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Published in 11 cities across Mexico, Milenio is one of the country's largest daily newspapers. The Spanish-speaking publication was founded in 1974 and is headquartered in Monterrey, in the state of Nuevo León.
A Mexican soldier is standing before a vehicle in which two men were executed by drug cartel members in Sinaloa, Mexico, 2012.
Alidad Vassigh

In Mexico, Drop In Life Expectancy Linked To Drug Cartel Violence

MEXICO CITY — Crime in Mexico related to gangs and drug cartels is believed to have shortened the lifespan of the country's residents, according to a new study.

The National Police report has found that life expectancy fell by one to six months in the five-year period beginning in 2005, as a veritable war began between the government and drug traffickers, Milenio newspaper reported this week. The report also found that life expectancy dropped six months to one year in 10 of the country's 32 states that are most affected by gang-related violence.

Violence in Mexico rose sharply from 2006 after the conservative president Felipe Calderón declared war on the cartels.

Though the report did not clarify whether crime had continued to cut life expectancy in the subsequent 10 years, the World Bank put life expectancy in Mexico at just over 75 years in 2019, confirming a decline from 75.3 years in 2005. The figure was just under 78 for the United States. In Colombia, another country that has grappled with crime, life expectancy rose steadily from 74 to 77 years between 2005 and 2019.


800 kilos of cocaine being incarcerated at a naval base in Yucatan, Mexico, in June 2009. — Photo: David de la Paz/ZUMA

Milenio cited a poll by Inegi, the national statistics office, that found that 40% of all Mexicans could hear "frequent gunfire" in their locality in late 2020, though this hovered around 75% in crime hotspots like the districts of Iztapalapa and Chimalhuacán on the edge of Mexico City. Likewise, while guns were used in only 15% of homicides in 1997, the proportion had risen to 69% in early 2021. The statistics office counted just over 17,000 criminal killings in 2020.

Violence in Mexico rose sharply from 2006 after the conservative president Felipe Calderón declared war on the cartels. His approach was criticized but several changes of strategy have yet to bring crime back down.

Montachoques Extorsion: Accidents Waiting To Happen In Mexico City
Alidad Vassigh

Montachoques Extorsion: Accidents Waiting To Happen In Mexico City

For drivers in Mexico, the rule of thumb for traffic accidents is simple: el que pega, paga! In other words, the perpetrator of a crash — i.e. the incoming vehicle — pays.

In a country where many are uninsured, that kind of unspoken understanding makes sense. But the pega-paga approach has also created an opportunity for scammers to pocket some ill-gained pesos through a practice known as montachoques, the operative word being choque, Spanish for "crash."

An extortion technique being used increasingly in Mexico City, it involves provoking an accident by halting a car on a busy highway, then demanding compensation from the person who crashed in from behind. When victims are reluctant to pay, they are threatened and sometimes even attacked, a senior police official in the eastern sector of the city recently told the Milenio newspaper.

The official, Luis Martínez Rodríguez, described a typical maneuver as overtaking a car, then suddenly slamming the breaks to provoke a crash. The "injured party" then steps out, sometimes with companions, and demands compensation, with sums ranging from the equivalent of around $70 euros to $1,500.

Two or even three cars may be involved to ensure the victim is trapped into the situation. In one case the driver filmed the "repeated crashes' into his car, calling it an "attempted homicide." Police have identified the city's main ring roads as a choice location for this crime, usually undertaken outside rush hours, to allow maneuvering.

Clashes in Tarragona, Catalonia on Sunday
Alidad Vassigh

Conflict Over Catalonia, Bad To Worse

MADRID — For Mariano Rajoy, it's as if October 1 never happened. The Spanish Prime Minister insisted that his government was simply implementing Spain's democratic constitution in sending gendarmes to stop an illegal, separatist referendum organized by the Catalan regional authority on Sunday.

But October 1 may go down as a turning point in Spanish, and perhaps even European, history, as pictures spread of citizens being beaten and dragged away by policemen intent on stopping them from voting. The Catalan regional government reported more than 800 injuries, while announcing some 90% of those who voted favored secession.

The impression given was of a member state of the European Union looking clumsy as best, and even brutal and helpless, in the face of growing separatist sentiment in its richest region. La Vanguardia, the top daily in the Catalan capital of Barcelona, wrote that the conflict over the independence movement "will only get worse."

