Wednesday, December 01, 2010

A Tale of Two Cities -- and also of Two Countries Subtitled: Is Mexico Dangerous? Answer: Only If You Pick the Wrong City ...Just the Same as in the U.S.

My wife and I have lived peacefully down here in San Carlos      (a suburb of Guaymas), Sonora, Mexico for 5 1/2 years now. San Carlos has less crime than Guaymas, probably for many of the same reasons why Plano, Texas, a well-to-do suburb of Dallas, has less crime than downtown Dallas.

For the 30 years prior to 2001, we lived in a well-to-do Virginia suburb of Washington, DC. The crime rate in DC has always been notorious. Still, our son went to high school in DC and often drove down to visit his friend in North East Washington where armed drug gangs operated and most of the killings took place. Fortunately he in his friend were never accosted. Unfortunately, though, the son of a former colleague of mine was murdered in a Maryland suburb of DC.

We don't watch U.S. TV newscasts down here in Mexico, but we hear they are suddenly laden with horror stories about how dangerous Mexico has become. While many Americans live down here year-round just as happily as we do, virtually ALL Americans who were in the habit of making regular visits down here have ceased coming!

WTF! There is a major disconnect here.

I began to wonder if we are in greater danger than we've thought ...or are the American people being lied to?

So I decided to dig up statistics on the murder rates in a number of countries in the Americas ...and also for some cities in the U.S. and and in Mexico.

Here's what I found (Americans ARE being lied to!):

N.B. Hermosillo is the capital of Sonora, the state we live in, and my sense is that the murder rate there is much higher than here in San Carlos, because I can't remember ever hearing of a single murder since we moved here.

I took all data for Mexican cities except Ciudad Juarez from the following article:

Bloodshed in Mexico not as bad as in 1990s

by Chris Hawley - Aug. 4, 2010 12:00 AM
Republic Mexico City Bureau

MEXICO CITY - Gruesome murders appear to be commonplace in Mexico. The severed heads of eight men found in pairs along highways in Durango. Seventeen people massacred at a birthday party in Torreon. The bodies of 55 people found dumped in a mine near the town of Taxco.

Mexicans and their American neighbors are being bombarded by news of shootouts, bombings, kidnappings and murders as drug smugglers battle each other and the government for control of the narcotics trade.

But a closer look at the latest crime statistics indicates that much of Mexico has modest murder rates. The horrific violence that is jacking up the country's national death toll is occurring largely in nine of Mexico's 31 states.

And despite a wave of killings in those states, the national murder rate in 2009 was still lower than it was a decade before, long before the Mexican government began its crackdown on the cartels.

"If you look at history, today we have fewer murders, both in raw numbers and rates," said Mario Arroyo, a researcher with the Citizens' Institute for Crime Studies, a Mexico City think tank.

Experts caution that murder statistics give only a narrow view of crime.

Mexico's 2009 murder rate of 14 per 100,000 people was still more than twice as high as the U.S. rate of 5.4 in 2008, the latest year for which full U.S. statistics are available.

The numbers also do not reflect the increasingly macabre nature of Mexico's drug killings as the cartels try to intimidate Mexicans. Bodies are dismembered or hung from bridges. Mass shootings have become common as hit men hunt down their rivals at parties or drug-rehabilitation centers.

"There's a disconnect between the statistics and the perception of the public," said Elias Kuri, president of Light Up Mexico, an anti-crime association.

Mexico's Public Safety Secretariat released the 2009 murder totals in July in response to a request by the Citizens' Institute for Crime Studies. The institute used population data from the government's National Population Council to calculate murder rates for each state.

How many of the murders are due to the drug war has been a matter of fierce debate. On Tuesday, the head of Mexico's intelligence agency said that, from late 2006, when President Felipe Calderón launched a war on drugs, through this year, there have been 28,000 drug-related deaths. La Reforma newspaper, which keeps a running tally of drug deaths, counts 20,842 since the drug war began, with 6,587 taking place in 2009. Whether a murder was drug-related is often hard to determine because few murders in Mexico are ever solved, Arroyo said.

The government's murder statistics from 2009 show:

• The most deadly state in Mexico was Chihuahua, the sparsely populated Texas and New Mexico border region where Juárez is located. It was followed by the marijuana- and heroin-producing states of Durango, Guerrero and Sinaloa.

• Sonora, the state bordering Arizona, saw its murder rate triple from 2002 to 2009, from seven to 20 per 100,000. But that's still lower than in the late 1990s, when the rate was about 24.

