By Sergio Loera
Many people talk about violence in Mexico and along the US-Mexico border, and tend to attribute much of that violence to criminal organizations and drugs. Most people assume that the violence is everywhere in Mexico, and simply being in any part of this country puts you in immediate danger.
Dr. Viridiana Rios, a research fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington D.C., has spent a long time studying and understanding the violence and corruption that takes place in Mexico. During her November 9 presentation at Texas A&M International University, during the IBC Speaker Series, she isolated both of these problems and outlined their true nature and origin, presenting several steps that can be implemented, and some that are already being taken to resolve the issues.
The idea that violence is everywhere in Mexico is largely erroneous, Dr. Rios demonstrated in some graphs that she and her colleagues developed that most of the moderate and severe violence is concentrated in specific parts of country. She also noted that there are parts that are much safer than most of the major cities in the US. When explaining why there was a dramatic increase in violence she addressed the issue of former Mexican president Felipe Calderon declaring a war on the drug cartels and organized crime. The most widely believed reason for the increase is not necessarily the cause and according to Dr. Rios’ graphs and research findings, there was already a steady increase in crime rates since before the former president declared war on criminal organizations; this was simply exacerbated by his actions.
The other major issue is corruption in the government and police forces. Most of what is thought by many to be something that is normal and to be expected are forms of corruption, such as accepting bribes, and paying to avoid having to go through all of the legal channels and hassle to obtain permits and licenses, all of this in addition of bribing city, state and federal officials for favors, and police officers to avoid tickets or a trip to a jail.
Dr. Rios presented another graph that showed the percentage of people that believe corruption takes place in certain situations or places. She did emphasize that the graph was a representation of the perception of corruption and not actual instances of it. She mentioned that the problem with those numbers is that it is possible that people perceive corruption more often than not, and when it truly occurs it is very seldom reported by people who actually admit to having taken a bribe or engaged in any other kind of corruption. When talking about the problem with the perception of corruption, she mentioned that when a law enforcement agency was asked about why they don’t communicate or coordinate well with other agencies, most would say that it was because they believe that the other agency is corrupt and will not work properly with them.
One of the solutions she presented was just that, for law enforcement and government officials to work together, communicate and coordinate to battle violence and corruption in an effective manner. Civil society was another major player when she was talking about solutions.
Educating people about corruption and violence and how it really affects people and how to help stop it was a point that she mentioned explaining that if more people understand then they will be able to help stop it.
She also mentioned how establishing new anti-corruption legislation was beginning to help because in most states there was no actual crime known as corruption in their laws. Pressuring states to pass the legislation would help to provide a legal method of weeding out and punishing corruption.
If followed, all of those recommendations presented by Dr. Rios could ultimately lead to the reduction and elimination of violence and corruption in Mexico.