Mexico’s Quasi Hybrid Insurgency and a Reflection on Murder Rate Statistics
March 17, 2018 - Currently Mexico is locked into a Quasi Hybrid Insurgency. The belligerents are the state of Mexico and powerful drug cartels. Regular reports describe mass graves, acid used to hide victim’s identity, piles of decapitated heads, groups of people hanged from bridges, helicopters shot down, large gun battles, and every atrocity you would only witness in the most war stricken countries of the world-Details we feel more comfortable not even discussing in this forum. Except, the goals and political ambitions of belligerents is confusing and lost on the average person. But, the war it’s self seems to be consuming every aspect of Mexico’s life. And resembles almost tribal warfare between warlords seeking plunder. Recently, it was reported by NPR,
“Mexico recorded 29,168 homicides last year, according to preliminary government data published this week. While the tally won't be finalized for several months, security experts are already certain the 2017 figure will mark the country's highest murder rate at least since official statistics began in 1997 — and potentially the highest in the nation's modern history.” And very recently it was also reported in 2018 "Mexico's homicide rate surged in January – almost 14 per cent worse than the same month a year earlier – data published Wednesday showed. There were 2,156 homicides across the country in Jan 2018 or 13.7 per cent more than in Jan 2017, the Interior Ministry reported." On average the United States annual murder rate falls around 18,000 for the last few years. In 2016 the US’s had a estimated 17,250 murders and had a murder rate of 5.3 murders per 100,000 people. Though this number may not seem very low compared to 29,000 murders in Mexico on face value. In order to help people the full perspective on this, we most first look at the murder rate and then compare population size. In 2017 the Mexico Murder rate was about 20 people per 100,000. Several journalist whistle blowers also suggested that the real rate was probably close 24 people per 100,000 due to the mass graves and disappearance of people considered a nuisance or competitors of the drug cartels. Either way you look at the murder rate in Mexico it is about 4 to 5 times higher than the US. Another thing to consider is that most Americans do not experience life in the US in an area with a murder rate of 5.3 murders per 100,000 people. Crime prevention research found that ,
”Murders in US are very concentrated: 54% of US counties in 2014 had zero murders, 2% of counties have 51% of the murders”
That means about 98% of the American population experiences life with a 2.65 murder rate per 100,000 people.
And it does not seem to be related to gun ownership either
And within the US Counties with High Murder rates it is not uniformly spread around the county. It is often isolated within certain neighborhoods. See the Murder rate by neighborhood map of Chicago displayed below.
That means the Mexico murder rate is about 7 to 9 times larger than 98% of the counties in the United States. To put this is in a perspective for people, since 29,000 murders in Mexico does not seem significant compared to 17,000 murders in the US in the big scheme of things; considering wars around the world , and 7 billion people, and etc. USA’s population is somewhere around 325 million people and Mexico’s population is about 127 million people. If Mexico had the same population as the United States their would have been 74,000-88,000 people murdered in Mexico. And if the current murder rate for in Mexico for January 2018 continues there would be close to 83,000-100,000 murders in Mexico if they had the same population as the USA. All though these figures should be taken with a grain of salt. Like the US, much of the violence in Mexico is also concentrated in certain areas of the country. But not to the same extent as the USA. View the map below to identify the Mexico states with the highest murder rate.
As it stands now, things do not look good for Mexico. Politics seem very unstable and candidates are being assassinated on a regular basis "It is an average of one murder of a candidate every four or five days: that is a margin of violence absolutely unacceptable in an electoral process, we are very worried," said OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro.” “According to the PRD's estimate, about 12 members of the party have been assassinated since the beginning of the election campaign in September. Local media report that at least 54 pre-candidates from various parties have been murdered during the same period, while 83 have been assaulted. Since 2006, more than 100 mayors have been killed, according to a report by the National Association of Mayors.”
