Mexico’s murder rate hits highest level in decades

  01 August 2018    Read: 1325
Mexico’s murder rate hits highest level in decades

The number of murders in Mexico rose sharply last year, pushing the homicide rate to its highest level since at least 1990 as violence among drug gangs persisted and highlighting the challenge faced by the incoming administration to contain criminal violence.

The National Statistics Institute said Monday the number of murders rose 27% last year to 31,174, the most on record going back to 1990 and equivalent to 25 per 100,000 inhabitants. The homicide rate rose from 20 per 100,000 in 2016, and was above the recent high of 24 in 2011.

Criminal violence began soaring in 2008 after the government engaged the military and federal police in efforts to rein in powerful drug gangs that were taking control of hot spots around the country. After a lull from 2012 to 2014, the violence took off again in 2015.

The increase in violence, which is continuing into 2018 according to government reports, is reflected in deteriorating perceptions of security among the population. It was a key campaign issue for leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who won the July 1 presidential election with more than 53% of the votes in a field of four and is scheduled to take office Dec. 1.

Mr. López Obrador has said he plans to take direct control over government efforts to curtail criminal violence, holding daily meetings with his security cabinet to identify trouble spots and pressing state governors to cooperate.

The frequent use of firearms, which accounted for more than 21,000 of the murders last year, suggests that most homicides were the result of criminal activity rather than personal disputes, said Alejandro Hope, a security analyst and former Mexican intelligence officer.

But there are many possible causes for the increase in violent crime, from the fracturing of drug cartels into smaller groups, the diversification of crimes committed by gangs and battles over the heroin trade as organized crime fights to supply opioids to the U.S., he said.

The bloodiest states last year were the central State of Mexico with 3,046 murders, and southern Guerrero state, at the heart of the country’s opium poppy wars, with 2,578.

The highest homicide rates were in the Pacific coast state of Colima and in Baja California Sur, at 113 and 91 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. Those states saw flare-ups in violence between rival drug gangs. Violence has since died down in Baja California Sur, home to the Los Cabos tourist resort, following federal government intervention, Mr. Hope noted.

Mr. López Obrador has blamed the proliferation of crime in part on a lack of economic opportunities for young people, and expects that a $5 billion-a-year training and employment program for 2.6 million young adults will help alleviate the problem.


The Washington Post

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