This is part two (part one is here) of information provided in a report done by the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) in June of last year. This part is about the drug violence issue.
The same geographic proximity that makes Mexico an attractive investment destination also makes the country highly desirable for drug trafficking. Sharing over 2,000 miles of border with the U.S., Mexico serves as an ideal transit route. Because Mexico has historically been a major supplier of cannabis and heroin, drug traffickers could tap into a well-developed infrastructure to import and push cocaine through the pipeline. It is estimated that approximately 70% of illegal drugs flowing into the U.S. cross at the Mexico-U.S. border.
President Calderón has taken measures to confront the cartels head on. He ordered over 6,000 federal troops into his home state of Michoacán in an effort to put an end to the drug violence. Since then the pressure has been steadily ratcheted up to the point that there are now approximately 45,000 military personnel along with elements from the federal and state police involved in these operations.
Sadly, these efforts have led to a number of casualties. Thousands of cartel members have been killed in clashes with government forces. As cartel leaders have been killed or incarcerated, rival groups have wages a fierce war to capture territory. Many of the most heavily publicized homicides are the result of gang-on-gang confrontations.
However, it is important to put these deaths in context to understand how they impact daily life in Mexico.
And especially for tourists visiting the popular tourists areas, such as Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit.
Since early 2006, an estimated 23,000 people have died in connection with narcotics trafficking. About 90% of those killed were cartel members. Approximately 7% of the victims were soldiers, police or other government agents who lost their lives in the line of duty. Roughly 3% of the deaths involve innocent bystanders. Although any civilian loss is unacceptable, statistically speaking, in a country with over 110 million inhabitants, the risk of becoming a victim of drug violence is extremely small. In addition, the confrontations are concentrated in relatively few regions with the country.
So 3% of the deaths involved innocent bystanders and the overall majority of this 3% took place in regions a long ways from Puerto Vallarta.
These areas tend to be along the drug trafficking corridors including the border cities of Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, Ciudad Juárez and Tijuana. To be sure, residents of these communities have experienced significant disruptions in their day-to-day lives. Bars and restaurants have been especially hard hit. However, the vast majority of the country’s population is removed from the criminal activity. A fair analogy would be the inner city violence related to the U.S. crack cocaine trade in the early 90’s. For those residents living in parts of Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, the situation was disruptive and dangerous. However, it did not have a significant impact on U.S. life outside the inner city.
According to the United Nations, Mexico’s homicide rate of 11.6 per 100,000 residents, while unacceptably high is still lower than that of many other countries such as: Brazil, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Jamaica, Russia, South Africa, Venezuela and all Central America, except Costa Rica. In fact, it is lower than the murder rate in Mexico itself in the early 1990’s. On a city-by-city basis, the homicide rate of 6 per 100,000 residents in the northern industrial city of Monterrey is much lower than that of U.S. cities such as Washington, D.C. at 31.4, Detroit at 33.8 and New Orleans at 90.