How lack of possibilities and rising mistrust fuel violence in Michoacan

The cycle of crime in Michoacán is maintained by several factors, including the territorial struggle between illegal groups there, a growing distrust of authorities and self-defense groups, a lack of alternatives for youth development, and the normalization of violence.

How lack of possibilities and rising mistrust fuel violence in Michoacan
The rule of law must be recovered to achieve social peace. Photo by Ronald Felton / Unsplash

The territorial dispute of illegal groups in Michoacán, the growing distrust in authorities and self-defense groups, the lack of development opportunities for young people, and the normalization of violence, maintain the growing cycle of crime in the state, according to the researcher of the Academic Unit of Regional Studies of the UNAM, Rubén Darío Ramírez Sánchez.

From a social perspective, the academic pointed out that there are multiple causes for which the population faces different aggressions; a process that began with the dismantling of the state and institutions that, in some way, contained poverty and generated aspirations that the neoliberal model did not materialize.

In his talk "The importance of the scientific study of violence: the case of Michoacán", the sociologist said that since the 1980s, after the political opening, the alternation of political parties generated "gaps" where illegal groups were inserted.

The academic of the National School of Higher Education in Leon, UNAM. "The fertile ground is social inequality." The neoliberal government did not give people's aspirations a chance to be fulfilled; on the contrary, the welfare state was dismantled and this led many people to be at the mercy of the possibilities that were in front of them, and one of them is the illegal groups."

The expert in rural studies highlighted that the balance of the growing violence in the state is high since from 2000 to 2022, 429,527 intentional homicides have been registered, a figure that when broken down by six-year term, shows that there is a kind of permanent expansion of violence: with Vicente Fox, 74,389; Felipe Calderón, 103,357; with Enrique Peña Nieto, 117,781; and so far in the current administration, 134,000.

However, in Michoacán, the figure is higher. The Ministry of Public Security acknowledged that from 2015 to 2020, there were 12 thousand 751 intentional homicides in this entity; 100 thousand people have been displaced from their homes; and femicides have increased with the murder of 873 women, leaving 150 children orphaned.

"The level of expansion and aggravation (of violence) generates that the entity is above the national average, and this has happened in the last eight years. Added to this are the massacres when more than three people are deprived of their lives. In 2020 there were 55 in Michoacán, in 2021 there were 63, and so far in 2022 there are 16; this implies that violence is diversifying," described Ramírez Sánchez.

The problem does not remain only at the state level since this also generated inflationary processes where the avocado exceeded 100 pesos and the lemon was worth 80 pesos due to the control of the territories.

Added to these problems is the evident "political-electoral interest" of these groups. "In the last election, the Electoral Tribunal of the Judiciary of the Federation annulled four municipalities where the sentence said it was due to the interference of criminal groups, something that had never happened in the country," said the specialist in violence and transition to democracy.

When the illegal groups set up shop, a fight over territory started. This has led to cycles of violence that have gotten worse over time instead of better.

Michoacan is one of the states with borders to states with higher rates of violence-Jalisco, Guanajuato, Guerrero, and Colima-and that leads to a very strong dispute over the borders, which are scenarios of a dispute over drug trafficking; there is also the fact that the regions that are very strong economic enclaves are areas of dispute, which explains why the most violent regions of the country are Zamora, Morelia, and Uruapan.

This implies that there is a dispute over the port of Lazaro Cardenas, where inputs from Asia arrive for the production of synthetic drugs. Therefore, violence is always in a dispute over economic activity and space.

The researcher recalled that in 2011 and 2012, illegal groups controlled 80 of the 113 municipalities (a documented situation) when it was revealed that there was co-optation of the state, and those who decided on municipal life were the criminal groups. So there is talk of a parallel state.

Faced with this situation, self-defense groups, or groups formed initially by avocado growers and other agricultural producers, appeared in the region to confront organized crime; they achieved significant coverage in almost all of Michoacan territory.

The main problem is that they suffered infiltrations, had internal fractures due to leadership, and faced state repression until they became rural guards.

"In 2014, the Federal Government created a structure to bureaucratize it and established the Commission for Security and Integral Development in the State of Michoacán, headed by Alfredo Castillo, who had a rather dubious background, and his task was to dismantle the self-defense groups through the rural guards. What happened? Many joined the guards, others returned to their previous activities, and it is believed that many joined the ranks of the cartels," said Ramirez Sanchez.

Due to this situation, the researcher considered it necessary to recover the rule of law because, without it, there is no social peace. If responsibility is not assumed, territorial hegemony is not recovered and the groups continue to confront each other, the situation will continue to increase. In addition, opportunities must be generated for young people before they consider drug trafficking as their best life option.