Not even the coronavirus pandemic has put a dent in Mexico’s alarmingly high homicide rate: March was the most violent month since President López Obrador took office in December 2018, official statistics show.
The National Public Security System reported on Monday that there were 3,000 homicide victims last month, the highest number since July 2018 when 3,074 people were murdered.
The March numbers constitute the second highest monthly total since former president Felipe Calderón was sworn in on December 1, 2006. The number of victims last month is 8.5% higher than February and 5.1% higher than March 2019.
Once again, Guanajuato had the highest number of homicide victims in March with 353 followed by México state, Chihuahua, Baja California and Michoacán, where 286, 247, 243 and 213 people, respectively, were murdered.
The other five states among the 10 most violent in March were, in order, Jalisco, Guerrero, Mexico City, Veracruz and Sonora.
Yucatán and Baja California Sur were the least violent, with just two homicide victims each. Eight people were murdered in each of Campeche and Aguascalientes last month while there were 10 victims in Nayarit.
Domestic violence offenses also increased as people spent more time in their homes to help limit the spread of Covid-19. More than 20,300 cases were reported in March, a 13.7% increase compared to February.
Minor drug trafficking offenses, human trafficking and muggings all increased compared to February but femicides, kidnappings, extortion, vehicle theft and burglaries all declined.
The high levels of violence seen in March have shown only limited signs of abating in April even though a health emergency stipulating the suspension of all nonessential activities has been in effect since the start of the month. An average of 97 people per day were murdered last month while in the first 19 days of April there was an average of 84 homicide victims per day, according to preliminary government statistics.
The past two days were the two most violent of the year with a total of 219 homicide victims. The government reported 105 victims on Sunday but the 2020-high only stood for a day before the murders of 114 people were reported on Monday.
Guanajuato, where the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the San Rosa de Lima Cartel are engaged in a bloody turf war, was the most violent state in the country on Monday with 16 homicides. México state recorded the highest number of murders on Sunday with 12.
President López Obrador acknowledged on Monday that homicides have not declined during the health emergency period and called on criminal groups to restrain themselves. Instead of handing out aid packages containing groceries and other essentials to disadvantaged citizens, criminals groups need to stop the violence, he said.
“We’re dealing with the coronavirus [pandemic] but unfortunately we’re still having problems with homicides. They haven’t even calmed down because of the coronavirus situation; don’t come along now and say ‘we’re handing out groceries,’ stop [the violence]! Think of your families and yourselves. Those who dedicate themselves to these [criminal] activities, if you’re listening to me or watching me, you have to have love for life, it’s the most sublime thing, a blessing,” he said.
“Handing out groceries doesn’t help, what helps is stopping bad deeds, loving your neighbor, not causing harm to anyone. … Think of your families, especially your mothers, the suffering that you cause them, the suffering of the victims’ families,” López Obrador said.
The president reiterated that his administration is committed to providing alternatives for people involved in crime so that they can “be happy again with their families, have a job and not be forced to do harm.”
He has consistently pledged to reduce violence by addressing its root causes rather than combating it with force.
However, 2019 was the most violent year on record in Mexico, leading many observers to conclude that the the so-called “hugs, not bullets” security strategy was a failure and needed to be changed.