La Vanguardia, Oct. 2, 2017

Across the rest of Spain, the media had sought in recent weeks — in a curious convergence of postures — to downplay the importance of the separatist challenge mounted in Catalonia. Like Spain's parties, the conservative Popular Party, the Socialists and centrist Citizens who have failed to effectively unite on the issue in spite of representing the vast majority of Spaniards, the press and media have also seen how little influence they have now on the voting public.

The Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez expressed his support for the "rule of law, in spite of this government," following the vote, but refused to grant the Rajoy government his unqualified support. He was showing again his party's bewilderment at the scope and nature of the Catalan challenge, but also the unpopularity of the Rajoy government beyond its loyalist voters. The Socialists' feeble response to the Catalan issue is not unlike the Labour Party's response in the UK to the challenge of Brexit.

Nevertheless, the same party almost prevented the situation coming to this impasse. El País suggested Monday that going back to the Estatut, or statute of autonomy the last Socialist government had agreed on with the Catalans, and which the conservatives have effectively quashed, could be a way of out of the political pig's ear.

El País, a centrist paper, has otherwise moved closer to the government's positions on Catalonia. It reported that "abstention had won" the day, while many media cited the Catalan government's declaration that 90% of Catalans had voted to separate from Spain. The conservative daily El Mundo reported the Catalan president's intention to declare independence "within days."

Pictures of scuffling and verbal confrontations, and even standoffs between local and national policemen, spread quickly across the media and social networks, showing how the referendum has divided the civil service, amplifying the unease this crisis is causing inside and beyond Spain.

Le Monde observed that Spain and the Catalan region were "diving into the unknown." The daily also pointed out that Europeans were "put ill at ease" by the pictures of violence in Barcelona and elsewhere, and that European Union institutions had not yet commented on the events. The EU has clearly stated its respect for the existing territorial and constitutional makeup in Spain, but any Spanish conservative might have noted that the block had taken very few, vigorous postures against the Catalans. The hesitant response is perhaps as dangerous as the brazen challenge the Catalans have mounted against the current shape of the Europe.

Outside the Old Continent, a commentator in Colombia's El Espectador observed that the picture of disarray emerging from Spain was yet another example of the poisonous power of social networking sites, where "there is neither God nor law, no order or control or any way of differentiating between fake and real." Mexican daily Milenio largely dismissed the Catalan cause, citing Rajoy's claim that the "law had been upheld," while Excelsior, another top daily in Mexico, suggested that Rajoy was largely to blame for refusing to sit and talk with the relevant parties in Catalonia.

In Mexico City on Sept. 20

Extra! Mexico Slammed Again By Major Quake

Milenio Novedades, Sept. 20, 2017

For the second time is as many weeks, "Mexico Shakes," as the front page of the Yucatán daily Milenio Novedades reports, following a 7.1-magnitude earthquake on Tuesday that toppled buildings and killed at least 216 people. Many more are missing.

Victims include a group of children in Mexico City's Coapa district, where a school collapsed. Authorities managed to rescue 14 children from the rubble but dozens more are still trapped, according to local news sources.

Tuesday's quake came just 12 days after an 8.1-magnitude event struck off Mexico's Pacific Coast, killing more than 90 people. It is the country's deadliest since 1985, when an 8.0-magnitude earthquake killed some 10,000 people in Mexico City. Both disasters, coincidentally, struck on the same calendar date: Sept. 19.

In Mexico City on Sept. 8
Stuart Richardson

Extra! Massive 8.2 Earthquake Hits Southern Mexico


Milenio, Sept. 8, 2017

A massive earthquake struck off the coast of the Mexican state of Chiapas just after midnight, and Friday's front page of the Mexican daily Milenio recorded its strength in bold, black letters: "8.2º Richter," a once-in-a-century seismic event.

Local authorities have already confirmed five fatalities. This figure will likely rise as communities begin to sift through the rubble. Many also fear that the seismic activity will generate a tsunami, further affecting the region, though initial reports suggest that the expected three-meter high waves will not cause significant damage.

The earthquake comes amid a series of natural phenomena that have devastated this part of the world. Much of the Caribbean and the U.S. Southeast is hunkering down as Hurricane Irma tears through the region, following the widespread damage and flooding caused by Harvey.