There were 29,168 homicides in 2017, the federal government reported yesterday, making last year’s murder rate the worst in at least two decades.
The figure is the highest since comparable records were first kept in 1997 and represents a 27% increase over 2016 numbers.
It is also almost 2,000 more than the previous high recorded in 2011 when the war on drugs initiated by former president Felipe Calderón reached its peak.
The Secretariat of the Interior reported that last year’s per-capita homicide rate was 20.5 per 100,000 inhabitants, up just over a point from the 19.4 recorded in 2011.
However, Mexico security analyst Alejandro Hope said that the real rate is likely higher than official statistics show because it calculates its per-capita rate on the number of homicide investigations rather than the number of victims.
A homicide investigation may involve more than one victim, so Hope estimates that the real homicide rate is probably around 24 per 100,000.
But despite the increase and a tweet from U.S. President Donald Trump last week claiming that Mexico is “the number one most dangerous country in the world,” the overall per-capita rate is in fact lower than several other Latin American countries.
El Salvador reported a homicide rate of 60.8 last year, while the figure for Venezuela was 57 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Brazil and Colombia were also more violent than Mexico in 2017, with both South American countries recording rates of around 27 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, Associated Press reported.
The rates for several U.S. cities, including St Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans and Detroit, were also higher than the overall rate for Mexico, AP said.
However, the murder rates for some Mexican states were particularly alarming.
The small Pacific coast state of Colima had 93.6 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants last year while Baja California Sur recorded 69.1.
The southern state of Guerrero was next worst, recording with 64.2. In August last year the Washington Post described the state’s biggest tourism drawing card, Acapulco, as Mexico’s murder capital.
Violence and proposed strategies to combat it are certain to be central issues in the July 1 presidential election.
President Enrique Peña Nieto took office at the end of 2012 after pledging during the election campaign that a new Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) administration would put an end to drug cartel-related violence.
However, while homicide rates dropped between 2012 and 2014, in 2015 they began to rise again.
Violence last year made 2017 the bloodiest year probably since the early 1990s, AP said, and there are already signs that this year could be even worse.
Chihuahua, Guanajuato and Veracruz are among the states that have made a bloody start to 2017.
In the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, some of the homicides in the first month of the year were particularly gruesome.
Nine people were killed and dismembered before being left in an abandoned vehicle in the state capital Xalapa on the weekend of January 13. Army action followed in an attempt to combat the escalation of violence.
Five severed heads were found on the hood of a taxi in Tlacotalpan, Veracruz, earlier in the month. The Jalisco New Generation Cartel is believed to have been responsible.
However, it’s not just cartel turf wars and in-fighting that is behind the spike in violence, according to Hope.
“The violence in Mexico has many causes,” he said.
“Drug trafficking is one of them, of course, but it’s not the only one. There are social triggers, institutional ones, historical ones, issues of land rights, it is complex,” he explained.
Source: El Economista (sp)