Mexico: femicides continue as “drug war” turns 40

More than 65 women have been murdered so far this year in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo León, according to the Mexican daily La Jornada. The victims included pregnant women and nine underage girls; the majority had been sexually abused before they were killed, and some had been tortured. Several of the corpses were dismembered. Northern Mexico is especially affected by drug-related violence, much of it from wars between drug cartels that have intensified since President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa began militarizing the fight against traffickers in December 2006. Mexican analysts say this “drug war” fuels violence against women in the region.

“Women’s bodies are plunder in this war,” Alicia Leal, the president of the Monterrey-based women’s shelter Peaceful Alternatives, told La Jornada, with women being used for sexual exploitation, to frighten rivals and to threaten and hurt enemies. But Leal emphasized that the killings are also femicides—misogynistic murders. These killings “have a gender component,” Leal said. “In the majority of these deaths there is rape, there is mutilation of a sexual type. This is gender violence, period. Even if it suits the government to treat it as something generalized, the reality is different.” Leal and other Mexican feminists are calling for the criminal code to categorize femicide as a special crime. (LJ, June 12)

Resistance to the US strategy of dealing with drug problems through police and military operations continues to grow both in Mexico and in the US. The 40th anniversary of the declaration of a “war on drugs” by then-US president Richard Nixon (1969-1974) on June 17 provided opponents of the policy with an occasion to express their criticisms. They noted that after costing as much as a trillion dollars and causing millions of arrests, the US government’s “drug war” has had a minimal effect on drug use. Some 20-25 million people now use illegal drugs in the US, 10 million more than in 1970, although the government says the percentage of drug users in the population has come down some since the late 1970s, when US drug use was at its peak.

La Jornada notes that the person in charge of researching drug addiction for the US government is a Mexican-born neuroscientist and the great-granddaughter of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. Dr. Nora D. Volkow, who heads the National Institute on Drug Abuse, grew up in the Trotsky Museum in Coyoacán, a borough of Mexico City. She favors treating addiction as a medical problem rather than a crime. (LJ, June 17: New York Times, June 13)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 19.

See our last post on Mexico’s narco wars.