Mexico’s government is failing to tackle escalating violence
Violence has pushed homicide rates to record highs in Mexico - Photo: Alejandro Acosta/REUTERS

Mexico’s government is failing to tackle escalating violence

16/01/2020
15:45
Newsroom & Agencies
Mexico City
Drazen Jorgic & Cynthia Osterman/REUTERS & Alexis Ortiz/EL UNIVERSAL
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Human Rights Watch has said the violence that has pushed homicide rates to record highs in Mexico shows no signs of progress

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The government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is failing to tackle the violence that has pushed homicide rates to record highs and turned the country into a “butcher’s shop,” Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

For years, Mexico has been racked by violence as successive governments battled brutal drug cartels, often by taking out their leaders. That has resulted in the fragmentation of gangs and increasingly vicious internecine fighting.

López Obrador won office in 2018 vowing to adopt a more conciliatory security strategy focused on the root causes of crime, in particular by reducing poverty and corruption.

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But the violence has ground on during López Obrador’s first 13 months in charge, with 2019 set to be the bloodiest on record, surpassing the 29,100 murders in 2018.

His government has also revised upwards the total number of disappeared people to 61,637 from about 40,000. Most victims were disappeared after the so-called “war on drugs” began in late 2006, with more than 5,000 going missing last year.

José Miguel Vivanco, director of New York-based Human Rights Watch’s Americas division, said at a news conference the figures were “scandalous” and a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

Discussing the Mexico section of his group’s annual report on human rights, Vivanco said the “butcher’s shop” violence, including incidents where victims were dissolved by criminal gangs, continues apace with no signs of progress.

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“How can it be that the highest authorities in the country don’t give importance to this issue,” he said, questioning government policy and desire to investigate incidents where police may have “colluded” with cartels.

“What’s the current government’s priority? It’s lacking action on certain crimes, completely disregarding the reality in Mexico,” he added.

The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Vivanco’s remarks.

Earlier in the day, López Obrador defended his record on crime, saying he had inherited vast problems. He doubled down on his promise to curb crime by addressing its origins.

“If people have work, if young people are taken care of, if wages rise, if we don’t have problems of family break-ups, if cultural, moral, spiritual values ​​are strengthened, we will calm down the country,” López Obrador said.

It was not fair to expect all of Mexico’s problems to be solved in a year, but even so, many institutions were not fully focused on going after criminals, Vivanco said.

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“At least you should be able to see an effort, serious effort,” he said.

In the presentation of the document The World Report 2020, that includes an analysis regarding human rights in over 90 countries, Vivanco acknowledged that the National Search Commission and other agencies have carried out efforts to address this “humanitarian catastrophe;” however, he calculated they will be to no avail of other institutions do not join the cause.

Vivanco accused Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (FGR) and the Judiciary Power of lack of action, for he considered they have not intervened enough to solve the cases of homicide and disappearance.

As part of the solution to the missing people problem, José Miguel Vivanco proposed specialized judges in the matter, in addition to specialized prosecutors.

He said that the international organization is planning to make this proposal soon to Arturo Zaldívar, minister-president of Mexico’s Supreme Court and president of the Federal Council of the Judiciary.

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