The typical reaction of government in Mexico when a complex and neglected problem becomes even more complicated by the government’s own indifference is to change the law. Lawmakers have just unveiled a new bill raising from 60 to 65 years the mandatory jail time for those who kill a woman because of her gender (a crime known as femicide).
This is a useless gesture. Murderers do not change their behavior when they realize they could face 5 more years in prison. This phenomenon is known as ‘criminal populism’. And it is pure propaganda.
It is also common to see that, if a crime becomes a big scandal in Mexico, suddenly it seems as we have an effective police force. The alleged murderers of Fatima -the 7-year-old girl who was found murdered earlier this month- were arrested 48 hours after the CCTV videos were made public. Why can’t authorities react with that effectiveness when a mother reports her daughter as missing and make public CCTV videos before she is found death?
These swift reaction does not alter the fact that many other girls and women are still being killed. The vast majority will remain anonymous and nobody will bother looking for their killers.
The country needs a deep reform of the administration of justice and prosecutorial processes. A Prosecutor’s Office specializing in femicide could work, but only with enough resources along with a trained, well-paid and honest staff in addition of having a professional career socially respected.
Blaming “economic neoliberalism” for crimes such as Fatima’s is a tactical strategy to which AMLO repeatedly uses to return to his key messages. Blaming economic neoliberalism for a murder in Mexico City is even more absurd. The city has been governed by the Mexican left since 1997. The bulk of the decisions that affect people’s lives are the responsibility of the local government. What failed here in the crime against Fatima was the local government. After 23 years in power, the left has made great laws, but has not built institutions that work to protect girls and women.
Will AMLO use part of his political capital to promote a strategy that significantly lowers not homicide numbers in general but femicides? I doubt it. It is not in his agenda. Hopefully Mexico City mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, understands that right now it’s time to show she is a different kind of politician and spearheads the changes necessary so that we never cry another Fatima again.
* Carlos Elizondo Mayer-Serra is professor at the School of Government and Public Transformation at Tec de Monterrey, in Mexico City. A Spanish version of this Op-Ed appeared first in Reforma’s newspaper print edition. Twitter: @carloselizondom