Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Midday Edition

Report: Homicides Up In Mexico For First Time Since Peña Nieto Took Office

A police officers shows casings he gathered just outside the fence line of Rancho del Sol, a ranch that was the site of clashes between Mexican authorities and a drug cartel, in the municipality of Ecuandureo, Mexico, May 23, 2015.
Associated Press
A police officers shows casings he gathered just outside the fence line of Rancho del Sol, a ranch that was the site of clashes between Mexican authorities and a drug cartel, in the municipality of Ecuandureo, Mexico, May 23, 2015.

Report: Homicides Up In Mexico For First Time Since Peña Nieto Took Office
GUEST: David Shirk, associate professor of political science, University of San Diego

Is the level of violence by criminal gangs in Mexico on the rise again? That is a disturbing question arising from a new report hundred drug violence in Mexico. Effort to her segment Mexico sawn increased and murders last year. Researchers say the causes are complex and range from economics to legal accountability. Joining me is tran a. Sensible investigator at the trust is in Mexico. And co-author of the new rate port entitled "Drug Violence in Mexico". The organization justice in Mexico had predicted a 9% drop in Hamas saying in 2015 what do you find the causes? First of all, there is no guarantee that past trends will be predictive of future performance. In practically anything. So we cautiously hoped more than predicted that we would see continued drop as we had seen year-over-year in single, dojo digit decline since 2011. But I think that the situation in Mexico has become much more complicated. At the state, local level. We have seen the dynamic of organized crime group proliferating at the local and regional level. And beginning to compete against each other once again after a period where really there was no time when it seemed like the single cartel based out of -- basically the lapsed cartel standing. It had a certain degree of control over matters. Now we're seeing some upstart groups rising in other parts of the country. The increase in murders was highest in Acapulco. But Tijuana remains a second most violent city in Mexico. What he attribute that to? The last few years running Acapulco and Tijuana have been the two most violent cities in Mexico. Measured by homicides. In both cases in Tijuana's case we are seeing a number of homicides that is half of what we saw when things were really bad in 2008 in 2009. Acapulco, however, is continuing to see increases your beer over this time. Generally speaking. I think what is particularly concerning in Acapulco is the unraveling or proliferation of organized crime groups that are again at this sub state level. Groups like the [Indiscernible - name]. Believed to be responsible in part for the massacre of 43 students back in September of September 2014. Groups like that sort of splintered off as a result of close to higher-level criminal organizations. In this case the [Indiscernible - name] that controlled organized crime in Mexico City. And other parts of southwestern Mexico. Now data, he said that for a significant dent. During the climate decline in violence there was one major quote cartel. [Indiscernible - name]. You talk about the rise of smaller cartels cartelitos. Is drug trafficking still the major source of those smaller cartels? For big organization like the [Indiscernible - name], they have the logistical capabilities. The connections and importantly the financial capability to bring role major drug trafficking actions. Including movement of cocaine from the Andean region into the United States. But for smaller organization's those capabilities are not as great paid that means those organizations are more likely to sustain themselves through predatory activities. Kidnapping, extortion, and even grand theft. Larceny. What we call the United States. In some ways the effort we have made over the last decade to break up major organized crime groups like the [Indiscernible - name] in some ways those have backfired or led to the unintended consequence that the kinds of crimes that we see from organized crime groups in Mexico are much more predatory, much more harmful to the average citizen. So is it wrong to call this primarily drug violence in Mexico? We started the series of reports in 2000 We started the series of reports in 2010. And we haven't wanted to change the name. Drug violence in Mexico. Partly because the better part of the violence that we sold a large chunk of the violence that we see in Mexico is organized crime related. Most organized crime groups still have some hand in the drug trade. They may not be able to bankroll major operations from Columbia but they may be moving heroin on a smaller scale from the Golden triangle region in northwestern Mexico to into the United States. I think that there is still -- we can still call it drug violence in some sense. As an overarching term but it is very clear that there has been a diverse decay that depressed affect diversification of violence in Mexico. Reflate what is the mood of Mexico about this increasing violence question The focus is last on increasing violence than the inability of the Mexican government. Particularly the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto to come up with an effective response. This is a president who came into response promising he would cut files in half and there has been a lot of public frustration with the failure to make good on that promise. Even with the proliferation of human rights violations. A series of very serious human rights violations over the last couple years. I have been speaking with David Shirk . Co-author of the new report on "Drug Violence in Mexico" in Mexico. Thank you David. Thank you Maureen.

Homicides are up in Mexico after years of decline that started when President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in 2012, according to a new report by researchers at the University of San Diego.

The report, titled "Drug Violence in Mexico," shows homicides increased by 8 percent from 2014 to 2015. But researchers say it's too early to tell if this signals a reversal of the downward trend.

"For one thing, it suggests that previous progress in reducing homicides was not necessarily attributable to the increased effectiveness of law enforcement or government policy," the report states. "For another thing, it raises questions about current dynamics among organized crime groups, and whether there is potential for escalation moving forward."

In Tijuana, while homicides are down from the record 2008 levels, homicides jumped from 462 in 2014 to 612 in 2015. Tijuana remains the second most violent city in Mexico after Acapulco.

Researchers say the reasons behind the recent increase in homicides are complex, and range they from economics to legal accountability. But one contributing factor could be Mexico's shifting drug trafficking landscape and the emergence of "cartelitos."

"The landscape of drug trafficking in Mexico now appears to be dominated by one powerful 'cartel' amid many cartelitos," the researchers say. "Because most of the smaller, regional criminal organizations have far lesser capability to finance and manage major drug trafficking operations, these cartelitos are arguably a much greater threat to public security, in that they obtain revenue through kidnapping, robbery, and extortion."

David Shirk, associate political science professor at the University of San Diego and co-author of the report, discusses the findings on KPBS Midday Edition Midday.