Lies, damned lies and statistics in Mexico's drugs war?

Mexico drugs war spreads deeper into the country

Janet Figueroa still weeps for her father. It is four months since he was gunned down in Xalapa, the state capital of Veracruz.

Eleven people died in the attack.

When she was taken to identify her father's body the police showed her a photo of him slumped in a black vehicle, with a large machine gun by his side.

She says the state governor immediately announced that all of those killed were "criminals" who had "bitten the dust".

But Joaquin Figueroa was a mechanic who had left work that evening in a white pick-up truck with two colleagues.

'No proof'

According to Ms Figueroa, he had never been involved in crime and did not own a gun.

She accuses the authorities of manipulating the facts and figures.

Start Quote

Janet Figueroa in Veracruz, Mexico

The government statistics are not real”

End Quote Janet Figueroa

We were shown around his small dark apartment. It was littered with the detritus of a divorcee mechanic: half-empty food cartons, screws, bolts and bits of engines.

It is hardly the lifestyle of a man who made his living from the lucrative drugs trade.

Ms Figueroa says: "It is a matter of statistics, a way to show that they are actually doing something to fight crime in Veracruz."

She has asked the authorities for proof that her father was involved with the drug cartels. She is still waiting for an answer.

Her father is just one of tens of thousands of people to have been killed in a war on drug gangs declared by President Felipe Calderon.

Hundreds of failed polygraphs

Undoubtedly the majority are criminals but the security forces and innocent bystanders have also died.

Police forces have become mired in accusations of corruption.

The state of Veracruz has just sacked some 1,000 officers who failed to pass lie-detector tests.

Some government officials are also accused of either under-reporting the number of deaths or deliberately changing the details of those killed to make it appear that the victims are criminals rather than civilians.

Now the authorities are under pressure to justify a policy that has turned relatively safe cities into battlegrounds.

A Mexican soldier in Veracruz on 8 October 2011 Authorities are under pressure to justify a policy that has turned cities into battlegrounds

I met one restaurant owner in the port of Veracruz whose business was right next door to a house where 11 bodies were discovered. No-one knows who was responsible.

Such is the state of fear here that the man does not want to be named for fear of reprisals.

He says people are shocked by the violence that has come to Veracruz, a region that used to be immune from the troubles elsewhere.

He is emphatic on the question of who is to blame: "The government, 100%".

He, and many others here, feel caught between state and federal forces on the one hand and the drug cartels on the other.

Janet Figueroa is unusual not because she is the relative of a victim of violence, but because she has dared to speak out and campaign for what she calls "truth and justice".

Journalists have been killed, bloggers imprisoned, people have been threatened.

Ms Figueroa admits she and her family are scared and that they have been threatened, but she wants people to question the official version of events.

"I have to do it because it's a way to show that the government statistics and numbers are not real; that there are actually civilians killed in this drug war."

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