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Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Mexico City's Murder Rate Is Lower Than Portland Or Dallas; It's A Reason The Gringos Are Flocking Here

"Sol Prendido" for Borderland Beat

The Mexican capital has escaped the ultra-violence of other cities in the drug war

EVERY night in Mexico City, crime journalists meet up to race together to murder scenes and snap photos of the corpses from shootings, stabbings and car crashes. Historically known as “los onces,” after a police radio signal, the night crawlers use scanners, cop contacts, and social media to follow the scent.


The photos and details of the bloody victims are referred to as “la nota roja” or “red news” and decorate tabloids, alongside scantily-clad girls and football players. They also provide a valuable public service by keeping track of the violence, and making it harder for the government to hide murder numbers. When Mexico’s drug war escalated in the 2000s, it was nota roja reporters around the country who first spotted it, helping compile “execution meters” of the rising piles of cadavers.

This year, there have thankfully been less corpses for the Mexico City onces to photograph. Up to October, there were an average of 62 murders a month in the city, less than half compared to the 133 murders per month in 2018. It is surprising to some considering the terror of the drug war and bloodshed in cities such as Tijuana, but this mountain capital is now less murderous per capita than much of the United States.

Not only does Mexico City boast a homicide rate far below U.S. hotspots such as Baltimore or St Louis. In 2021, it had a lower rate than Dallas or even Portland, Oregon (which has suffered a spike in homicides). This year, it could finish around the level of Austin.

There’s a lot to unpack with murder figures, and I’ll break down the nuances and look at what drives the drop. Of course, some brutal murders and other heinous crimes still happen here. There’s also political baggage; in the United States, people argue whether Democrats or Republicans rule over more bloodshed, and in Mexico, politicians quarrel over whether the governing Morena party or the opposition bear more fault for mass graves and massacres.

But politics aside, the evidence looks strong that murders in Mexico City have plummeted and furthermore that the capital never suffered from the worst narco warfare that ravaged much of the country. I would also assert that the relative safety of Mexico City is a significant factor in the wave of “gringos” flocking here, often to work remotely. (As anyone who follows Mexico knows, there has been a huge increase in Americans, among other foreigners, in Mexico City since the pandemic).

The foreigners don’t come for safety; they generally look for cheap rent alongside a fun lifestyle. But it would be unlikely there would so many if there was a dire security situation like that of Caracas, Venezuela or San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Mexico City is edgy enough to be exciting while not so edgy you get shot.  

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (or AMLO) made this point in his morning press conference, in which he was flanked by Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum to talk about the decline in death. “How much we have advanced on the issue of security,” AMLO said. “Because of this, thousands of foreigners have arrived to live in Mexico City…They are welcome.”

Later in the presser, AMLO overstated the case to say it was “one of the safest cities in the world.” That is a clear exaggeration as it’s still a long way from Singapore or Geneva. But the drop in murders in the Mexican capital is an achievement that is worth looking at, especially as it could offer hope for the rest of the country.

Blood and Pain in Numbers

I find the saddest thing at murder scenes is when families arrive and see the bodies of their loved ones, the devastation on their faces, the sheer pain in their screams. It seems cold to reduce this human loss to statistics. But reporting murder figures and insisting that governments release them is crucial to understanding the violence around us.

Homicide rates are compared by looking at the number of victims per 100,000 residents in a year. This figure is never going to be perfect, but it’s the best reference we currently have to contrast the level of killing in different cities and countries.

The Mexico City figures don’t refer to the whole urban sprawl of 22 million but to the official capital district, now called CDMX, which has about 9.2 million people. The Mexican government keeps a database of the murder numbers from police and prosecutor records, and there is another database from morgues and death certificates.

The police count recorded a peak of 1597 murder victims here in 2018, dropping to 1006 last year. That gives Mexico City a murder per capita rate of about 10.9 per 100,000 in 2021. This year the number has dropped further still.

Comparing the 2021 figures, Mexico City still has a higher murder rate than New York (which had about 5.7 homicides per 100,000), but it is lower than Portland (12.9), Dallas (14.6) or Minneapolis (22.1).

