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Tenth Annual U.S.-Mexico Security Conference Part 2
The Wilson Center's Mexico Institute hosted its Tenth Annual U.S.-Mexico Security Conference on January 25th and February 1st. During the conference, experts from Mexico and the U.S. provided a diagnosis of the security challenges facing Mexico, including those with bilateral implications; shared research and analysis on current trends; and presented novel policy options to ameliorate the toll on civilian wellbeing and democratic institutions. This year's virtual conference featured a series of panel discussions, the second set of which was livestreamed and subsequently published here.
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From January to November 2021, 1.87 million crimes were committed in Mexico – about 560 more crimes per day than in 2020 – according to Mexico’s National Public Security System's Executive Secretariat. The 2021 delinquency rate represents a 2% increase from 2018 levels, a 2% decrease from 2019 levels, and a 10.9% increase from 2020 levels (when pandemic-related lockdowns initially drove criminality levels down). These trends suggest that Mexico’s criminal momentum has subsided – though it has not reversed course – under the López Obrador Administration. While overall crime rates have plateaued over the past three years, eleven of the fifteen federal crime categories suffered surges between 2019 (the last pre-pandemic year) and 2021. While kidnapping for ransom decreased by 50% and homicide by 4% in that timespan, corruption of minors rose by 16%, human trafficking 10%, human trafficking of minors 7%, extortion 3%, and other crimes with intent to cause bodily harm 47%. As well, a record 922 women were victims of femicide in 2021, representing a 5% increase from 2019, and abduction with the intent of sexual assault grew by 22%, demonstrating an increase in gender-based violence.
Despite this stagnation, Mexico continues to expand its Armed Forces, including by injecting resources into the growing National Guard. Aside from conducting security operations, including drug seizures and apprehensions, the military now manages disaster relief efforts, distributes medications, and oversees major infrastructure projects nationwide. Such expansions in the military’s size and duties call into question its institutional and technical capacity to prevent and curtail – not just respond – to violence nationwide. As drug trafficking organizations have reinvigorated their overt displays of violence – from shooting rampages in Culiacán and around Cancún to hanging mutilated bodies from bridges in Zacatecas – the government has taken a reactive posture, surging troops in response to violence.
Although the security panorama on the ground may look bleak for 2022 – which has already tallied over 600 homicides – renewed bilateral commitments to address the Mexican crisis offer some room for optimism for both countries. In the United States, increasing fentanyl-related deaths place a premium on addressing this issue collaboratively and effectively. Meanwhile, Mexico could benefit from an overall reduction in violence, criminality, and disregard for the rule of law. To that end, the Mexican government has mobilized to curb illicit weapons flows from the U.S., which sustain and facilitate violence in Mexico.
Security Conference Part 1 & Resource PageView All
Professor and Graduate Director, Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of San Diego; Director, "Justice in Mexico" Project
Mexico Institute Global Fellow; Assistant Professor of Latin American History at George Washington University
María Teresa Martínez Trujillo
Ricardo Márquez Blas
The Mexico Institute seeks to improve understanding, communication, and cooperation between Mexico and the United States by promoting original research, encouraging public discussion, and proposing policy options for enhancing the bilateral relationship. A binational Advisory Board, chaired by Luis Téllez and Earl Anthony Wayne, oversees the work of the Mexico Institute. Read more
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