The survey: Mexico No. 2 behind Syria. The survey: Mexico No. 2 behind Syria.

MX second to Syria for deadly conflict: survey

23,000 drug-war homicides make it No. 2 among the world's conflict zones

Mexico recorded 23,000 homicides attributed to the ongoing drug war in 2016, making it the world’s second deadliest conflict zone only behind Syria, according to the annual Armed Conflict Survey released yesterday by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).


John Chipman, chief executive and director-general of the IISS said, “This is all the more surprising, considering that the conflict deaths [in Mexico] are nearly all attributable to small arms.”

High rates of homicide were also recorded in the “Northern Triangle” (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) of Central America, but while those countries recorded modest improvements in 2016, Mexico did not.

Although the other countries that make up the top four — Syria (50,000 deaths in 2016), Iraq (17,000) and Afghanistan (16,000) — have received prominent coverage by international news media, Mexico has attracted much less attention.

One analyst, assistant head of the U.S. and Americas program at London Think Tank Chatham House, attributes the less than prominent coverage of Mexico to the fact that the combatants in the conflict — drug cartels — are not fighting for an overtly political purpose.

“It’s not a war in the political sense of the word,” said Jacob Parakilas. “The participants largely don’t have a political objective. They’re not trying to create a breakaway state. It doesn’t come with the same visuals. There are no air strikes.”

Drug violence in Mexico is largely caused by territorial disputes between opposing cartels fighting to control lucrative smuggling routes into the United States.


However, power struggles within cartels, such as the split in the Sinaloa Cartel after the arrest of head honcho Joaquín “El Chapo” Gúzman last year, can also lead to increased violence.

Cartels also wage war against state military forces using their own military-grade weapons, paid for with untold riches —US $19-$29 billion annually according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — gained through transnational drug trafficking.

Last year was the most violent since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in December 2012 with a 22.8% increase in intentional homicides over 2015, and statistics for the first few months of 2017 show that the trend is worsening.

There were 2,020 homicides recorded in March, making it the bloodiest month since June 2011 when the country was in the midst of a militarized cartel-fighting strategy implemented by Peña Nieto’s predecessor, Felipe Calderón.

Antonio Sampaio, research associate for security and development at survey author IISS, argues that the increase in drug-related violence is caused by militarization of cartels, “an arms race of sorts,” coupled with “the institutional weakness and pervasive corruption that have plagued the Mexican state.”

Cartels have become more aggressive in their tactics to intimidate locals, rival cartels and the state, all in the pursuit of one thing — territorial autonomy that gives them the freedom to conduct illicit activities such as cocaine smuggling and production of other illegal substances such as heroin and increasingly methamphetamine.

Los Zetas used aggressive tactics to grow exponentially during the years of Calderón’s war on drugs, Sampaio says, leaving mass casualties while more recently the Jalisco New Generation Cartel has adopted a similarly hawkish strategy and through it has come to rival the Sinaloa Cartel in size and territorial presence.

Peña Nieto has continued to respond to security issues by dispatching federal forces, often the military, despite vowing to take a less militarized approach than his predecessor and has preferred to play down the violence plaguing the country, emphasizing instead reforms that his government has made.

Despite security scandals plaguing his administration, most notably the disappearance of 43 teaching students in Iguala, Guerrero, a decrease in federal security spending was announced in January.

Stagnant growth has been blamed for the country’s inability to dedicate more funds to the much-needed area leading to predictions that 2017 may be the most violent year ever.

A plunge in the value of the peso has also complicated funding for the Mexican government while cartels, whose revenues are mostly in dollars, have benefited.

Today, the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (SRE) released a statement questioning and challenging the IISS report.

“Their conclusions do not hold up in the case of Mexico” because one of their determining factors is that there is an internal armed conflict. That, the statement said, does not exist, “and just because there are criminal groups isn’t an adequate criterion to speak of an armed conflict.”

The SRE also rejected the argument that the use of the armed forces to maintain security meant that an armed conflict was taking place. It also stated “the total estimate for homicides on a national level has not yet been published by Inegi [the National Statistics Institute] so the origin of the figures used in the report is unknown.”

Source: IISS Voices (en), CNN (en), Business Insider (en), El Financiero (sp)

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  • iskinder

    These people are idiots. How could they compared countries with different total populations numbers as if they were equal in size. Mexico is a country of more than 123 million-people! … Also, I wounder where they got the 23,000 figure when most sources speak of less than 19,000 homicides for the year 2016 . —

    • csb4546

      This topic is a sensitive one for Mexicans, understandably.
      It’s embarrassing to be compared to failed middle-eastern states that are ungoverned terrorist havens.
      When we are forced to describe 19,000 murders as “better” than a higher number – it’s already too late.
      I’ve often been criticized for calling Mexico a “failed state”.
      But when it comes to violence – Mexico’s “peers” are Syria, Iraq, Somalia, and Afghanistan.
      Facts don’t lie – Mexican violence is at a crisis stage, with no end in sight.