The most murderous U.S. cities include Baltimore (57.5) and St Louis (65.3), which have extremely high levels considering the wealth and power of the United States. The most homicidal cities in Mexico in 2021 suffer horrific rates, among the worst on the planet, with Zamora at 196, Zacatecas at 107, and Tijuana at 103.

So how reliable are the Mexico City figures? Carlos A. Pérez Ricart, an investigator at Mexico’s CIDE institute, has studied them and concludes the numbers look solid, especially as they correlate closely with death certificates.

“Homicides are counted by health authorities as well as by judicial authorities so it is really difficult to play with those numbers,” he tells me. “It is really difficult to argue all these numbers are fixed. I don’t buy this.”

Another theory is that bodies are not found because they are disappeared. This has certainly been a problem in chunks of Mexico, with mass graves splattered across the country, including one in Veracruz with the skulls of 298 victims.

There have been some “narco graves” dug up in the city limits, and there was the macabre discovery of 42 craniums in a house in the Tepito barrio in 2019. But overall, there have been much less and smaller narco graves than in Veracruz, Tamaulipas, Durango or Guerrero. Carlos also contends there is no evidence of a sudden increase of disappearances in Mexico City as the murder rate has gone down.

Carlos points out that surveys show a marked improvement in the perception of security in Mexico City since 2018 as well. With your own eyes, you can see that the capital is clearly different from the scarred cities on the border or bullet-holed villages of the Sierra Madre. You have far less chance of running into gunmen, hearing shots or seeing a corpse, and there is just not that feel of fear.

So why has Mexico City escaped the worst of the drug war? And what has improved since 2018?

Cartel Presence Not Cartel Control

The former mayor of Mexico City Miguel Ángel Mancera (who ruled from 2012 to 2018) insisted repeatedly that there were no cartels - or serious organized crime - in the capital, like there is in Sinaloa or Michoacán. This is patently false. Figures from all the major mobs have been arrested in the city, from the sons of Mayo Zambada and Vicente Carrillo to lieutenants in the Jalisco New Generation Cartel. There are also homegrown gangs, such as the infamous Tepito Union and the Tlauhuac Cartel.

However, while the mobsters are certainly here, they do not operate as they do in their strongholds. Mexico City is not a strategic turf to produce drugs (like in the Sierra Madre), or to traffic drugs to the United States (like on the border).

In Culiacán, gangsters exert an immense control of their territory, with lookouts on every corner and gunmen lurking in safehouses. In the capital, however, Sinaloa operators can disappear into the urban sprawl. It’s more a place to make deals, meet with contacts in the federal government, and launder money.

There’s also talk of a pax-mafiosi in the capital, an agreement between the big narcos not to fight here. I haven’t heard this straight from the mouth of crime figures, but this is possible, even perhaps as an informal understanding that they do business and not go to war like back in Tijuana.

Another factor is that Mexico is a heavily centralized country and all the federal agencies are here, along with the bulk of the governing class of politicians and heads of big business. These powers-that-be don’t want a mess on their own doorstep. The federal forces won’t allow a convoy of a hundred hitmen to blaze up Insurgentes avenue like they get away with doing in Zacatecas.

Then there is the Mexico City police force. Whereas the provinces have a mishmash of municipal and state corps, the capital has a single force of some 80,000 officers, one of the biggest in Latin America.

As with police forces across Mexico, there are problems with corruption and violence (including sexual violence). But since the 2000s, the capital cops have been deployed more tactically in areas with high crime, based on “compstat” systems. This was influenced by Giuliani’s broken window policy in New York, after Giuliani himself served as a consultant for Mexico City in 2002 back when AMLO was mayor.

Big Brother is Watching

Mayor Sheinbaum, a prodigy of AMLO, won power in 2018, as crime was rising under Mancera and made security a core of her platform. One of her key polices has been massively increasing the number of cameras on the street, from 14,000 to 80,000, and she is still going.

The investigator Carlos Pérez has been studying the effort and thinks it has worked as both a deterrent and tool for police, who watch them in a vast “C5” center. “I think there isn’t another city in Latin America with so many cameras,” Carlos says. “I truly buy the argument that this has been relevant…the police do use these cameras in order to resolve crimes.”

