Thursday, April 15, 2010

Questions about Definitions

Good question from Malcolm Beith in the wake of the new narco-murder numbers:
What constitutes a drug-related homicide, and how the government decides how to classify it? As one Sinaloan human rights activist likes to complain, investigators in Mexico tend to ask what the victim did wrong, and then close the case on that information alone. So, say young Jose gets shot, the investigators ask "did he hang out with any ne'er do wells" (yes, i did use that word) and if the answer is yes, well, it's a drug-related homicide. Never mind the fact that Jose might have just got caught in the crossfire, might have slept with the wrong woman (his friend's girl?) or robbed a liquor store and gotten paid back for his misdemeanor. A gomero in the hills gets shot or macheted to death? These days it's drug-related, even if it was actually the result of an age-old land dispute. Or whatever.
I've wondered about this as well. There's no dictionary definition of what constitutes a narco-murder, and it's not hard to conceive of potential gray areas. You can also easily imagine how, with the climate of the government fighting organized crime growing more and more intense, it would naturally encourage an a looser classification of murders as drug-related. At the same time, you'd think that the government would fight that tendency and actively adopt stricter criteria, so as to lower the number of drug-related murders and demonstrate that their policies are working. In any event, there's been rather little commentary as to how one defines organized crime and murders related to it.

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