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Michoacán’s murder rate soars despite government’s security actions

Mexico's national homicide rate has dropped but kidnappings are on the rise

Self-defense forces stand guard at the entrance to Churumuco.
Self-defense forces stand guard at the entrance to Churumuco. EFE

Despite the deployment of special operations forces to Michoacán, as well as a drop in the national homicide rate, the number of murders has soared in the volatile Mexican state in just one year.

During the first quarter, there were 272 violent deaths that took place in Michoacán – a 55-percent rise from the same period in 2013, government statistics show. The figures released on Wednesday by the National Public Security Agency also demonstrate a sharp annual rise since 2008, when 152 homicides were reported.

Michoacán has been the focal point of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s internal security initiative. In January, he sent in around 70,000 police and military officers to put down the violence sparked by gun battles and other violent actions that increased when the citizen vigilante groups began taking over municipalities from the Caballero Templarios (Knights Templars) drug cartel.

The self-defense forces were organized in February 2013 by the state’s citizens, who said they were fed up with the drug cartel’s abuses, including rapes, extortion and murders.

Michoacán has been the focal point of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s internal security initiative

Last year there were 961 homicides registered in Michoacán.

In late January, the government signed an agreement with the self-defense forces that calls on them to cooperate with law enforcement agencies, disband, and join a rural police force by the middle of next month if they wish. The pact has been successful in that it has allowed the two sides to work together to capture or ambush some of the cartel’s top leaders. But some security experts warn that federal intervention in the state has not solved the entire problem.

“We are now beginning to see the results of federal intervention with a critical eye,” says Alejandro Hope, a public security expert. “Has [the government’s] strategy been effective in dismantling the Templarios? Yes, probably. Has it been successful in creating conditions for peace and security? The results say no.”

Homicides are the only crimes that have risen higher than the national rate in Michoacán.

In the first three months, the national murder toll stood at 4,047 compared to 4,610 last year during the first quarter. The statistics show a 12-percent decrease in Mexico’s homicide rate from the same period last year.

But kidnappings are still on the rise throughout the entire country. There has been a 7.2-percent hike in the number of abductions in Mexico since the last year. Hope said that statistics also reflect that the government anti-kidnapping strategies it introduced last year have not begun to give any positive results.

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