineering student Alejandro Mendoza, 22.