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December 19, 2022

2022 Recap Roundtable

How do we make sense of 2022? For this special edition of El Acarreo, we turned to some of our favorite observers and analysts to help explain the past 12 months.

1. What was the most significant trend in violence, crime, or security policy that you observed in 2022?

Victoria Dittmar, InSight Crime: Criminal organizations are increasingly invested in the domestic drug consumption market in Mexico, resulting in new violence dynamics. Disputes over street corners, prices, and rights to sell drugs are increasingly linked to homicides in cities like Tijuana and forced disappearances in Culiacán. Moreover, the territorial expansion of certain criminal actors to build more methamphetamine labs is displacing entire communities, especially around the states of Michoacán, Jalisco, and Colima.

Luis Herrán Ávila, University of New Mexico: From my perspective, the continuous expansion of the role of the Armed Forces (the Navy, the Army and the National Guard) in public safety duties, alongside the use of the National Guard to contain migratory flows. Besides the debate over the constitutionality of the National Guard’s role in public safety, there is an increasing danger for arbitrariness and abuse against migrants, who have for quite a while faced all sorts of stigma, criminalization and violence while going through Mexican territory. The implications for Mexico’s international commitments on asylum and refugees and the overall human rights landscape in the country are worrying, and without prospects for improvement given the denial from the Federal Government that there is indeed a problem that needs to be addressed.


Teresa Martínez, Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey: Unfortunately, there is no consistent security policy at federal or local level. Thus, we could only talk about isolated efforts to control the levels of violence in certain regions, which, in case they work, are mainly short-term. Many of these efforts depend on the deployment of the Army and the National Guard, confirming that authorities are not prioritizing the development of civilian institutional capacities at local level.

Jorge Peniche, Justicia Transicional México: The continued trend in the country’s “militarization” i.e., the Armed Forces involvement in many aspects of public life. Not only in terms of performing law enforcement duties but also covering aspects such as infrastructure or administrative tasks. Additionally, there have been some isolated efforts to pursue accountability for gross human rights violations (the presidential commissions for Ayotzinapa and the Dirty War), but overall 2022 showed us that, so far, there is no true option for pursuing justice in the country in terms of landmark situations.

2. What important development was overlooked or missed?

Victoria Dittmar, InSight Crime: Fentanyl consumption in Mexico is increasing, especially along border cities and northwestern states, and is already causing a worrying number of overdose deaths. However, we still do not know the magnitude of the issue, given that the federal and local governments lack the tools and technology to detect this substance, thus severely underreporting overdoses. In some cities in the north of the country, this is already resulting in a public health crisis, and it may expand to other cities if not adequately addressed.


Luis Herrán Ávila, University of New Mexico: Perhaps due to the partisan political noise around security policies, the erosion of the role and effectiveness of the CNDH has not received the attention it deserves. It used to be the case that the Commission’s recommendations would serve as a soft but potentially effective check on violations committed by security forces, but this is no longer the case. While there are advances in human rights policy (such as the creation of a Truth Commission, and the investigations on the Ayotzinapa case), there is a wide gap between government discourse and policy, and the CNDH could be playing a more active and productive role in these processes.


Teresa Martínez, Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey: Due to austerity measures or as measures inherited from previous administrations, the federal government has almost completely dismantled some security policies, for instance, the vetting processes for police forces or financial incentives for reinforcing municipal institutions. Although they were perfectible, those programs deserved another chance.


Jorge Peniche, Justicia Transicional México: I think the Mexican government lawsuit brought against US gun manufacturers was wrongly read. The real battle wasn’t at courts but in politics and diplomatic relations. I think this could be a game changer for the future in the bilateral relations. Although there were some important discussions in academia, civil society organizations in Mexico tended to overlook it or disregard it, missing the chance to take advantage of the potential momentum to push a broader agenda in this realm.

3. What will you be watching for in 2023?

Victoria Dittmar, InSight Crime: The impacts that the growth of the synthetic drug market, and its spread across the country, is having on societal dynamics, the environment, public health, and the development of criminal networks. I will also monitor how state policies adapt to these changes and how authorities now deal with a market that is more difficult to tackle and has deadlier consequences.


Luis Herrán Ávila, University of New Mexico: I will definitely be paying attention to the role that discourses around crime, impunity and corruption will be playing as the country prepares for the 2024 elections. In other parts of Latin America, conservative and right-wing parties have thrived on “tough on crime” platforms that then they capitalize by tying corruption and crime to Leftist parties and politicians. If this gets picked up in Mexico by political actors that then use it to gain traction in public opinion, in the longer run it can accelerate and deepen the trend toward further militarization and an exclusively punitive approach to public safety issues. This would be a tremendous setback after a decade and a half of multiple social and political actors contesting the "war on crime” policies set by the Calderón administration. 

Teresa Martínez, Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey: It is true that some measurements of violence show improvement (such as the rates of intentional homicides going slowly down). Still, there are regions in which specific manifestations of violence persist (the west side of the country or El Bajío) or are becoming more visible (Chiapas). This last point is essential if we focus on extortion and racketeering, which tend to expand to different regions and entrains significant levels of actual or potential violence.

Jorge Peniche, Justicia Transicional México: Politics versus gross human rights violations: The “policy aspects,” particularly between the US and Mexico, that shape the possibilities for pursuing accountability for gross human rights violations and grand corruption that occurred from 2006 to 2021.

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