In the last year there has been a greater presence of violent events in the public spaces of daily life in Jalisco. The most recent, and the one with greatest news coverage, occurred in Plaza Galerias, where information reflects the repeated use of weapons at the local level and the presence of heavily armed subjects in public places compromising the safety of the general population.
This is what we now know about the events in Plaza Galerías: the murder of Martín Arzola Ortega, aka El 53, the supposed target of Bryan Alexander, an alleged 17-year-old hitman, who was also killed at that time.
The young man entered the restaurant and went directly for the Jalisco New Generation Cartel hitman boss and shot him in the head. Besides the official versions that now indicate the act as part of an ongoing conflict between criminal groups, what is evident is the number of armed people in a public space as Bryan Alexander was killed, according to testimones from a third party at the scene, the bodyguard of the governor of Nayarit’s wife
“This bloody episode, one more among thousands that have occurred in the country for years, leaves several reflections to consider. The first is that there is a real danger of death for thousands of people in Mexico who are neither owed it nor fear it, but it can easily happen to them any moment. ”
The above quote was written on Monday, August 5th by the writer Antonio Ortuño in his El País column where he emphasizes that these incidents occur far away from the official rhetoric of the “dangerous places” in which people find themselves when they are victims of violence What happened, he says, took place in a shopping center “hamburger shop” in broad daylight and not in a “seedy nightclub.”
Among the data collected by Jalisco and Nayarit authorities, the balance was two dead and six injured by firearms. However, it was not the only violent event. A few kilometers away, in a plaza parking between Avenida Patria and Manuel Clouthier, an attempted thief was shot dead.
If events continue like this, the murders will add up, but what triggers the alarms of those who analyze these violent events is the increase in bullets. According to the newly structured figures of the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), gun killings in Jalisco were the leading cause of death in 2018.
That year, that state registered 2,919 victims of manslaughter. That makes a rate of 35 homicides per 100 thousand inhabitants, well above the national average of 29; and the 10 deaths that the World Health Organization designates as the figure to qualify as having an “epidemic of violence.”
Faced with these facts, the journalist Diego Petersen discussed in his El Informador column the amount of weapons that may be in the streets fueling the current climate of violence. In this regard, the sociologist Luis Astorga points out that “violence is a potential resource of any illegal business,” but its increase is regularly associated with the “availability of high-power weapons.”
Gun violence is not only apparent in murders, as the academic and human rights defender Francisco Macías Medina points out in an interview, but also how such weapons present themselves in violent scenes at the local level.
The Executive Secretariat of the National Security System shows that, so far in 2019, there have been 804 victims of manslaughter with a firearm; in 2018 these cases totaled 1,556.
But there are also other types of attacks that are less exposed in the media and also reflect the presence of weapons: malicious firearm injuries have left a balance of 411 victims between January and June of this year, and 795 in 2018.
On the latest data, Francisco Macías Medina recalls a study in which injuries were related to the increase in violent events, from which there is a correlation between the sale of illegal weapons and these criminal events. This, he says, has to do with the means to be able to exercise that violence; and one of these ways is to obtain weapons with high capacity.
But it also speaks to an opening in the arms market, where several factors influence the proliferation of these instruments of violence. One of them is the economic dynamics of criminal groups, where they are forced to arm themselves disproportionately to protect drug routes.
The recent murders in Jalisco are not the only way to measure the use of weapons. Francisco Macías Medina also discusses how weapons can be traced to the level of isolated events where firearms are used resulting in injury and not death; events that have less -or no- media coverage compared to when people are murdered.
Compared to murders, the Executive Secretariat shows that so far this year, 203 more files have been opened for injuries, although the figures do show a greater presence of violent weapons used in murders compared to malicious injuries.
Seeing the influence of weapons used in everyday life in Jalisco breaks with the idea of deaths resulting solely from organized crime. The argument of the authorities, that “they are killing each other,” is called into question by the analysis that views the use of weapons in less violent, more everyday conflicts, showing a society that is more heavily armed as a whole.
“There is also the other parameter: that Jalisco is increasing by leaps and bounds towards a violently armed society similar to the United States. A society that, due to its lack of security protection, is becoming armed,” says Macías Medina.
Reports of gunshots in the neighborhoods of the metropolitan area occur daily. One of the most recent was responded to by the Zapopan municipal police in the Francisco Sarabia neighborhood, where several gunshots between Calles Francisco Villa and Emiliano Zapata alerted the neighbors. The police arrived and found several discharged caps on the street. There were no injuries or deaths, and beyond the initial call, the neighbors did not want to give anymore details about the origin of the shooting.
