Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Number-crunching in Jalisco

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on May 16, 2011

by The Americas View, The Economist, May 15th, 2011.

Since Mexico ramped up its fight against organised crime at the end of 2006, it has made impressive progress in arresting or killing the leaders of the country’s murderous drug-trafficking “cartels”. By the end of last year, ten of the 24 most-wanted were dead or detained. On Friday, another senior villain bit the dust. But the violence has continued to rocket. Official figures for 2011 aren’t out yet, but the news reports this year have so far seemed no less bloody than last.

Many commentators, including this newspaper, have suggested that in some cases taking out cartel leaders has sparked even more violence, as deputies have fought over succession rights, and other cartels have moved in to hit their rivals while they are weak. An interesting article this month in Nexos magazine by two Mexican government officials argues that in at least one case, this was not the case. The story (in Spanish) is worth a read. (Google does a slightly wonky but more or less intelligible translation here.)

The authors totted up the murders in the states of Colima, Jalisco and Nayarit throughout 2009 and 2010. Halfway through 2010 an important boss in the Sinaloa cartel, Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, was killed by the army in Jalisco. Coronel had been in charge of the port of Manzanillo, and his death sparked a scramble among other narcos to control the area. The number of murders in the region during the second half of that year was much higher than during the first half. But the government’s researchers point out that violence in the region actually surged a good two months before Coronel’s killing. Further, they say, the rate of increase in killings before Coronel’s death was higher than it was afterwards—six extra killings every five weeks, versus one. Had he not been taken out, they speculate, the violence might have been even worse. (continue reading… )

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