In 2019, Sheinbaum also appointed the former federal agent Omar García Harfuch as the city’s top security official, and he has gained a reputation as a hard ass who goes after gangsters. This fame was enhanced in 2020 when he survived an assassination attempt by alleged gunmen from the Jalisco Cartel, who ambushed him at dawn with a Barrett, killing two of his bodyguards.

On a vist to the Tepito barrio, I see what his police operations look like on the ground. Around the Peralvillo street, considered a heart of operations for La Union mob, the police have established a permanent presence, with armored vehicles on the corners and dozens of uniformed officers. Police were also controlling the entrance to the vecindad, or residential building, where the 42 skulls had been found (alongside a Satanic altar).

García Harfuch has a controversial history. His grandfather was a revolutionary officer who fought alongside Pancho Villa, only to become the defense secretary who oversaw the Tlatelolco massacre of students in 1968. More pointedly, García Harfuch took part in meetings in an army base in Iguala following the disappearance of 43 student teachers there in 2014. He denies wrongdoing, but other officials have been charged over an alleged cover up.

Still, Sheinbaum is currently the most popular candidate to follow AMLO as president in 2024. Success in reducing murders in Mexico City will surely be a big factor in her favour, and if she wins, she could bring Garcia Harfuch to the national stage.

The problems of violence and cartels across Mexico are in a different league from the capital and it seems unlikely that just cameras and police presence would make a difference. But at least having a solid example of reducing murder in a part of Mexico could help lead to politicians, of whatever striple, to see that crafting better policies to confront the bloodshed is possible.

Ioan Grillo

75 comments:

  1. Gringos are buying everything up. It’s funny they can move to other countries but when we come to there it’s a problem

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    Replies
    1. Trust me, the gringos that are living in other countries aren't the same ones that are adamant about keeping foreigners out of the USA.

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    2. Trust me, the american gringo males who live in 3rd world countries are mostly pedos!

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    3. Bullshit. Do it the legal way and it’s all good.

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    4. Well first off they’re not coming in droves for generations and they are not a poor people. They’re often already established

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    5. 2.46. Correct. Mostly child molesters from california, same kind that hang out in Cambodia.

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    6. @5:12 no, Europeans never came in droves and stayed for generations.. this is the problem with you entitled gringos. Shoulda kept y’all asses in Europe.

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    7. 3:03 Do you have any idea how hard that is lol

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    8. 6:37; Your an idiot. There are plenty of us living in Mexico that are 100% legit, running our companies and paying our taxes from money we make in Mexico, USA, and other countries we own companies.

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    9. 9.10. You are an idiot. Give us the names of these fake companies you own. You dont have sex with mexican prostitutes? Sure you do,

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    10. 11:56 I have no idea how hard it is, let me feel it.
      Detroit

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  2. Majority of Americans live in fear or paranoia of criminals, the school system and the gvt agancies and are fleeing the country by the 100Ks every year!

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    1. I am American and we do not live, in no fuken fear. You Iq20 monger!

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    2. >I am American and we do not live< LOL. A product of the American school system! Too funny!

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    3. IQ 20 lives in a ghetto, afraid to go out, when he heard a cars muffler backfiring, he thinks it's World War 3.

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    4. I am American from downtown Los angeles stay and I only fear what I would do to your pathetic complete minimum truth ass and that's a fact you keyboard warrior you ha

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    5. Maybe other people just don't spend the time like you do because your time is pointless so you have to actually act like anybody gives flying fuck about what you say which nobody does and yet you're looking at people's grammar when probably many are not even from America possibly immigrants and that also shows the beauty of our country you piece of shit

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    6. Yes, Tru, I know many parents who want their children out of the public school system and into private school. Too much drugs and violence and they are always worried about mass murder.

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    7. Yeah right! Little 🥜 live in mom's basement talk all this phony shit he reads on 4chan conspiracy about U.S. The truth is your probably a Russian 🪆 or just an anti American hater. Your just a denier of Narco Democracy of Mexico. What your selling , no one is buying.

