NPR Story
1:12 pm
Mon April 15, 2013

As Drug War Grows Bloodier, Mexican Government Shifts Focus

When Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto brought a new face to an old ruling party, he also brought a fresh perspective to the war plaguing his country.

In November, then President-elect Peña Nieto wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post before meeting President Barach Obama for the first time. The article revealed his desire to shift the dialogue from bodies to economics:

"It is a mistake to limit our bilateral relationship to drugs and security concerns ... Perhaps the most important issue is finding new ways to bolster our economic and trade relationship to attain common prosperity in our nations," he wrote.

One of his first steps to combat the Mexico drug war image was calling an end to the photo ops of arrested narcos behind a trove of confiscated drugs, guns and cash — "dog and pony shows" his predecessor paraded in front of journalists.

Instead, President Peña Nieto focused the international lens on Mexico’s promising and under-performing economy.

A new and justified narrative for Mexico emerged. Mexico graduates more engineers than the U.S. Its economy is booming, with a growth rate exceeding 4 percent per year. And, the government is actively breaking apart webs of monopolistic industries like PEMEX and the telecom industries.

Yet as the country adjusts to its new place in the spotlight, in the shadows the drug war marches on. The Los Angeles Times interviewed the Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, who shared some new/old statistics:

1,101 people were killed in March. That brings the official total under the Peña Nieto administration, which began in December, to 4,249, or roughly 35 a day, and close to the rate during the last year of the administration of President Felipe Calderon.

But, digging behind these numbers, it turns out the drug war is growing bloodier than ever.

Narcosphere pulled apart figures from Harary Security Consulting International — a top intelligence gathering firm in the country — and found a few alarming long-term trends:

Drug-war homicides in each of the four months that Peña Neito has been in office (December 2012 through March 2013) have exceeded the monthly murder tally posted for 10 of the final 11 months of Calderon’s presidential term.

Only 24 major criminal-organization leaders were apprehended or killed between December 2012 and the end of March 2013, compared with 68 meeting that fate from September through November 2012 while Calderon was still in office.

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