And reporting fair and accurate news in Mexico is very difficult. Recently it was reported in 2017
“Another Mexican journalist was killed Tuesday in his home state of Veracruz as he attended a Christmas party at his son’s classroom, bringing the number of journalists killed in Mexico this year to 12 and marking the deadliest year on record for media workers in the country.”
And in many cases journalist deaths are not reported because they disappear. And many journalist avoid risk all together by toeing the line and re frame from reporting on drug cartels or politicians. There does not seem to be any fabric of society in Mexico that is not affected by intimidation or insurgency; this holds true for journalism, politicians, or even the nationalized oil industry. It is estimated that over a billion dollars in oil revenue is lost to drug cartels and other nefarious operators. This is also happening during a time when Mexico is experiencing a yearly decline in oil production,
So, many people may wonder what is driving all the violence in Mexico. Is it due population increase, decrease in oil revenue, does blame solely rest on crooked drug cartel violence, or corruption of the politicians. It is harder to define Mexico then people think, the conflict is partially a residue of the Spanish manifest destiny, part tribal warfare, and etc. Mexico was in fact actually a very rough neighborhood when the Spanish showed up. Aztecs were known to be particularity violent and an expanding empire.
And around the same time post classic Mayan empire was still influencing large parts of the Yucatan Peninsula, but only as a shadow of its former empire. But many centuries earlier the Mayan were developing their own civilization, for good and bad, on par with the Aztec empire. These feelings of identity can also be seen in the Caste War of the Yucatan.
Caste War of the Yucatán, 1847 - 1901 “The Chan Santa Cruz Maya, under the influence of the persistent Talking Cross Cult, remained actively hostile well into the Twentieth Century. For many years, any non-Maya who entered the jungles of what is now the Mexican state of Quintana Roo would have been killed. The combination of new economic factors such as the appearance of the Wrigley Company's chicle hunters and the political and social changes resulting from the Mexican Revolution eventually reduced the hatred and hostility. In one form or another, war and armed struggle had continued for more than 50 years and an estimated 40,000 - 50,000 people had died in the hostilities. The war was officially declared over for the final time in September 1915 by General Salvador Alvarado. General Alvarado, sent by the revolutionary government in Mexico City to restore order in Yucatán, implemented reforms which more-or-less eliminated the conflicts that had been the cause of the wars. Although the war had been declared over many times before in previous decades, records show that the last time the Mexican army considered it necessary to take by force one of the area's villages which had never recognized Mexican law was in April 1933, when five Maya and two Mexican soldiers died in the battle for the village of Dzula – the last skirmish of a conflict lasting over 85 years.”
When The Spanish arrived, they did not interrupt a peacefully coexisting empire either. They walked right into the Flower wars.
And the rest was history. One most reflect on the fact that without the Tlaxcala the Spaniards would of had a much more difficult time conquering the Aztec Triple Alliance. And to give people an idea of the brutality of the Aztecs, consider that It is possible that around 20,000 people were sacrificed a year in the Aztec Empire. Special occasions demanded more blood – when a new temple to Huitzilopochtli was dedicated in 1487, an estimated 80,400 people were sacrificed. This does not include general warfare or slavery which was abundant in the Aztec Empire. People are familiar with the human sacrifices of the Aztec Empire, but they were not aware of the mock gladiatorial games celebrating Xipe Totec.