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    8. Small nuts think he's a proud American. De seguro es mas indio que la shingada y cree que los gringos lo van a salvar y aceptar en el mundo de ellos. We get it. You were bullied by raza and hate anything darker than a ghost. Now he spouts his right wing ideology creyendo que es soldado de America. No mames. They hate you too

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    9. 1:56 Living in fear since Mayflower arrived....fear natives + witches + wild animals + buffalos + mexicans + their own slaves + black people + asians + immigrants and the list is long... they fear anything... even things on another continents.

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    10. 9:03 calmado Shihuahueño

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    11. Pinchie Small nuts!

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  3. Flock those mf'g ex-pats who would rather keep a filthy country propped up instead of spemding their $ in their own country. Mexico exports death to America but these narcissistic mf's couldn't care less.
    Death to amlo's regime!
    Mordidas to ex-pats x 1,000! Lol

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    1. In Mexico City aka D.F. everyone smiles and says hi.

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    2. You mean immigrants? Because that’s what they are, stop saying expats knock it off

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    3. Is like that all over Mexico specially in the small towns

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    4. 11:46 has lost his ass...

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    5. 11:46 Looks like you know nothing about Mexico.

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    6. 11:46 Just another generic random hater with weak arguments. Lovely ♥

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  4. In 2021 the CDMX homicide rate was nearly double that of NYC. Got to keep appearances up huh

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    1. Actually, no. The information was accurate and mentioned in the article as you even referenced it.

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    2. Actually 12:54 Is correct.

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    3. 2:58 Except for the last sentence.

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    4. NYC 2021: 5.7 @100k
      CDMX 2021: 10.9 @ 100k
      "nearly double that of NYC"
      You have a different source smiley face?

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    5. The last sentence is "got to keep appearances up". Nothing about NYC or CDMX.

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    6. 2021
      CDMX: 917 homicides / 24 Million +/-
      NYC: 485 homicides / 18million +/-

      https://nypost.com/2022/01/01/nyc-recorded-485-murders-in-2021/

      https://www.lapoliticaonline.com/mexico/politica-mx/n-139647-la-cdmx-cerro-el-2021-con-el-menor-numero-de-homicidios-en-seis-anos/

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    7. 2021
      485 homicides/ population of18M NYC
      vs
      925 homicides/ population of22M CDMX

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    8. Jajajaja. 11:23 or 11:58 or both need to "straighten" your facts. Does CDMX have 22 or 24 million? Or just the 9.2 referenced in this article? Whatever. The point still stands that CDMX has almost two times more homicides as NYC and you can be sure Sheinbaum is doing her bestest to look competent in her bid to become the MORENA presidential nominee. A los otros habitantes que se los llevé la chingada

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    9. @1:55pm How did a person named Sheinbaum become mayor of Mexico's largest city? A bit like someone named Lopez or Ayala becoming Prime Minister of Israel.

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    10. James her ancestry should tell you everything you need to know there. You can practically hear it in her last name.

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    11. @7:47 in my simple mind it's because she and Ebrard, another former mayor of DF of French ancestry, are both AMLO proteges.
      Who are they and how did they arrive to Mexico? SIR is very knowledgeable regarding history so maybe he can offer some input regarding Sheinbaum even if for some unexplainable reason he still hasn't found fault will the current presidentes pussyfied approach to combating the butchering of the populace. Ni modo🤷‍♂️
      In my opinion AMLO wasted his political capital on political stunts and rhetoric, in the elections he and his party won majorities to govern and really advance the country but he didn't just want a single 6 year term, now he wants another term😒

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    12. @ JamesGoodFootBrown email me sir. I have something I need to give you.

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    13. 4:42 Foreigner last names isnt uncommon in Mexico.

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    14. 1:55

      925 homicides for a 22-24 Million city isnt bad at all... Texas alone had 2064 during 2021, and North Carolina 928.


