The Mexican government will not continue to release statistics on the number of homicides related to organized crime, leading critics to accuse the administration of withholding the data for political reasons.
In an interview with Reforma, an official from Mexico’s federal ministry of security said they would not publish data on Mexico’s crime-related murders from before President Felipe Calderon leaves office on November 30.
Jaime Lopez Aranda, the head of the database center for the National Public Security System (or SNSP, for its initials in Spanish) told the newspaper that the statistics were a “failed experiment.”
In his personal opinion, Aranda added, “the Mexican state shouldn’t classify murders by organized crime because it deeply undermines criminal procedure.”
The government will continue to release statistics on “intentional” homicides (or “homicidios dolosos”), but will not divide the figures between those related to drug cartel wars, and those that are not.
Poet and activist Javier Sicilia, who heads a peace movement demanding new anti-crime strategies from the government, told Reforma that the decision was akin to creating a “mass grave.”
The government has continued to release figures on the total number of “intentional” homicides seen in Mexico, counting 10,617 murders during the first half of 2012. But the last time the SNSP released statistics on a tally of “organized-crime-related” murders was in September 2011, when the SNSP reported that Mexico saw 47,515 murders related to organized crime since Calderon took office in 2006.
Mexico City-based consulting firm Lantia Consultores released its own count of how many organized-crime-related murders have been registered in Mexico so far in 2012, counting 7,022 homicides.
The Attorney General's Office also kept a seperate count on crime-related murders, but announced in January that they would no longer release the numbers.
InSight Crime Analysis
In some ways, the decision by the SNSP makes sense. Much of the criteria used by the government to classify deaths as “organized-crime-related” versus “non-organized-crime-related” did not represent a definitive answer on why a given victim was killed. As Aranda pointed out, ultimately it is the duty of the courts to determine whether a murder is linked to organized crime or not.
Specifically, deaths were classified as related to organized crime if they involved the use of a high-power firearm, if there was evidence of torture, or whether the killing looked like an “execution-style” murder, as well as other criteria.
This led to arbitrary classifications. Aranda appeared to imply as such in his interview with Reforma, calling the government statistics “approximations.”
Eduardo Gallo, former head of peace organization Mexico United Against Crime, told Reforma that the government was not releasing the statistics because they didn’t want the number of deaths to be associated with Calderon’s government.
In some ways, this is a legitimate complaint. The government does have political reasons for not making its tally of organized-crime-related murders public. Doing so could fuel further criticism that the human costs of Calderon's security strategy far outweigh the perceived benefits.
But considering that it is already problematic enough classifying which of Mexico’s criminal groups deserve to be labeled as “organized crime,” the SNSP’s categorization system was already using slippery terms. Arguably, in order to gain a real understanding of how violence is trending in Mexico over time, the government could do just as well focusing on the overall tally of homicides, rather than trying to divide them up with somewhat arbitrary designations.