Unfortunately stories of gang violence, brutal murders, and drug trafficking are nothing new in Mexico. Over the past seven years, violent clashes between drug cartels and their leaders, along with corruption within the government have plagued the country causing the Mexican people to feel frustration and confusion in their daily lives.
Tensions reached a new boiling point three weeks ago when 43 students went missing in the town of Iguala after conflict broke out between them and the police. Allegedly, the students, who attend what is considered to be a radical teachers college, were arrested by the local Iguala police and quietly handed off to members of the region’s leading drug cartel, Guerreros Unidos. According to witnesses, the students were rounded up, forced into cars and were quickly taken away. Since the events on September 26, thousands of people around Mexico have flooded the streets, protesting the local police’s actions toward the students and demanding answers on their whereabouts.
Following the events in Iguala, tips have poured in and have led investigators to 19 mass graves, which many feared contained the missing students. However, DNA testing was completed and police are denying that the missing students are located in the graves. 50 people have since been taken into custody and questioned about the events that transpired in Iguala. This includes both local police and suspected members of the Guerreros Unidos cartel. However, the hunt for answers continues as family and friends demand the truth from the local and federal government.
Corruption at the Local Level
There remains massive mistrust in the local police and concerns over corruption. As a result, the Mexican government has stepped in and taken the lead on the investigation. The federal police have issued a reward of $110,000 for information on the missing students, and have attempted to change the rhetoric on the police’s response to the situation. The government is now claiming that some of the local police in the Iguala area have connections to organized crime and that the Federal government is committed to cleaning up the police force and finding the missing students.
This terrible tragedy in Mexico has again pointed out the crippling grip that drug-related crime and violence has on the country. While the reward for information on the missing students and the arrests of 50 people shows commitment by the federal government to solving the drug cartel problems, corruption and crime is still embedded in local governments throughout Mexico. As well, many people believe that justice will never be achieved as members of the cartels are notoriously difficult to prosecute. And this lack of protection and security for the Mexican people and the ineffective and corrupt police force can be viewed as a human rights violation.
Debilitating Violence and Control
The huge spike in kidnapping and murders of protesters, journalists, and even police officers represent a large infringement of human rights. The security of the Mexican homeland in general continues to remain under threat as long as homicides, kidnappings, arson and drug violence remains a grave concern for citizens. These crimes are daily occurrence in certain regions of the country and the lack of security has convinced some Mexicans to stand up and fight back against the cartels.
While some are taking to the streets to protest, others call for the use of strong force against the country’s leading drug lords. However, this has only escalated violence. In fact, since 2007, the intentional homicide rate in Mexico has risen sharply, increasing from 8.1 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2007 to 23.7 per 100,000 people in 2011. Today, the rate has fallen slightly to 21.5 homicides per 100,000 people, still a shocking number when you consider the rate in the United States is 4.7, which itself is hardly the poster child of a nation without drug violence.
In addition, some of the media has been under the control of many drug cartels by censoring what is printed or broadcasted in certain local outlets around the country. As journalists turn to social media to separate the message of violence and crime, the cartel leaders have jumped on board calling for the murder of those who speak out. In other words, the message on what exactly is happening in areas impacted by the cartels is so unclear that the security of the Mexican people is far from guaranteed.
The tragedy of the missing students is a story we will continue to hear time and time again until a viable solution to stopping the drug cartels is found. While there has been some success in the investigation of the missing students, realistically most know this will not end the cartels’ violence. The corruption and continued violation of human rights that run rampant throughout regions in Mexico will only continue to fan the flames of the cartels and bring the country further into violence.