      Given its population is not bad at all.
      Why not trying harder??

      https://www.statista.com/statistics/195331/number-of-murders-in-the-us-by-state/

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    15. 10:33 You are WRONG, the homicide stats you keep mentioning are for each city, CDMX y NYC, not the entire metro population. INEGI has CDMX @ 9.2million+/- and the US census has NYC @ 8.4 million+/-. This is why I call you AMLO bot. Let the numbers speak for themselves if they are good enough smiley face ☺️

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    16. 4:42 claudia sheinbaum is a gift of the Brookings Institute to México and she supports the Ghost of Ayotzinapa as MEXICO city chief of police, omar hamid garcia harfuch, one NO good motherfucker who staged the attack on his ass while riding his new bulletproof SUV.
      EBRARD has some splainin' to do regarding his family property, rancho Camino Real in Sa chez Taboada, Veracruz where the contras murdered about 30 federal police officers

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  5. How many people disappeared in Mexico City never to be heard from again and aren’t included in these statistics?🤔

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    1. I say the same thing about America. People act like the missing peoples doesn’t include those that have been killed. The numbers can be very well way worse.

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    2. Alot with criminals fighting for turf blocks to sell and extort in Mexico City.

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    3. 2:58 Fighting with who? hahahaha

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  6. All the "Patriots" got their panties in a wad with this one LOL

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    1. 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼🤜🏼🤛🏼👌🏼👊🏼👊🏼👊🏼💪🏼🫶🏼

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  7. CDMX is disneyland compared to Chicago, Detroit, Philly, Baltimore,New Orleans etc..

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    1. Drug dealers peddling drugs in Mexico city to tourist.

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    2. CDMX is disneyland compared to NY, LA, DC, and most big cities in the US.

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  8. “Beaners flock to America seeking better economic opportunities”

    “Chinks flock to Canada in real estate boom”

    Sounds racist no? Yet it’s the same as this articles headline. That was just the first thing that bothered me.

    The actual article is complete nonsense; thats not even addressing the chronic underreporting, misreporting, purposeful obfuscation, corruption and then FINALLY incompetence by the so called “authorities”.

    Hah!

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    1. Sounds racist but it’s true. Either way shout out to Sol for doing this article for those that claim or think Mexico is a third world country.

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    2. I don't know I really thought this was a very good article to be quite honest with you and I've been at border b reader for God decade crazy

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  9. Who is Loan Grillo and how credible are his articles.

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    1. Just another Jorge Ramos. Hating for anything, well... $.

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  10. The only city with more cameras than CDMX is San Pedro Garza García, the richest city per capita in Latin America. But of course, it’s way smaller and easier to control/manage.

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  11. Wonder how much crime is under reported. I can almost fell positive that the numbers are a lot higher than the number they give. I don’t care where you are when you get a lot of people together in an urban setting it’s gonna be killings and a lot more other crimes. You mix drugs in with it then you got a power keg.

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    1. you should recognize at some point when saying "I don’t care where you are when you get a lot of people together in an urban setting it’s gonna be killings..." that you are really fucked up. There is a world outside where people meet, doing liq. and drugs and no one is getting killed. Just leave your bubble, man up, go on vacation, extend your horizon, leave your country not the state or county.
      And you will start to understand. But your fear keeps you at home.

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    2. A lot goes un reported. ALMO wants it to be under reported.

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    3. 8:36 Little to do with AMLO boy.

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  12. I'm Californian, speak pretty good spanish, and lived in DF 93-95. it was awesome!

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    1. It was awesome, but currently worse
      In 2022

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    2. 9:33 MUCH better boy.

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    3. 10:50 very bad, crime is up, people getting robbed and killed in micro buses.
      Much worse Toddler.

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    4. 1:53 Not happening in Mexico City, Mr. Karen.

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  13. This story is bullshit. Them crime numbers need more fact checkers than trumps speech last night. The most populated city in the world mathematically has to have a shitload of crime. This is an example of massaging numbers to appear less worse. Like according to ex governor and crime boss cabeza de vaca Tamaulipas was safe too

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    Replies
    1. More than documented, not just this story.

      Not even close to have that amount of crimes, boy. CDMX is a safe city.

      Cabeza de Vaca is now wanted by justice.

      Is clear you know nothing about Mexico, why do you think giving your opinion is a good idea?

      Delete
  14. Gringos messing up the economy in Mexico.
    I seen an article of Mexican people disliking the gringos for that reason.

    ReplyDelete

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