Middle America Term Paper

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Crime and Violence in Mexico

Introduction recent study by the World Bank reveals that Mexico has become one of the most violent and crime-ridden regions in the world (Hart). After a slight decrease in the 1960's, the report shows that the murder rate has increased again in the 1990's to more than 16,000 murders per year (p. 111-113). The country's homicide rate was double that of the United States, with 18 killings for every 100,000 people.

Over the past few decades, Mexico's population has increased and urban poverty levels have risen. As a result of these two factors, Mexico has seen a significant increase in crime and violence. Residents have resorted to illegal means of making money, including drug rings and street crime, as the country struggled to incorporate a capitalist system.

A recent study from the Citizen's Institute for the Study of Insecurity reveals that 4.2 million Mexicans were victims of crime in 2001 (Ortega). Ninety-two percent of the crimes were robberies, and the damages totaled $4.9 billion. Of these crimes, 75% of the victims did not tell the authorities and only 11% of the criminals were convicted.

Most of the people who did not report the crimes said that they felt the officials are involved in crime or that the justice system is too corrupt and inefficient to do anything crime.

Mexico's Transition

Since 1994, when Mexico signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NATO), when the country experienced a devastating economic downturn, drug-related violence, robberies, and carjacking have increased at record levels in Mexico, as have signs of government corruption and police involvement (Krauze, p. 32).

After Mexico underwent a transition from authoritarianism to democracy, crime and violence rapidly increased, becoming one of the major problems of the country (Neto). This has had a severe effect on Mexico, economically, socially and politically.

Despite the harm that has been done to the Mexican people, the rise in crime and violence has imposed great social costs and has made the processes of economic and social development, democratic consolidation and regional integration in Mexico increasingly difficult.

Crime-Ridden Country

Of all the cities in Mexico, Mexico City proved to be the most crime-ridden, with 18 crimes per 100 inhabitants (Ortega). The states of Morelos, Baja and California Norte were next, with 5.5 crimes per 100 inhabitants.

Not surprisingly, nearly half of all Mexicans reported that they did not feel safe in their own neighborhoods (Ortega). Of the respondent, approximately fourteen percent claimed that at least one member of their family had been the victim of a crime in the past year. In Mexico City, nearly 39% said the same thing.

One of the biggest problems faced by Mexico regarding crimes and violence is the general breakdown of law. Assaults, bank robberies, kidnappings and bribery, combined with corrupt police organization, have made Mexico one of the most dangerous places to live and visit in the world.

Impact of Crime and Violence on Mexico

The increase in crime and violence has a devastating impact on the country's economic and social development, democratic consolidation and regional integration. The costs of violence in Mexico (including health losses, material losses, intangibles and transferences) reached 12.3% in 1997 (Neto).

The high rates of crime and violence have proven to be a major obstacle for economic and social development in Mexico. These high rates have increased the need for crime control and prevention, as well as resources necessary to assist the victims of crime.

As a result of these expenditures, resources available for investments in infrastructure and in economic and social programs are significantly reduced (Neto). In addition, Mexico's reputation for crime and violence has kept both foreign and domestic investors from investing in Mexico.

As a result of this increase in crime and violence, especially the growth of organized crime and government corruption, the Mexican people have lost faith in the authorities, including the police, justice system and government.

When Mexico ended its 70-year rule of the Institutional Revolutionary party (PRI) in the 1990's, it took a step toward becoming a liberal democracy (Leiken). Ten years before Mexican officials signed the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Mexico rid itself of its state-led economy, privatizing most state companies and lowering barriers to foreign trade and investment. As a result, Mexico has become one of the world's leading economies, exporting automobiles, electronics, textiles and petrochemicals.

However, the increasing rose of corruption, crime, scandal, drugs and crime has deterred the country's progress. Mexicans have waited patiently for authorities to solve crime and bring justice to those who have committed heinous crimes, such as assassinations, murders, and abductions. Yet they have waited in vain, as government officials have often involved in the crimes or done little about them.

In most Mexican cities, homicides, armed robberies, rapes, muggings, and car-jackings have reached record levels. In 2001, Mexico City alone was the scene of one million muggings and nearly 100,000 auto thefts (Leiken).

To make matters worse, violence and crime in Mexico is widespread, unlike in the U.S., where certain neighborhoods are associated with crime and violence.

Historically, there has been a link between crime and police corruption in Mexico (Thorp, p. 132). In fact, many police officers have had to bribe their way into the police department, according to recent reports. The police salaries are low but it is common for officers to earn extra money through corruption and bribes.

Drugs in Mexico

Mexico is a country that has been destroyed by corruption. In 2001, estimates show that its gross domestic product was $280 billion, while estimates show that drugs flowing in and out of the country produce about $70 billion to $200 billion annually.

To make matter worse, government officials have been accused cartels to finance their retirement accounts. Former Mexican President Miguel de la Madrid secured his retirement fund with money from oil revenues. Former Mexican President Carlos Salinas is believed to have made millions by accepting huge bribes from drug cartels.

This major shift in the financial power center toward drug cartels has undoubtedly resulted in a huge increase in violence among the Mexican government, which has developed a reputation as one of the most corrupt governments in the world.


Crime is a rapidly growing industry in Mexico. The InterAmerican Development Bank reports that crime costs the 6.2% of its Gross Domestic Product, which amounts to $35 billion in U.S. dollars.

The main reasons for the increase in crime and violence are increased poverty, as a result of the country's shift to capitalism, and an inefficient police and judiciary, as a result of corruption.

Mexico has the second highest number of abductions in the world, preceded only by Columbia. In 2001, there were about 1,000 kidnappings in the country. Mexico is also the world leader in auto theft.

In response to this crisis, the Mexican government has taken drastic measures to prevent crime and violence. In many areas, the military has civilian police. Mexico's newest President, Vicente Fox, has labeled crime as Mexico's most serious problem and initiated a nationwide effort to combat it. The president's National Public Security Program has created multi-agency patrols of city, state and federal police to fight crime and violence in cities across Mexico.

As a rapidly increasing wave of criminality sweeps through Mexico, public insecurity has become a major concern. In addition, studies show that up to 70% of South American cocaine bound for the United States enters through Mexico. In containing drug trafficking, the military has become the supreme authority.

Since authoritarian times, Mexico's armed forces have remained out of politics. However, faced with major problems concerning drugs, violence and crime, they are becoming a major part of policing.

The federal government is also developing legislation that will make multiagency patrols a permanent fixture in cities. Ideally,…

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