Mexico News Daily, December 17, 2019
The mayor of Irapuato has called for action from Guanajuato authorities after 12 police officers were killed in the state in the space of a single week.
The state security strategy has to change, said Ricardo Ortiz Gutiérrez on Monday, adding that the criminals responsible for the deaths of the municipal officers – three of whom were part of Irapuato’s force – have not been held accountable.
“The [state] Attorney General’s Office says nothing and there are no arrests . . .” Ortiz said. “There is a situation of impunity.”
The National Action Party mayor said the attacks on police in the municipalities of Irapuato, Villagrán – where seven officers were killed, Celaya and León have generated fear among police officers in the state and could trigger a mass exodus due to resignations.
Ortiz said that nobody can force officers to remain in the job but added that Irapuato authorities are seeking to provide greater security to police and improve their salaries.
He warned that further attacks on police are possible and urged the Guanajuato government to do more to improve security in the state, Mexico’s most violent in 2019.
The newspaper El Universal reported that 250 members of the National Guard were expected to arrive in Irapuato on Tuesday and that 850 additional guardsmen will be deployed to other municipalities in the region.
However, it also said the state government is planning to withdraw between 60 and 70 state police officers out of 150 who had been deployed to Irapuato to bolster security.
With regard to the police deaths, Guanajuato Security Commissioner Sophia Huett said it was not her aim to criminalize police but it could not be ruled out that some of the slain officers had links to organized crime.
One in particular did not, if bravery awards are any measure.
Security analyst Alejandro Hope said in his regular column for El Universal this week that among the 12 officers killed was an “exemplary” police commander from Irapuato.
María Sonia Arellano Mendoza received an award four months ago that recognized her commitment to fighting crime, he wrote.
The 15-year veteran of the Irapuato police was kidnapped along with her husband and son last week by armed men allegedly linked to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.
The kidnappers spared the lives of Arellano’s husband and son but not hers. The policewoman’s dismembered body was found on a dirt road on the outskirts of Irapuato.
Hope noted that the deaths of Arellano and the other 11 police officers in Guanajuato – two more of whom were women – are not uncommon. Sixty police officers have now been killed in Guanajuato this year and 409 in 27 states across the country, he wrote.
The figure is just shy of the 421 police deaths recorded last year and well above the 52 police murders in the United States in 2018.
The analyst wrote that attacks on police affect all Mexicans and presented four arguments to support his assertion.
Firstly, “attacks against police facilitate corruption,” Hope said, arguing that faced with the threat of death, officers are more likely to be lured into criminality by gangs that offer them financial incentives.
“In that sense, the attacks . . . undermine the integrity of institutions,” he wrote.
Secondly, in the face of the possibility of attacks, police tactics and the equipment they use become more military-like, Hope said.
“That limits the possibility of community police practices and moves [police] forces away from the public, which ends up reducing the efficacy of public security institutions,” he wrote.
Hope’s third argument was that if officers feel under attack they are more likely to commit human rights abuses or use disproportionate force, and his fourth was that police deaths exacerbate fear among citizens.
“If a police commander can be kidnapped, murdered and dismembered with impunity in broad daylight, nobody can feel safe,” he wrote.
“Given that, the murder of police officers should be considered an extremely serious act that warrants an exceptional response both from the state and society. But that’s not the case . . . An act as brutal as the murder of Commander Arellano went to the inside pages of the newspapers. The matter didn’t have a great impact on social media. It was treated as just one more piece of news. If we don’t care about the lives of police, how can we ask them to protect ours?”