A “Politics of Silence” Towards Violence and Crime in Mexico

The inability of state governments to maintain order and secure the rights of individual citizens poses the greatest challenge to democracy in Mexico. If the state cannot guarantee public safety to it citizens, civil society looks to other means to secure their safety. In Mexico, the power of criminal organizations and drug cartels to institute their own rules of law and disrupt order challenges the legitimacy of the government to maintain its power. Data on the annual drug-related homicides in Mexico varies based on the source but according to Schedler the number in 2012 was around 14,000 has gone down since previous years, remains at a horrific level nonetheless (16) . However, this number does not include people who may have been “disappeared” by either police forces or drug cartels nor does it account for the rumored “score-settling” that police forces inflict on suspected criminals.

The criminal activities of sub-state organizations endemic to Mexico is not limited to drug trafficking as these groups have diversified their tactics into large scale kidnapping, human trafficking, and extortion, including the “torture and murder of security officials and assaults on police stations” (Schedler 7). The goal of establishing public safety might be more attainable, if it weren’t for the systemic levels of corruption that plague every level of the state. Everyone from police officers to politicians to judges have been rumored (and sometimes known) to receive bribes or be blackmailed by criminal organizations. As a result Citizens are left with little power to protect themselves from the violence or pursue legal reparations for injustices which the war between the military and the cartel inflict upon their communities.

While in 2008 certain states introduced constitutional amendments that would provide “public trials with oral testimony and the presumption of innocence”—provisional rights taken for granted in places like the United States—Mexico has a long way to go in order to have these reforms work to ensure democracy and stability (Kesselman). Another concerning development is the federal government’s policy agenda on tackling crime—or the lack there of. What Schedler refers to as a “politics of silence”, where the new government has taken issues of violence and crime off the public agenda in order to focus on “positive reform” is very concerning. This suggests either that the government might be greatly influenced by criminal organizations or that they have given up real efforts to combat the problem. The most recent case of the 43 disappeared students exemplifies the corruption that plagues Mexico’s institutions and the public distrust of even the highest levels of authority in the country. Below is a link to a short documentary about the abductions and the search for the students’ whereabouts.

*Warning: it may be graphic at parts*


Works Consulted:

Kesselman Krieger and Joeseph, Introduction to Comparative Politics, ed. 7, pp. 403-446.

Schedler, Andreas, “The Criminal Subversion of Mexican Democracy”, Journal of Democracy, vol. 25, 2014.


5 thoughts on “A “Politics of Silence” Towards Violence and Crime in Mexico

  1. The missing students kicked off nation-wide protests. Good example of problems with rule of law in Mexico.

  2. I agree, Mexico has become a violent democracy because of all the corruption in the government. Many outsiders believe that Mexico has a stable democracy because they have what other democratic countries have, such as “free’ elections and debates, but they do not realize that the drug cartels and the gangs are the puppeteers of the government. “There is no dictatorship, and there is no anti system party or insurgency battling to conquer state power. Yet there is internal warfare waged by criminal organizations” (Schedler, 10). There is no legitimate law enforcers because “drug cartels are behind the majority of the violence, but local political authorities and police forces appear to be involved in some cases, creating an environment where journalists so not know where threats are coming from or how to avoid the violence” (12). Mexican culture has become a culture of silence where the media is the fourth source of power, because they are influenced by these criminal organizations which propagate what they want to the citizens.

  3. While I agree with the fact that drug cartels have a strong influence in the Mexican government, I think it is important to note the changes Mexico’s government has gone through over the past century. From the 1920’s until now, we have seen a huge increase in democratic institutions.Not only have we seen an increase in the basic electoral institutions, but Mexico has included some of Dahl’s guarantees as well. While obviously Mexico cannot be defined as having the procedural definition of democracy, it has started to shift to a more procedural ideology. Aome of the ways the government has become more democratic is through party competition, more access to information as technology has increased and different media sources have been opened up to each party, and allowing the people of Mexico to speak freely. Although there have been protests that have been broken up by police forces, there has been a slow but strong start in creating a more stable democratic system in Mexico.

    However, things like the war on drugs in Mexico has started to hinder the development of democracy. Because these different drug groups do hold so much power in the government, some of these democratic institutions have become hazy as a result. Hopefully Mexico’s government and police force will be able to gain more control over the drug trade in the next few years and allow the growth of freedom and democracy in Mexico to continue.

  4. Although I agree that the government in Mexico has become more democratic because of increased access to information and exposure to different media sources, I disagree with the idea that this allows the people of Mexico to speak freely. In the Journal of Democracy, it mentions that “analysts now habitually describe the country as one of the most dangerous places in the world for reporters and media personnel” (Schedler 12 ). It is also stated that “between 2007 and 2012, at least 74 journalists and media-support workers were killed” (Schedler 12 ). Not only are these media workers being killed, but there are other acts of violence being aimed towards them as well. For example, “acts of intimidation, physical assault, forced abductions, the seizure of entire newspaper or magazine press runs, and even attacks on media buildings with hand grenades and machine guns” have affected the public’s ability to speak freely in the media (Schedler 12 ). Although people officially have the right to speak freely in the media, they are strongly deterred because of the threat of violence against them.

  5. Comment: Emelie has asked me to take a look at her class’ blog.
    The paper gives the true picture of what is going on underneath of the surface. Now, we understand the reason why the country’s democracy is in a mess.

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