A significant percentage of the population in the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area says they frequently hear or see shootings around their home. On average, 44.9 percent of the population in the five main metropolitan municipalities say they have identified gunshots, as indicated by the National Urban Public Security Survey, published by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, in the second quarter of 2019; that is, with data until June of this year. Tonalá is the municipality where more people said they frequently hear shots, with 56.4 percent of the population responding.
|Percentage of population that have identified frequent gunshots around their home by municipality: Guadalajara, Zapopan, Tonalá, Tlaquepaque, Tlajomulco de Zuñiga, Average of 44.9 %|
The illegal entry of weapons into everyday life is a critical factor of violence. According to figures from the Jalisco State Prosecutor’s Office, between 2007 and 2018, there have been 2,221 investigation files or preliminary inquiries opened for the crime of carrying weapons and other prohibited objects. Most of these files were opened between 2010 and 2012.
The municipalities in which most prosecutions by the District Attorney’s Office for carrying a weapon are: Zapopan (with 944 files); Guadalajara (611); San Pedro Tlaquepaque (428); Tlajomulco de Zúñiga (42); Tonalá (40); Puerto Vallarta (31); El Salto (13); Ocotlán (10); Tamazula de Giordano (9) and Lagos de Moreno (8).
But this also shows how local arrests have decreased from 2016 to date. Data from the State Attorney General’s Office show that 183 investigations were opened from 2015, to 35 in 2016. For 2017, this figure was 48; 22 in 2018 and just one folder so far in 2019.
|Open investigations for carrying of a weapon or other prohibited objects, 2007-2019|
This event more accurately illustrates the high figure of guns in the region, and the importance of clandestine sale of arms throughout the so-called “war on drug trafficking.”
In 2014, two estates in the Villa Vicente Guerrero and Ex Penal Oblatos neighborhoods, in the municipality of Guadalajara, were seized. Homemade AR-15 rifles were found that were allegedly to be provided to the CJNG.
This is the little we know about illegal guns. However, there are legal filters that also show a high number in terms of those who register their weapons in the corresponding instances. Articles 9 and 15 of the Federal Law on Firearms and Exclusive Use indicate that the entity that regulates the movement of arms is the Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA), which mediates the sale of weapons to security corporations and grants permits to natural persons.
SEDENA figures, which were accessed by transparency law, show that in 2018, the state of Jalisco registered a total of 4,354 weapons that circulated through the state. Of these, 2,978 were short and 1,376 were considered long. So far in 2019, this federal agency accounts for 1,467 registered weapons, 874 are short and 593 long.
|Arms registered in Jalisco by year. 2012-2019|
However, SEDENA does not clarify the fate of these weapons or who controls them. They do not account for their licenses or their specific use. Despite this high number, the agency indicates that there have been no individual permits granted in Jalisco.
But, according to the study Serious Violations of Human Rights: Legal and Illegal Arms Trafficking to Mexico, done by the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH) and the organization, Stop US Arms to Mexico, the vast majority of the weapons that are legally sold in Mexico are for the federal and state police forces.
The only entity mediating the arms trade in Mexico is SEDENA. The report indicates that between 2010 and 2016, this federal entity spent more than 16 million dollars and more than 29 million euros in the importation of weapons.
Without specifying Jalisco’s cost, it shows that SEDENA acquired 10,015 weapons between 2010 and 2016 to be provided as weapons to the state police.
Jalisco acquiered the fifth highest amount of weapons of all the states of Mexico in the aforementioned period, but the report warns precisely that the weapons were sold to states that had “the greatest number of armed clashes and homicides with firearms perpetrated in the context of the war against drugs.”
Also, the levels of violence and local complicity highlight the use of weapons for the exchange of influence between criminals and authorities. Events such as the Heckler & Koch Company case reveal that some territories circulated weapons that are not permitted to be sold in those regions.
Due to the high level of violence and the possible use of weapons to empower criminal groups, the German authorities prohibited this company from selling G36 assault rifles in four entities of Mexico: Chihuahua, Guerrero, Chiapas, and Jalisco.
Eventually, the prohibition was ignored and 4,796 of this company’s weapons were sold to the local police corporations of these states, but the event had repurcussions and was brought to trial after one of these rifles was used in the Ayotzinapa events.
There are also worrying records of weapons that have been reported as lost or stolen, as reported by the aforementioned federal entities. Between 2010 and 2016, 4 percent of the weapons sold to Mexican state police were reported lost or stolen. SEDENA recognizes that of the 20,066 weapons reported from 2006 to August 2017, 793 were circulating in and around Jalisco.
In addition to this, the CMDPDH shows that Jalisco accounts for three percent of firearms that were purchased in the United States and recovered in Mexico between 2007 and 2010, putting Jalisco as the eighth highest state of Mexico where arms entered the country illegally. This emphasizes the violence caused by lack of control of the circulation of arms in the state.