• Six Mexican states had a lower murder rate than Arizona's rate of 6.3 per 100,000 people in 2008. They include popular tourist destinations like Quintana Roo state, where Cancun is located, and Baja California Sur, where Cabo San Lucas is located.

• The state with the lowest murder rate is Yucatan, the Gulf of Mexico state known for its Mayan ruins. Its murder rate of two per 100,000 was comparable to the rate for Wyoming and Montana.

• The rate in Washington, D.C., was nearly quadruple that of the Mexican capital, Mexico City. Washington's murder rate was 31.4 per 100,000 people in 2008; Mexico City's rate in 2009 was eight.

Because the Mexican government released only statewide data and did not include a breakdown by city, it is difficult to know where the worst hot spots are.

Nevertheless, the numbers do give some credence to Calderón, who insists that the worst violence is confined to certain regions and is mostly among gang members. He has accused the news media of exaggerating the violence.

"We've got problematic cities, yes," Calderón said in a speech in April. "But we also have areas and states, especially tourist areas, that have murder rates equal to many countries in Europe."

Murders in Mexico had been dropping steadily, from 16,163 in 1997 to 10,291 in 2007, even as Mexico's population grew. The murder rate sank from 17 to 10 per 100,000 people.

Part of the decline was due to Mexico's stable economy, helped along by the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, Arroyo said.

That ended with Calderón's crackdown, which has splintered the old drug cartels and led to infighting. Calderón said the offensive was needed because the cartels had infiltrated local governments and were threatening to become more powerful than the police.

From 2007 to 2009, the murder rate jumped from 10 to 14 per 100,000 people. That's still low compared with countries like Brazil, which has a murder rate of 22, or Honduras, with 60.9.

"If you look at Mexico as a whole country, it's really not as bad as other places," said Jose Miguel Cruz, an expert on Latin American crime at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Violence varies widely within some states. In Sonora, for example, separate murder statistics from the state government show killings are concentrated in Nogales and other border areas, along with southern towns near the Sinaloa line. Hermosillo, the state capital, had one of the lowest per capita murder rates in 2009 despite recording 46 murders.

The real question is whether Mexico can stop the recent upswing in violence, experts say.

In recent months, Mexican authorities have killed several drug lords, including Arturo Beltrán Leyva and Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel, and captured dozens of lower-level smugglers.

But the gangs also have gotten better at killing, carrying out sophisticated ambushes on police and experimenting with different techniques like car bombs.

"We're seeing brutal violence, and in some states, it's almost more than society can bear," said Edna Jaime, director of Mexico Evaluates, another think tank in Mexico City. "Numbers are one thing . . . but what we don't know is where this is all headed."

Blogger's remark: This next article is a foretaste of what is fast becoming of many American cities thanks to their betrayal by the Federal government. Camden, New Jersey, had the highest crime rate in the nation with 2,333 violent crimes per 100,000 population, likely correlated with its 30 to 40% unemployment rate!

Why Poverty Spreads Across America

by Sherwood Ross posted on Monday, 29 November 2010

Street scene in Camden, New Jersy
Pockets of poverty, like the sores of some malignant disease, are spreading across America, as its states and cities go broke and bankrupt.

“Camden, New Jersey, stands as a warning of what huge pockets of America could turn into,” The Nation magazine reports in its November 22nd issue. In fact, it has already happened, it is happening all over, and there is no signal on the horizon that poverty and blight will not continue to spread. It is not that Americans are lazy and shiftless; rather, they are reeling from betrayal — for they have been betrayed both by their employers, who have shown not an ounce of loyalty to their work forces, and they have been betrayed by their Federal government, which has lied the nation into costly criminal wars.

“Camden is the poster child of postindustrial decay,” writes Chris Hedges, the former foreign correspondent for The New York Times. “It stands as a warning of what huge pockets of the United States could turn into as we cement into place a permanent underclass of the unemployed, slash state and federal services in a desperate bid to cut massive deficits, watch cities and states go bankrupt and struggle to adjust to a stark neofeudalism in which the working and middle classes are decimated.” In an article titled “City of Ruins,” Hedges reports that 70 percent of Camden’s high school students drop out, that the city’s unemployment rate is probably 30 to 40 percent, and that its dangerous streets “are filled with the unemployed.”

