Posted on Wed 22 December 2010

Some problems with the Mexican mortality database

I’ve written before about how I couldn’t find the Acteal Massacre in the homicide database available at the INEGI. So I decided to check if the deaths that occurred as a consequence of the massacre were misclassified as other types of violent death,
and indeed they were. In the municipality of Chenalhó, where the massacre occurred, there were 44 accidentals deaths during December 1997. It is pretty clear that the deaths of the Acteal Massacre for some reason were classified as being accidental.

You can check it out for yourself by downloading the Mexican mortality statistics from SINAIS for 1998, and see that the deaths were classified as unintentional injuries with ICD-10 codes of:
  • W26 - Contact with knife (5 deaths)
  • X59 - Exposure to unspecified factor (7 deaths)
  • W34 - Accidental malfunction from other specified firearms (32 deaths)
Because of the discrepancy and because it is ground zero of the drug war, I also checked to see if there was any evidence that deaths by homicide in Ciudad Juárez were misclassified, and I found a very interesting pattern where lesions of unknown intent shot up as a percentage of homicides in 2007 (there 197 homicides vs 153 lesions of unknown intent) compared to other years.
This would tend to corroborate the testimony (Spanish) of “La Barbie” that the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel started sending his people to Ciudad Juárez in 2007, even if the official homicide statistics showed a slight decrease during that year. Interestingly, lesions of unknown intent started rising in 2004, the same year the brother of the leader of the Juárez Cartel was murdered.

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