Tuesday, March 21, 2006

THE MURDERS OF JUAREZ WOMEN: LOOKING BEYOND THE STATISTICS

Some Mexican government officials are still trying to quell foreign rancor over the continued murders of women in the biggest border city, Ciudad Juarez. Last month, statistics were released that, over the same decade long period, there were more female homicides in Toluca, than in Ciudad Juarez. Sometimes you just know that the numbers can't be right. Toluca is much smaller, mroe stable, and more prosperous. Indeed, on the scale of recreation being high risk / high excitement, Toluca and Juarez would occupy the opposite ends of the spectrum. Toluca is one of the most family-oriented, sober, and somewhat boring places in all of the Republic, while Ciudad Juarez would only compete with Acapulco and Tijuana for the title of extreme excitement/risk. Bottom line: those numbers coming out of Toluca must represent the entire state of Mexico (of which Toluca is the capital) and probably also include high population, high poverty, high instability areas such as the slums around Mexico City (e.g., Ecatepec, Nezahualcoyotl).

Now there are some new comparison numbers, clarifying the figures by state and city. During 2005 there were 32 reported female homicides in Ciudad Juarez, but 141 in Acapulco. These cities are comparable in size (maybe with Juarez a little more populous) and both with well earned reputations for nightlife and drug wars.
I hope that the Mexican government(s federal, state, and munipipal) put the proper spin on these numbers. The conclusion is not "Juarez has no significant problem" but "other Mexican cities have the same problem of femicide" (though they have been slow to acknowledge the fact).

Juarez must be seen as the canary in the mine shaft. It came to international attention because of its proximity to the U.S., the presence of U.S. companies as maquiladoras, and the unexplained nature of so many of the disappearances (perhaps suggesting a serial killer or killers).

Perhaps Acapulco's murders have not gotten onto the radar screen because few were mysterious (with the exception of the serial prostitute killings mentioned last July). Most seem to follow the age old pattern of domestic violence.

It is laudable that all levels of government have sprung into action over the dozen or so politically related male homicides here in Acapulco last year, but lamentable that twelve times that number of female homicides did not trigger a similar response (perhaps, because those killings do not make the nightly news broadcasts in Cincinnati).

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