Drug-War Homicides Spiking Under Mexican President Peña Nieto

Mexico-based Private Security Firm’s Intelligence Shows Big Jump in Murders, Political Assassinations Since December 2012

The administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has made it a priority to divert the media’s focus from the drug war and toward his economic efforts to bring the Latin American nation in closer alignment with the international corporate agenda of assuring a cheap supply labor and nearly risk-free return on investment.

So he is much more eager to talk about the benefits of a gradual privatization of PEMEX, Mexico’s state-owned energy company, than he is to discuss the realities of the ongoing, bloody drug war that was ramped up by his predecessor in Los Pinos, former Mexican President Felipe Calderón.

Toward that end, Peña Nieto has put a halt to the parade of TV-camera narco-villain perp walks popularized by Calderón and promised to address the street-level violence of the drug war as opposed to employing the military in large numbers to hunt down criminal-organization leaders.

Given Peña Nieto’s radical policy departure from the Calderon administration’s all-out war on the “cartels,” and his imperative of putting corporate trade and commerce at the tip of his policy sword, it is crucial that Peña Nieto demonstrate early success in reducing the visible violence of the drug war — which produced some 120,000 homicides in Mexico over the course of the six years Calderón held office.

And so it was no surprise to those following the drug war when earlier this month Peña Nieto’s government announced that drug-war related murders had dropped by 17 percent between Dec. 1, 2012, when Peña Nieto took office, and the end of March 2013  — compared with the same period a year earlier.

Likewise, it was not surprising to see the major commercial media in both the US and Mexico trumpet that success with only surface-level analysis, since much of the commercial media has been firmly planted on the Peña Nieto PR bandwagon since he took office. A recent report from the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin describes that media landscape:

A report from the Media Agreement Observatory has revealed that Mexican media has notably reduced its coverage of organized crime since the inauguration of Enrique Peña Nieto as president in December.

Words like "murder, organized crime and narcotrafficking" appeared much less frequently (50%) in Mexico City's media between December [2012] and February [2013] compared to the previous three months.  On TV, the word "murder" appeared 70% less frequently, and "narcotrafficking" appeared 44% less frequently, reported the Campaign for Liberty of Expression.

But there is another side to this story, which is based on facts, not government-funded propaganda. And the picture revealed in that unvarnished version of reality is not quite so in line with Peña Nieto’s talking points.

Harary Security Consulting International is one of the top private security and intelligence-gathering firms in Mexico. Harary Security, based in Mexico City, has been serving corporate clients, heads of state and wealthy individuals since 1997. Despite the negative image such private security firms have among those opposed to the drug war, the fact is that they represent the very clients who want to know the truth of what is really happening in the drug war so that the right measures can be implemented to secure their lives and assets.

Liberty International Underwriters, an arm of insurance giant Liberty Mutual Group, provides the following bio background on Harary Security’s president, Jack M. Harary:

A fluent Spanish speaker, Jack has been working in the security field for nearly 25 years and has experience of representing a globally-recognized insurance company for crisis and kidnapping services in Mexico. He has extensive experience working in this field with clients including Coca-Cola and Colgate-Palmolive. Jack has provided executive protection services to President Felipe Calderón. He currently serves as a local security expert for CNN and Fox News and has also served for 3 years as the Chairman of the Security Committee to the American Chamber of Commerce Mexico.

The state of the drug war described by Harary Security in the monthly briefings it provides to its clientele is quite different from the picture now being advanced in much of the US and Mexican media, which have been essentially carrying water for the Peña Nieto administration and its PR machine.

“There were at least 1,025 homicides directly related to organize crime in March [2013]. This relatively high number is a continuation of a trend that emerged during the first month of Peña Nieto’s term in which the number of homicides related to organized crime began to rise to levels not seen since early 2012,” Harary Security’s report to clients for March 2013 states. “...Therefore, with regard to stemming the violence associated with organized crime, there appears to have been no progress since Peña Nieto took office.”

