Mexico's Interior Minister has said less than half of all murders in the state of Michoacán are connected to organized crime, raising questions about what should be done amid high levels of insecurity in the region.
Minister Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, speaking at a press conference in the state, said a majority of intentional homicides there are linked to causes other than organized crime and require a different approach, reported Milenio. He called for an "aggressive values campaign."
The statements followed a meeting with Michoacán Governor Silvano Aureoles Conejo to discuss security in the embattled state. Osorio Chong optimistically emphasized that crime in general has fallen in Michoacán, particularly with respect to kidnappings.
The officials also discussed the presence of federal security forces in the states of Guerrero, Michoacán, and Mexico, reported Excelsior. Osorio Chong said federal resources would be available to the states for "however long it takes." He said federal forces would withdraw and resume normal duties when the state's security institutions were sufficiently strengthened.
In preparation for the eventual departure of federal troops, governors of the three states have reportedly agreed to establish a regional security force to help stem the spread of organized crime.
Excelsior's report noted that there is precedence for such cross-border cooperation, citing Durango and Coahuila's formation of a joint security force.
InSight Crime Analysis
Mexican officials asserting that a majority of homicides in Michoacán are unconnected to organized crime marks a shift in tone. Previously, officials have been quick to use organized crime as a convenient catch-all explanation for what is driving insecurity.
In light of Osorio Chong's comments, Michoacán's persistently high level of violence illustrates a severely degraded security situation in general, which cannot be explained by the actions of any particular group. Indeed, the region is still recovering from its recent turbulent experience involving confrontations between controversial self-defense groups and criminal organizations, most especially the Knights Templar. In 2015, the Global Peace Index, published by the Institute for Economics and Peace, ranked Michoacán the fourth most violent state in Mexico.
Moving forward, however, the proposed creation of a regional security force may mark something of a change. That is, it represents an alternative to Mexico's now common model of federal security assistance, whereby federal troops and resources are sent to pacify a region and then withdraw.
In contrast, a locally-funded regional force may encourage states to become accountable for their own security, lessening dependence on federal aid and hopefully leading to more sustained commitment to achieving longer-term security gains.