Chaos in Mexico: How Did We Get Here?


Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto

In the past few days since news broke that members of the Guerreros Unidos gang brutally murdered the 43 missing students in the Mexican state of Guerrero, protests have enveloped the country. Until September, Mexico’s Peña Nieto was making front-page news for the country’s economic potential; now, despite the eleven different broad-reaching reforms passed under his leadership, many are now calling for his resignation.

How did we get here?

In fact, Peña Nieto has done an expert job in reorganizing and rebuilding the economy in the aftermath of last year’s economic slowdown. The Mexican Institute of Competitiveness, for instance, has predicted that his energy reform alone will create 300,000 new jobs per year in coming years. And while GDP growth slumped last year to 1.1%, the government currently anticipates 2.7% growth in 2014. The World Bank expects the country to achieve a full economic recovery in 2015 with 3.5% growth. With these gains in the offing, Mexico analysts are optimistic about the country’s future.

But the president has also fundamentally misevaluated how these economic policies will improve Mexican security. By focusing attention almost wholly on economic issues, he and his administration have made the implicit claim that the way to a safe Mexico is a wealthy Mexico. Yet recent data shows that the problem will not disappear of its own accord or through the promise of longer-term economic gains. Crime jumped by 50% between 2011 and 2013, and, in spite of the country’s economic successes, the national homicide rate still sits at over three times the world average. In a 2012 Latinobarómetro study, 40% of Mexicans reported that they or a family member had been a victim of a crime in the last year. At the same time, structural analyses of the president’s approach to Mexico’s security problems also demonstrate its inherent flaws.

Security may not have topped Peña Nieto’s agenda in the first two years of his presidency. But, with the political chaos of the last month, it certainly will in his final four years. This is good for Mexico and its future.