In fact, Harary Security reports that drug-war homicides in each of the four months that Peña Neito has been in office (December 2012 through March 2013) have exceeded the monthly murder tally posted for 10 of the final 11 months of Calderon’s presidential term. [See chart.]

Clearly, despite the media hype, the drug war, as measured by homicides, has so far become more violent under Peña Nieto’s reign to date.

Troubling Trends

Among the other interesting facts advanced in the Harary Security reports covering Peña Nieto’s first four months in office are the following:

• Only 24 major criminal-organization leaders were apprehended or killed between December 2012 and the end of March 2013, compared with 68 meeting that fate from September through November 2012 while Calderon was still in office.

“Based on a variety of measures it is difficult to declare that Mexican authorities were able to make any significant progress against organized crime in most areas of the country during March,” Harary Security states in its most recent report to clients. “For example, there was a decline in the total number of individuals arrested on charges relating to organized crime. Also, continuing a pattern that emerged in December 2012 [when Peña Nieto took office], authorities reported the arrest of an inordinately small number of cartel leaders in March. Only four regional cartel leaders were apprehended. ...This low number of arrests represents a significant decline when compared to most months between 2010 and 2012.”

• Another trend with obvious political implications pointed out by Harary Security is in the area of what it calls “attacks against governmental authorities.” According to its security reports to clients, between October 2012 and the end of March 2013, there was a total of 516 attacks on government authorities — a significant jump from prior months in 2012. The trend prompted Harary Security to include this bit of analysis in its report to clients for February 2013:

There was a significant surge in attacks on government authorities. Most notable was the increased number of ambushes on law enforcement personnel. Also, there has been a steady increase in the number of assassinations of government officials (mostly elected) since October [2012]. With regard to assassinations, a distinct and disturbing pattern appears to be emerging. The vast majority of the political figures assassinated in the last four months have been members of the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN), Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), or other minor [political] parties. In other words, the victims have been mostly members of parties other than the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).

This pattern emerged [in] early fall [2012 and] has persisted even after the inauguration of Peña Nieto in December. While it is not yet possible to verify the causes of this pattern, one might conjecture that local criminal groups are assuming there will be less effort put forth by the PRI-dominated federal authorities to investigate these crimes. To be clear, PRI officials have not been immune to attacks and several were killed in each of the last several months.

Another analysis track might point out that the line between the “local criminal groups” and the political parties in power is quite thin, if it exists at all, so that when power shifts in a major way in Mexico, it is likely the targets of the bullets will as well.

PR Machine

Harary Security’s prognosis for the Peña Nieto administration on the drug-war front — despite his government’s rhetoric to the contrary — is not rosy.

“It is apparent that any potential improvements in the security situation as a result of policy changes by the Peña Nieto administration will not be noticed anytime soon,” Harary Security’s client report for March 2013 states. “Furthermore, it will likely be quite difficult for his administration to make a significant change in the level of violence and organized crime afflicting Mexico.”

But even if you buy Harary Security’s prediction, don’t expect the PR push by Peña Nieto to slow down anytime soon.

Last July, Narco News reported that then President-elect Peña Nieto had hired Washington, DC-based public relations firm Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter & Associates to help him spread positive propaganda about his new administration and its plans for Mexico. CLSA is the same US image-building firm that was retained in the fall of 2009 by Honduran usurpers led by then “de facto” President Roberto Micheletti in the wake of their successful coup d'état in that Central American country.

As of December of 2012, CLSA was still working for Pena Nieto, according to a filing the firm made that month under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). CLSA’s next filing under FAR is due by June of this year.

A close reading of that FARA filing shows a list of all the contacts made from July to November 2012 by CLS&A on behalf of Peña Nieto as part of the PR firm’s mission to solicit positive press from influencial US media outlets. All of the majors for setting the news agenda in the US show up on the list of media outlets and think tanks contacted by CLSA on behalf of Pena Nieto, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, The Atlantic, Time, the Brookings Institution and the Wilson Center, among others.

That’s how consent is manufactured in the media — with a smile, a slick suit, a greased palm — and a callous indifference to the blood on the ground.

Stay tuned.....

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