Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Monday, December 2, 2019

Violence mars first year for Mexico’s president

Chivis Martinez Borderland Beat TY SD  from SDUnion Tribune

At 7 a.m. each weekday, as the sun is still rising over this sprawling mountain capital, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador steps in front of a gaggle of news cameras and begins to talk.

His news conferences, which can stretch as long as three hours, often meander among a wide range of topics. On any given day he may discuss policy, baseball, the impact of neo-liberal economic policies or the history of the Spanish conquest.

Increasingly, Mexico’s loquacious commander in chief has had to face one subject he’d rather not address: Mexico’s spiraling violence, and growing doubts about his strategy to fix it.

López Obrador, a 66-year-old populist leftist, was elected in a landslide victory last year in part on his pledge to bring peace to this violence-weary nation.

Renouncing the militarized approach of his predecessors, whom he accused of turning Mexico “into a graveyard,” he vowed to transfer public safety duties from the armed forces to a new civilian National Guard and to tackle organized crime by fighting poverty.

“Hugs, not bullets” was his campaign promise.

But as López Obrador marks his first year in office today, record-high homicide rates and a series of extreme acts of cartel violence have invited increased scrutiny of his security policies, some of which contradict his lofty rhetoric in practice.

Significantly, he has not demilitarized public security and sent soldiers back to their barracks as promised.

The National Guard, which López Obrador vowed to put under civilian control, is being led by a recently retired former army general, and nearly 80 percent of the force is made up of former soldiers or marines.

Many of the new troops have yet to receive promised training in human rights and how to carry out criminal investigations, which is supposed to be one of their new duties.

In recent months, many members of the National Guard have been diverted entirely from addressing violence and organized crime. And the troops’ mandate remains largely unclear. Is it to essentially replace local police? Under what circumstances will they be deployed?

“I need to know a lot more about the National Guard and where it’s going to be and what it’s going to be doing,” said Aileen Teague, a postdoctoral fellow at Brown University who is writing a book about the impact of U.S. drug policies and policing efforts on Mexico.

While many who have studied the drug war agree that a break with the militarized strategy of the past is a good move for Mexico, Teague said, López Obrador has offered frustratingly few details.

“His goals are valuable,” she said. “But I question his plans for execution.”

When faced with such questions, López Obrador often responds by saying that he inherited a country where violence was already out of control. He has also stressed that some elements of his plan — a program that gives cash transfers to hundreds of thousands of poor Mexicans, for example — are not quick fixes and are designed to help curb crime over a longer period.

He and his Cabinet members point to a slight decrease in homicides in recent months — in October, 2,866 Mexicans were killed, down from this year’s monthly peak of 2,993 in June. Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo has described the dip as an “inflection point.”

Yet Mexico is still on track to see nearly 35,000 homicides in 2019, which would break last year’s record of 33,341 killings.

A number of high-profile security incidents have raised questions about whether the government has ceded control of parts of the country to organized crime, especially the government’s botched effort in October to capture the son of drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

At least 13 people died when the Sinaloa cartel seized control of the northern city of Culiacán in a successful effort to force the release of Guzmán’s son.

Speaking about the incident at one of his news conferences a few days afterward, López Obrador praised the soldiers and National Guard troops who took part in the failed operation and defended his decision to release Guzmán, which he said was made to save lives.

“We will no longer fight violence with violence,” he said. “There is no longer a war against drug traffickers.”

Security expert Javier Oliva said statements like that send a dangerous signal to Mexico’s criminal groups.

“‘Hugs not bullets’ could be interpreted by criminal groups as an opportunity to gain territory as authorities step back,” he said.

In the weeks after the Culiacán incident, similar scenes played out in other cities.

In November, a cartel terrorized Juárez, on the border with El Paso, igniting 35 vehicles in a fight with security forces. Another criminal group also seized control of the border city of Nuevo Laredo, blocking intersections with buses and tractor trailers they had lit on fire.

And then there are the dramatic mass killings that seem to occur every few months.

In Michoacán state, 19 bodies were hung from a bridge or scattered nearby in August, and 14 police officers were ambushed and killed in October.

In Veracruz state, 30 people were killed when a strip club was firebombed in August, and in Sonora state, nine women and children who belonged to a breakaway Mormon sect were gunned down this month.

The Tijuana-based newspaper Zeta tallied 53 massacres — single violent incidents in which at least four people died — in the first 11 months of López Obrador’s term.

According to the newspaper, suspects have been detained in only five cases.

López Obrador still boasts approval ratings above 60 percent, with many voters viewing him as more accessible and relatable than previous leaders.

Yet the continued violence is taking a toll, as questions about violence come up more and more at his news conferences.

In March, 53 percent of Mexicans approved of López Obrador’s work fighting organized crime, according to a poll by El Universal newspaper. That number fell to 31 percent this month.

Linthicum and Fisher write for Los Angeles Times.


  1. Not much to show for his efforts in fighting terrorist cartels. 35,000:is predicted, topping off last year's record.
    And I laugh at those nuthuggers, that cheerlead Obrador.

    1. I'm not a Mexican citizen so I don't have the perspective they do. But from what I can tell, AMLO's early popularity had more to do with how he presented himself rather than for what he actually did. I've read a lot of articles on him since the October 17th operation, and I've noticed that I can't find many commenters with much nice to say about him. It's not just security issues, his economic policies haven't worked out so far and the way he conducts himself in general is pretty worrying.

    2. You need to look at it is totality, which is why he still maintains high approval percentage.

      Mexicans feel that no one can change narco activity, that it is permeated the society ingrained into Mexican life so integrally, that it is impossible for change.