What is thriving in Camden is prostitution, the drug trade, and crime. “There are perhaps a hundred open-air drug markets, most run by gangs like the Bloods, the Latin Kings, Los Nietos, and MS-13,” Hedges writes. “Knots of young men in black leather jackets and baggy sweatshirts sell weed and crack to clients, many of whom drive in from the suburbs. The drug trade is one of the city’s few thriving businesses…Camden is awash in guns…” (and) in 2009 had the highest crime rate in the nation with 2,333 violent crimes per 100,000 population vs. a national average of just 455, Wikipedia reported.

Camden is no isolated example. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2006 ranked it fourth highest among cities with under 250,000 residents as 35.6 percent of its population lived in poverty. It followed Brownsville, Texas, 40.6%; and College Station, Texas, 37.3%. Other poverty-struck cities were Edinburg, Texas, 35.4%; Bloomington, Indiana, 34.7%; Flint, Michigan, 34.1%; Kalamazoo, Michigan, 33.4; Florence-Graham, California (in Los Angeles County), 33.0%; Gary, Indiana, 32.8%; and Muncie, Indiana, 32.6%.

The poverty rates of major cities show similar patterns of despair. The ten having the worst poverty rates are Detroit, 32.5%; Buffalo, 29.9%; Cincinnati, 27.8%; Cleveland, 27.0%; Miami, 26.9%; St. Louis, 26.8%; El Paso, 26.4%; Milwaukee, 26.2%; Philadelphia, 25.1%; and Newark, 24.2%.

High poverty rates, of course, stem largely from persistent, structural unemployment. As the Washington Post reported last January 15th, “Blacks, Hispanics and men have suffered the most mainly because they have been disproportionately employed in sectors hardest hit in the recession — manufacturing and construction. For instance, the unemployment rate for blacks is expected to reach 27 percent in Michigan, which has been shedding auto industry jobs. Other states with jobless rates above 20 percent for blacks are Alabama, Illinois, Ohio and South Carolina.”

Where the New Deal’s Work Projects Administration (WPA) alone in the Great Depression created 8 million new jobs, nothing of that scope exists today. The same Post article notes, “The Congressional Black Caucus wants the government to create training programs and jobs in low-income communities with the highest unemployment rates.” “It’s like triage in an emergency room — you take care of people who need the most help first and you help the others later,” said Kai Filion, research analyst at the Economic Policy Institute. Economic losses, the analyst said, could result in a 50 percent poverty rate for black children, up from 34 percent in 2008. While statistics defining the plight of African-Americans make for grim reading, it should be remembered that the majority of America’s unemployed are Caucasian and that the real unemployment figure according to some authorities is 20 percent, not the 10 percent reported by Washington.

It is hardly accidental that cities with high unemployment rates also have high crime rates. In terms of violent crime, as FBI statistics for calendar year 2009 show, Detroit, noted above to have the highest poverty rate, also has the most violent crime per 1,000 citizens, with 19.67 cases. Other major cities are (2) Memphis, 18.06; (3)Oakland, 16.79; (4) Baltimore, 15.13; (5) Buffalo, 14.59; (6) Cleveland, 13.95; (7)Kansas City, 13.00; (8) Stockton, 12.67; (9) Washington, D.C., 12.65; and (10), Philadelphia, 12.38.

As Sir Thomas More wrote in his classic Utopia, published in 1516: “You allow these people to be brought up in the worst possible way, and systematically corrupted from their earliest years. Finally, when they grow up and commit the crimes that they were obviously destined to commit, ever since they were children, you start punishing them. In other words, you create thieves, and then punish them for stealing,” Could he have better explained America’s 2.3-million prison population today?

In Camden, there isn’t a single inner city supermarket that can put ghetto kids to work at an honest job after school and weekends but reporter Hedges says there are plenty of drug markets. Often, the only job a teenager can land is one on the staff of the local drug lord. The other employment choice for ghettoized youth is the military. While Pentagon recruiters strongly deny they target low-income neighborhoods, a careful reading of the home towns of those reported killed in the Middle East may well cast doubt upon this contention.

Camden once was a significant manufacturing hub but those days are long gone. In many communities, major employers abandoned their workers with no compunction (and often without deserved pensions), automating employees out of their jobs. Other employers, as in Detroit, simply relocated their plants overseas entirely. The idea of a prosperous work force based on a vibrant local economy to underpin “the American Dream” got lost in the race to maximize corporate profits.

