The murder of two Jesuit priests and a tourist guide in the Catholic temple of Cerocahui, a small community located in the Sierra Tarahumara, has caused a wave of indignation and repudiation. The religious were trying to help a man who entered the church in search of refuge. Their armed pursuers, without modesty or any consideration, fired at the three.
The Society of Jesus in Mexico condemned the murders and demanded justice. “These are not isolated events. The Sierra Tarahumara, like other regions of the country, faces conditions of violence and neglect that have not been reversed,” he said, according to the Wall Street Journal report.
The Episcopal Conference of Mexico went even further. He denounced that crime “has taken over the streets, neighborhoods and entire towns, as well as roads and highways.” The violence that criminals exercise has reached “inhuman cruelty levels, in executions and massacres that have made our country one of the most insecure and violent in the world.”
The bishops of the Catholic Church made an appeal to the federal government. “It is time to review the security strategies that are failing,” they told President López Obrador. It is time to listen to all the voices that call for a change in security policies. “We believe that it is not useful to deny reality or to blame past times for what we have to solve now,” they concluded.
President López Obrador’s response came immediately. “We are not going to change the strategy,” said the Tabascan politician. “Those who must recognize that they were wrong and that mistakes in politics are like crimes, in the best of cases, are our adversaries,” he demanded.
The president of Mexico declared himself satisfied with the results of his security strategy. “We arrived and began to contain. It cost us a lot to stop the increase in homicides.” The main achievement of his government so far is to stop the upward trend in murders, executions and massacres. “Yes, progress has been made and we are going to advance further,” he affirmed proudly.
But “stopping the increase in homicides” is equivalent to keeping criminal violence at the crest of the wave that formed in the last years of Peña Nieto’s six-year term. The number of intentional homicides in the current government reached 121,642 last May. With this, in just three and a half years, it has exceeded the total number of murders during the entire six-year term of Felipe Calderón.
Even if it manages to avoid a rebound in the growth rate, with the current trend, the López Obrador government is on track to exceed the 156,437 intentional homicides registered during Peña Nieto’s six-year term.
None of this resembles what the Tabasco politician promised in his campaign for the presidency. “I am going to achieve peace, that is my commitment,” he said in January 2018 before 2,000 people gathered at a rally in Izamal, Yucatán. “In the middle of the six-year term there will be no war,” he specified to those present.
More recently, in April 2019, already as President of the Republic, López Obrador reiterated the promise. “In six months there will be results in security,” he said in Minatitlán, Veracruz, where 13 people had been killed in an attack by organized crime. In January 2020 he corrected: the results in terms of security would be seen until the end of that year.
The response to the Tarahumara crime shows a government overwhelmed by reality. Their simplistic solutions to the complex problem of criminal violence failed. But it has nothing to offer but propaganda.
*Professor at CIDE.
Dr. Benito Nacif is a professor in the Political Studies Division of the Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE). He was Electoral Counselor of the National Electoral Institute (INE) from 2014 to 2020 and of the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) from 2008 to 2014.
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