      So the best they can hope for is change socially. AMLO is actually doing that, implementing some sound programs that effect people, especially the 'forgotten souls' such as the disabled, poor and elderly.

      I believe the mindset is that positive change in places long ignored is better than no change.

      Anyway, this is what I believe.

    3. @Chivis

      Yeah, I know that his election was in part based on how sick the citizens are of the traditional ruling parties, so they were drawn to someone who at least seemed different from presidents in the past.

      I'm not informed on the specifics or effectiveness of his social programs, but I'm glad to hear that you think they have merit.

    4. don't misunderstanding this is not my thinking, my thinking is until there is the rule of law, Mexico will not meet its potential at which time they could have better programs, opportunities, education, security etc. I am saying this is how Mexican citizens think.

      I am just trying to provide an understanding how Mexicans may look at the job amlo is doing and why they may feel that way

    5. I grew up in border towns. 40 some years old . Ever since I can remember the killing has been going on. We should support a non violence approach to the problems and hopefully the 4T or cuarta transformación de Mexico takes place. Only a social movement can solve the problems.

    6. The United States has 7 military bases in Colombia, perhaps the amount of drugs sent from Colombia to the US has dropped. At all, everything remains the same, so what is your damn problem with Mexico if the US cannot stop sending bulk shipments.

  2. I can understand not wanting to escalate the violence, but AMLO seems to think that it's a choice between "confront the criminals" or "Don't confront the criminals". While there are many problems with a militarized response, you can't let gangs do whatever they want either.

    AMLO is making one of the same mistakes as his predecessors in that he'd prefer to just reorganize the security forces rather than address underlying problems like corruption or low pay. Pena Nieto's gendarmie never went anywhere, and this new national guard just seems like more of the same.

    A problem with a lot of security plans is that they don't take a holistic approach and try to tackle the problem from one direction instead of every direction. AMLO's predecessors may have neglected social issues, but now he's neglecting law enforcement. I wonder how many politicians actually do research on the problems they're trying to solve, and how many just go for whatever sounds good on paper. It's maddening to see so many different security experts point out the same flaws in each president's security plan, only for the problems to continue.

    1. Nice input. Rather a constructive one.

      Valid point to look at the problem as a whole. Bits and pieces have not been successful like that in America.


    2. They have statistics and numbers , they know sicarios are multiplying faster that they can kill them

  3. Who thinks this is going to get better in one presidency? It is so easy to blame the one president when it has taken scores of presidents' greed and corruption, turning a blind eye for bribes to get to this point. This will take generations to turn around. And for that, you need to get to the root. Poverty, Education. The young generation has to learn about and want a way of life that stays out of criminal activity. When you read that young kids aspire to be the new narco leader you know this is a problem built into the society where these kids come from. I would love to see them fight them with fire and beat them at their game. But how do you fix the underlying problem and keep others from wanting to join the cartels and give rise to more leaders. There is so much money in it. How do you get people to stop wanting to use drugs and contributing to this mess? Apart from Mexico - it is a global problem. And I don't see an quick and easy solution, sadly.

    1. I don't expect him to fix the entire country. But AMLO has been unwilling to admit that his policies haven't been working, and he's been criticized by numerous security experts on having a vague security plan.

  4. Cool 😎. It looks like we will be number one ☝🏼 in homicides this year. Number one in violence once again. WoW.

  5. I knew that idiot AMLO was from mars


  7. they r killing innocent people 20 to 50 at a whack several hundred per month...mexican people like lebaron. and we should be moved because amlo sticks with social programs? the banner i saw in mexico city said " comunismo no - libertad si seguridad si. come on, chivis.


  9. AMLO needs to step down. The country will be totally under control of narcos

    1. Will be? I think it already is!

  10. I have spent most my life in Mexico, I think Almo is trying to have peace. The cartel is taking advantage of him. Things have never been so bad. The Cartels and politicians r using this opportunity to make $$$$$. If the Violence continues all commerce will come to stay still. I hope amlo can solve the problem. But losing confidence. Best of luck Amlo.

    1. I year in office, 30,000 homicides, bribes coming in, is priority number 1.

  11. Forgotten, are the traditions and values of the past. The army,police and militarized forces should be recruited from, and stationed at their natal territories, ejidos, villages and towns. The current logic is to station these recruits and professionals as far away from their "maras" so they have less problems shooting, killing and or protecting the "other". In one of his Mananeras Matutinas, AMLO bemoaned the ambuscados of two young soldiers from Vera Cruz in the Sierras of Guerrero, instead of them being deployed with their fellow "huarachos" protecting the hood. It's a question of familial HONOR that should determine their actions and behaviors.Could that be why one of the "wicho"garrisons 1/2 an hour from Allende refused to respond to the subsequent Zeta initiated Allende genocide where a reported 300 citizens were exterminated and burned? ("smells like carne asada"?)
    Then of course other examples like Tlatlaya and Ayotzinapa come to mind as well. After over 20 years of working professionally in Mexico
    I still believe that the nobility and generosity of the many Mexicans I've encountered deserve a lot better than the present dystopia. Without justice and wink wink impunity for violence, a state ceases to exist. Viva Mexico, que les vayan bien con el apoyo de Tonantzin.

  12. the previous governments (PRI and PAN) manipulated the statistics and since they had bought the press and television they always gave false data, now real numbers are being given and as the press no longer receives money they magnify the violence I repeat you need to be very stupid or biased to not understand this.


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