In Trenton, the sign on a bridge across the Delaware River, “Trenton Makes, The World Takes,” is the boast of a bygone era. Reduced employment means reduced purchasing power and reduced tax take for local governments. This year, according to The Christian Science Monitor, California faces a $20 billion budget gap. It has already resorted to “mandatory furloughs for all state workers, teacher layoffs, (and reduced) aid to the university system 20 percent, (and made) massive cuts to education, corrections, and social services.” This grim picture is mirrored everywhere. The rising unemployment in New York City’s workforce, for example, has worsened its budget crisis, Financial Times reported November 22nd.

At the same time, U.S. corporations continue their race to the bottom for cheap labor. Cable News Network’s “Exporting America” broadcast listed hundreds of “U.S. companies either sending American jobs overseas or choosing to employ cheap overseas labor instead of American workers.” A very small fraction of the companies on CNN’s list are reprinted in the following three paragraphs to convey some idea of the enormity of the indifference of employers for their workers:

Aetna, AIG, Alamo Rent a Car, Alcoa, Allstate, Anheuser-Bush, AT&T, Bank of America, Bechtel, BellSouth, Best Buy, Borden Chemical, Boeing, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Caterpillar, ChevronTexaco, Citigroup, Continental airlines, Delta Air Lines, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Eastman Kodak, Eli Lilly, ExxonMobil, Fedders Corp., Fluor, Ford Motor, General Electric, General Motors, and Goldman Sachs.

Also, Halliburton, Hershey, Hewlett-Packard, Honeywell, IBM, Illinois Tool Works, ITT Industries, John Deere, Johns Manville, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg, Kerr-McGhee Chemicals, Kimberly-Clark, Kraft Foods, Lear Corp., Levi Strauss, Lockheed Martin, Mattel, Maytag, Merrill Lynch, MetLife, Microsoft, Monsanto, Motorola, Nabisco, Northrop Grumman, Northwest Airlines, Office Depot, Orbitz, Oracle, Otis Elevator, Owens Corning, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Polaroid, Pratt & Whitney, Procter & Gamble, and Prudential Insurance.

Also, Quaker Oats, Radio Shack, Rayovac, Rohm & Haas, Safeway, Sara Lee, Seco Manufacturing, Square D, State Farm Insurance, Target, Tenneco Automotive, Texas Instruments, Time Warner, Tropical Sportswear, TRW Automotive, Tupperware, Tyco Electronics, Union Pacific, UNISYS, United Plastics Group, United Technologies, Verizon, Wachovia Bank, Weyerhaeuser, Xerox, and Zenith.

Why hasn’t the Obama administration taken swift and forceful action to relieve the situation, perhaps even to launch the Domestic Marshall Plan for the cities the Urban League’s Whitney Young called for as far back as 1962? Perhaps it’s because like President Bush before him Mr. Obama is more focused on waging war. Here, again, Sir Thomas More speaks to us: “To start with, most kings are more interested in the science of war…than in useful peacetime techniques. They’re far more anxious, by hook or by crook, to acquire new kingdoms than to govern their existing ones properly.”

This, of course, applies perfectly to America’s kings, for not only have our presidents assumed the powers and prerogatives of kings but they have, in fact, acted no better than medieval kings, waging wars with armies raised from the poorest strata of society and spending lavishly to conquer while ignoring their own citizenry’s cries for bread and opportunity. Put another way, the Pentagon is spending more money for war (52 cents of every tax dollar) than all 50 states combined spend for all purposes to improve the lot of 300 million Americans.

In their book, “ The Three Trillion Dollar War” (W.W. Norton), Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes write, “A $3 trillion figure for the total cost strikes us as judicious, and probably errs on the low side. Needless to say, this number represents the cost only to the United States. It does not reflect the enormous cost to the rest of the world, or to Iraq.” (Stiglitz is former chief economist at the World Bank and a Nobel Prize laureate and Bilmes is a public policy authority at Harvard.) Given the wars’ colossal and criminal waste of human life and treasure, it is little wonder states and cities the nation over are starved for income, record numbers of homes are being foreclosed, and soup kitchens are reporting a rising influx of patrons, many of them bewildered former members of the shrinking middle class.

This situation has pertained in America now for several generations. Before Iraq and Afghanistan there was the Viet Nam aggression. Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern attempted to make the connection between war abroad and hard times at home when he said, “For every bomb that falls in Viet Nam a house somewhere in America collapses from neglect.” McGovern was defeated by incumbent Richard Nixon in a landslide.

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