As the death toll has climbed from drug-related violence in Mexico, it’s fallen largely to newspapers to keep the count, McClatchy Newspapers reports. Two weeks ago, a government report that legislators leaked spoke of 22,700 deaths over little more than a three-year period, a far higher body count than the 18,000 or so given by El Universal, a leading newspaper. President Felipe Calderon’s aides won’t confirm the report, and some political analysts have seized on the lack of transparency as an element in the Mexican leader’s difficulties in rallying the nation in the campaign against heavily armed narcotics syndicates.
“It was not their intention to share this information,” said Elena Azaola of the Center for Advanced Studies and Research in Social Anthropology in Mexico City. “There is a vacuum of important official information in very many areas,” she said. “And there’s also a lack of credibility. People speak as if there were censorship, a covering up of information.” After Calderon came to office in late 2006, he deployed up to 50,000 troops in a frontal battle with narcotics cartels, a move that drew widespread praise for its courage. More than three years later, the pace of killings is soaring and public security worries are beginning to affect the tourism industry, which employs nearly one out of eight Mexicans. Calderon has earned high praise in Washington, where he’ll travel May 19-20 in a visit that will include an address to a joint session of Congress and a state dinner at the White House, only the second one that President Barack Obama has hosted.