By: Wael Hikal
The current situation in Mexico has put the international community on alert due to the increase in crime rates; besides common criminality, peculiar behaviours have developed and are concerning Mexican citizens, their government and foreigners.
This situation is out of the country’s control: in the past, attacks, massive kidnappings and homicides, as well as drug trafficking, were seen as isolated cases, but nowadays they have become recurrent and interconnected issues.
Criminologist Rafael Garófalo recognizes that criminality is an evolutionary phenomenon and that robbery and murder are deeply entrenched in human nature (Hikal, 2009).
Nowadays, homicides have become a “normal” event, in the sense that it is no longer surprising to see portrayed in the media dead militaries, police officers, heads of government, or even their opposing parties (the so-called “narco-police” or “narco-militaries”).
Territoriality continues to be the main work area for organized crime and, in a global economy, the geography of crime grows exponentially. Local criminal organizations are presented with new international opportunities on an almost daily basis (Napoleoni, 2008).
Globalization and economic growth have strongly promoted the transformation of crime beyond national borders in every part of the world.
The improvements in communication and information technology have overcome national boundaries, with increased mobility of people, goods and services around the world, while the rise of the global economy has moved crime beyond its domestic base (Calvani, 2008).
Historically, the events that caused major “terror” in Mexico began with the progressive disappearance of women in the city of Juárez (in the Mexican state of Chihuahua); one after another, these women became invisible to the local citizens and to the judicial authorities in particular, which caused a great loss of confidence in the administration of the justice system.
At the time, they were founding naked bodies of women with visible lesions and signs of sexual abuse; the fact that women were the only victims of these crimes led this phenomenon to be labelled las muertas de Juárez (ed. the dead women of Juárez).
These events triggered a series of protests from the citizens who were complaining about their women: daughters, sisters, girlfriends, wives and sisters in law. Similarly, it also caused the media to express its theories on the matter in a series of documentaries and movies (Backyard, 2009), among others; the latter portrays on film the impunity, the corruption, the lies, the trafficking in human beings, the exploitation, the violence and the sexual abuse suffered.
The impact it had was so great that the National Council of Science and Technology and the local government of Chihuahua invested in a DNA data bank (CONACYT, 2008).
Another point is that organized crime in Mexico has become an intimidating phenomenon, dangerous and almost terrorist, intended as causing terror (Félix Tapia, 2005).
This is the effect it has had on citizens, on the police, on the military, on directors and secretaries of security; even though the latter are deeply entrenched in acts of corruption, the opposing party has become involved in their kidnappings, torture and homicides throughout the entire Mexican territory, and there are states in which even mayors have been murdered.
The alleged involvement of the police and the military in drug trafficking has become an inextricable factor: policemen providing protection to cartel leaders, soldiers supplying weapons, transportation for illicit merchandise, as well as providing support during kidnappings, extortions, selling of drugs, counterfeit clothes and other goods, among other activities.
It is incredible to see in the media how national security forces are violated at the time when they are shown decapitated, tied up, with their heads missing, or with the so-called tiro de gracia (ed. kill shot) in their heads. During 2007 and 2008 there were a series of murders targeting the police in the municipality of San Nicolás De Los Garza, in the Mexican state of Nuevo León; they were kidnapped and their lives were taken at any hour and in any place, but the cases still remain unsolved.
There is no doubt that the country needs a moment of peace during which local governments and their citizens can relax. But the situation worsened in the beginning of 2009, when the economic recession started taking hold.
Criminally-speaking, poverty, lack of education and unemployment are all risk factors that fuel crime as a way to escape these aforementioned aspects; organized crime employs and trains all these types of people to carry out illegal activities.
To reduce these phenomena, it is necessary that States, and Mexico in particular, urgently apply the international tools to fight organized crime, human trafficking, terrorism, drug abuse and other criminal activities.
This means countering them not only with the use of force, but also with a good penitentiary administration that addresses the root causes of criminality, that provides a treatment and makes room for restorative justice, that pays attention to the victims and that develops prevention programmes.