“The central ritual act of "Tlacaxipehualiztli" was the gladiatorial sacrifice of war prisoners, which both began and culminated the festival. On the next day of the festival, the game of canes was performed in the manner of two bands. The first band were those who took the part of Xipe Totec and went dressed in the skins of the war prisoners who were killed the previous day, so the fresh blood was still flowing. The opposing band was composed of daring soldiers who were brave and fearless, and who took part in the combat with the others. After the conclusion of this game, those who wore the human skins went around throughout the whole town, entering houses and demanding that those in the houses give them some alms or gifts for the love of Xipe Totec. "Gladiator sacrifice" is the name given to the form of sacrifice in which an especially courageous war captive was given mock weapons, tied to a large circular stone and forced to fight against a fully armed Aztec warrior. As a weapon he was given a macuahuitl (a wooden sword with blades formed from obsidian) with the obsidian blades replaced with feathers. A white cord was tied either around his waist or his ankle, binding him to the sacred temalacatl stone. At the end of the Tlacaxipehualiztli festival, gladiator sacrifice (known as tlauauaniliztli) was carried out by five Aztec warriors; two jaguar warriors, two eagle warriors and a fifth, left-handed warrior.” One may wonder if any ancestral culture or patronage carried over to the current modern age. And the answer is yes and no. There are still Spanish lineages that have more privilege and influence in Mexico. Many loyalties of rural Mexico rest with their tribal or state identity versus there national government. Like many indigenous populations forced to accept Catholicism they incorporated their own deities by making them saints like the Saint of Death pictured below found in many alters and homes in Mexico.
Such figurines are often found at make shift alters built by weary foot soldiers of the Drug War due to the fact they believe that their life might be short or dangerous. But, in a way the old tribal warfare almost went unabated from before the Spanish Conquers to after.
“Known as the patron saint of violent drug cartels for her relative tolerance, Our Lady of Holy Death is perhaps the fastest growing religion in the Americas. More forgiving than the Catholic church - she is said not to punish traditional sins - she grew popular in Mexico's prisons. Inmates inscribe her on cell walls. Some hold on to small pieces of paper bearing her drawing when they sleep. Counter-narcotics teams have often found shrines in raids on drug lord's safe houses. “
Of course this is only one aspect of the current drug war. There are many social, economic, and political influences as well. Should we look to a brighter future? Will massive immigration to Mexico create disability or stability? On one had does their economy have the capacity for a large surplus increase of immigration, on the other hand would diverse population in Mexico help drown out old rivalries that Mexico may have carried forward from the Aztec Empire and Spanish Conquest? Also there is great financial and population demographic splits in Mexico. Consider the maps below; the first shows nominal GDP per capita, and the second shows population density. GDP per capita
Population Density, note that over 20 million people (15%) of Mexico live within the greater Mexico City Metro area.
Also, currently Mexico has seen its own immigration population increase.
“Mexico is a country of immigration, refuge, transit, and return migration. According to the 2010 National Census, there are 961,121 immigrants registered with the government as living in Mexico, the majority of whom are US citizens. This is almost double the 492,617 foreign-born residents counted in the 2000 Census. According to the intercensal estimate conducted in 2015, the foreign-born population was 1,007,063. Unofficial estimates put the total number of foreigners in Mexico closer to four million.”
Paradoxical to the debate on immigration in the USA, Mexico has a huge USA population presence. It is probably assumed that the USA expatriates are moving to rural areas carefully guarded in areas highly populated by US citizens and distant from urban centers, much like the resort locations. Where it is even advantageous for Drug Cartel syndicates, who are often the owners, to keep the peace for tourists. Probably giving the impression of a false sense of security and inaccurate impression of the daily struggles in Mexico to visiting Americans.
“With nearly two million Americans living among us, Mexico is the country with the largest community of US citizens living outside the United States. In the state of Jalisco, of which I am governor, one of the largest communities of expatriate Americans in the world resides peacefully on the banks of Lake Chapala, with thousands of others living in Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta. These people are an essential part of the heartbeat of our community.”
However, in light of the vastly growing global political disability and a global population that recently increased to 7.6 billion people. What is the future outlook for the social fabric and political stability in Mexico in the coming future? One may look to Venezuela, where super inflation has increased to 6,000% and hundreds of thousands of people are escaping to Brazil and Columbia. Is this a flash in the pan or ominous sign of things to come? Your guess is as good as ours and we will continue to hope for the best; for everybody that loves to visit Mexico and the ordinary Mexico family people that are fighting to make a better country.