HomeNewsAnalysisAMLO Jumping the Gun With Wild Claims About Mexico Security
ANALYSIS

AMLO Jumping the Gun With Wild Claims About Mexico Security

MEXICO / 5 FEB 2019 BY PATRICK CORCORAN EN

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador hailed a massive improvement in his nation’s security, but the gains he trumpeted have little real value.

During a press conference on January 30, López Obrador (known as "AMLO") announced that the prior day, Mexico had registered only 54 murders across the nation, a drop of nearly a third from the average of 80 murders a day. He presented this as a sign that his security policy, which deemphasizes militarized conflict with criminal groups, was already having a positive effect. In the same conference, he declared that there was no war against organized crime.

However, it is impossible to base such analysis on a single day. Entire months have been statistical outliers in determining whether a security improvement has taken root. In April 2008, murders in Juárez temporarily plummeted to less than 60 amid a robust military deployment. But within weeks, the level of violence rebounded to its prior level of hundreds per month, and the war for the border city continued unabated despite the troops patrolling the street.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

The current data indicates that Mexico remains as violent as it was under López Obrador’s predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto. In December 2018, the first month with López Obrador in the presidency, Mexico registered 2,916 murders. This figure, taken from the National Public Security System (SNSP, for its initials in Spanish), represents a 9 percent increase from the same month in 2017. It is also the most violent month Mexico has witnessed since the SNSP began compiling these figures in the 1990s.

Deriving any conclusion about Mexico’s public security on the basis of a single day is a fundamentally flawed approach. The administration’s determination to lower the number of murders is laudable, but any data set will have outliers, and it is impossible to know if a day’s results are part of a broader trend.

InSight Crime Analysis

The SNSP will not release its figures for January for several weeks, but there is little to suggest an instantaneous transformation. Though it is his responsibility, it is too early in López Obrador’s presidency to blame his policies for persistent bloodshed. But it is not too soon to expect him to address this issue with clarity and honesty, and his comments last week fall well short.

AMLO's statement reflects two separate trends that have prevailed in his nascent presidency.

The most obvious is that the president’s policy statements often seem mostly guided by his desired outcomes rather than empirical analysis.  It appears as if López Obrador chose to believe that his new government has brought about a transformation in the nation’s security, and he is willing to latch on to any piece of evidence, however specious, to make that argument.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Security Policy

This reflex was also at play in López Obrador’s dismissal of reporting from Reforma, a Monterrey newspaper that is typically opposed to his administration, on the violence in December.

Unfortunately, López Obrador’s preferred results do not appear to match developments, whether in security or energy. This governing style can be typical of populist leaders and López Obrador is hardly the first to use such posturing. However, these stances, if not corrected, can become dangerous rather than just merely embarrassing.

Second, the enduringly high murder rate highlights Mexico’s long-term security problems. López Obrador proposed a wide variety of fixes during the campaign, ranging from rhetorical shifts (hugs instead of bullets, went one informal slogan) to institutional changes like the new National Guard. But stemming violence in Mexico does not lend itself to easy fixes, and López Obrador’s ideas have fallen short of a revolutionary departure from the policies of prior presidents.

Any enduring improvement will be the product of a years-long evolution and coordination between federal, state and local authorities, not any rapid reversal from one week to the next. López Obrador’s willingness to indulge in the wild conjecture that he has engineered a sudden transformation is a sign that he has yet to appreciate the depth of the challenges he faces.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME / 10 JAN 2019

The six bodies, minus their heads, were dumped just before dawn on a morning in late October. They were left in…

KIDNAPPING / 7 FEB 2011

Kidnappings in Mexico are at a record high and are more than twice as likely to end with the death…

BELIZE / 29 APR 2014

Authorities in Belize have reported a ceasefire between gangs in the south of the country's largest city following a surge…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Guatemala Social Insecurity Investigation Makes Front Page News

10 DEC 2021

InSight Crime’s latest investigation into a case of corruption within Guatemala's social security agency linked to the deaths of patients with kidney disease made waves in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…