Last week a purported video from the criminal group known as Jalisco Nueva Generación widely circulated in social media. The footage showed armored vehicles and heavily armed men wearing camouflage gear against a rural backdrop that in other circumstances could even be described as pastoral. As expected, a debate ensued including questions around the meaning of the video, who should be considered the recipient of the message, and what did it mean for Mexico’s criminal landscape.
Answering those questions with the information we have today and with some degree of certainty, in my opinion, is akin to reading the tea leaves. By now, we at least understand that the theatrics of criminal groups that can pass as strength and sophistication often belie poor or weak management structures or even incompetence. Take the case of the Zetas. Once described as Mexico’s most powerful criminal group originating in the state of Tamaulipas, we later learned they laundered money through horse racing competitions in the U.S. and renamed their horses such as “Tamaulipas Boy” and “Number One Cartel”. Rather on the nose considering the need to keep things covert.
While the alleged video garnered media attention, real challenges to Mexico’s many forms of violence happened off camera. First, we learned that the official number of missing people is 73,218. The states of Veracruz, Sinaloa, Colima, Guerrero, and Sonora account for 57 percent of clandestine graves that have been found and 9 states plus Mexico City account for more than 70 percent of missing people reports.
A few days later we learned that the National Women’s Institute (INMUJERES per its Spanish acronym) received a budget cut of 75 percent. Among other duties, Inmujeres is tasked with eliminating violence against women. Even considering this administration’s advertised austerity, the budget cut comes at a time when 11 women are murdered every day and 911 calls placed by women due to domestic violence have reached a historical maximum.
I understand the alleged video by Jalisco Nueva Generación can engross audiences who feel they are watching a live stream of “Narcos”, but if we are concerned about how to reduce violence, then the most recent and real alarming facts are the budget cut to Inmujeres and the 73,000 Mexicans who have not returned home.
The silver lining is that you can help. For instance, you can donate to Sabuesos Guerreras, a collective of mothers in Culiacán, Sinaloa searching for their missing loved ones whose drone was recently shot down. You can also back the final production stages of the documentary I Called for You in Silence that follows a group of mothers searching for their disappeared in El Fuerte, Sinaloa or join Amnesty International and Equis Justicia in a call for action against the budget cut of Inmujeres.
* Cecilia Farfán Méndez is head of Security Research Programs at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California San Diego (UCSD). Twitter: @farfan_cc