  • miabeach

    Once Venezuelas Muslim Vice President completes the Islamist take over of Venezuela Mexico will lose traction on their splendid achievement at cracking the number two slot on bloodshed and murder. Quite an achievement for Mexico considering the global competition In far away places like Somalia or Brazil.

  • alance

    The life expectancy for a Mexican male is 73.1.
    The life expectancy for a US male is 78.9.

    • Anthony Stein

      The life expectancy of a US male when drop drastically after Trumputo rips the heart out of the so called health care system! Of course there is really no system for the poor is there? Down the ladder they go!

      • cooncats

        Hey genius, ObombedCare is failing all on its own. Try and catch up with the news of all the insurers who are abandoning it.

        I suspect we agree it should be left alone but for two very different reasons. Mine is simple: Unless one is living under a rock as you appear to be, it is obvious the thing will fail in short order. Actually, that was always the intent–have it fail and then replace it with single payer so Americans can join their Canadian neighbors in the waiting lines for health care.

        • Anthony Stein

          That is funny bird brain because every nurse, doctor and all health care providers in your shit hole country disagree with you! They are the ones who work on the front lines providing health services. But in you f..k head brain you only can wonder how your so called advanced nation can spend so much money on care but receive so little in return! Only these leeches in the insurance business rake in the cash!…you are right are simple aren’t you!

          • cooncats

            Fantastic! Every single one in America. Please contact Guinness Book of Records immediately with this brilliant finding. You will be making history!

            Or better yet, look up the “Bandwagon Fallacy” before you continue to make a fool of yourself.

            Don’t look now but your “sharp tongue” isn’t connected to a sharp brain.


          • Anthony Stein

            No! Forget it coonhead! Your country isn’t advanced enough to offer health care to everybody! Who would want to live in a country that has no compassion for its own countrymen! A country of mongrels!

  • K. Chris C.

    The informed few know how redonkulous this propaganda is. Thanks for the laugh. Sadly though, the brainwashed masses would be chanllenged even to find Sudan, or Ethiopia, or Somalia, or Yemen, or Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Ukraine, or Algeria on a map.

    Interesting propaganda in that the strife in Syria is run by the CIA and Mossad, and the strife in Mexico is run by the CIA.

    An American citizen, not US subject.

  • Güerito

    Your link has figure of 20,858 for the first 11 months of 2016.

    The figure cited in the article is probably correct, but it’s absurd to count all those murders as being part of some “armed conflict.”

    In fact, only about half of all murders in Mexico are related to the drug war, and you really can’t even consider those deaths as part of an armed conflict in the usual use of that term.

    • csb4546

      “Only about half of all murders in Mexico are related to the drug war.”
      Are you sure about that?
      50% of Mexican murders are done by average citizens, not criminal gangs?

  • frankania

    Just like ending liquor prohibition in the USA in the early 1920’s, the result will be LESS killing, Less dying from contaminated drugs, less smuggling, less everything bad. It is the fault mostly, of stupid USA war on drugs. End prohibition everywhere….

    • Güerito

      After prohibition ended, the mafia did not go away. It diversified, like Mexican cartels are now doing.

  • sara keenan

    I’m curious. Are there any stats on how many of these murders involve non-drug-cartel civilians and gringos? Is this drug traffickers and thugs killing each other or are a large number of these deaths civilians caught in the crossfire? What has shocked the world about Syria is the large-scale murdering of civilian populations. Where is that happening in Mexico? I am asking so I can lean.

    • Güerito

      As I state above, at least half of all murders in Mexico are unrelated to narcos or the narco war.

      These are common run-of-the mill homicides related to, for instance, personal grudges, bar fights, domestic disturbances, felony murders, etc.

      That’s why I think it’s crazy to include these in any tally showing an “armed conflict” in Mexico.

  • Mike S

    Tremendous cartel war violence in Mx. Put in perspective, in the US there are roughly 14,000 gun homicides annually but also roughly 75,000 people maimed by guns. The US has very fast 911 ambulance service and very good and fast emergency room care. That could easily mean the difference between tens of thousands surviving. So is the violence that much worse between US and Mx? Most visitors and ex-pat Americans in Mx are not involved in drugs and know very well where the dangerous areas and neighborhoods are. I would say for those people, Mx is less dangerous than the US. The indiscriminate war violence against civilians in places like Syria can not be compared to what’s happening in Mx. Until the $40 billion hard drug demand from the US subsides, the Mx drug cartels will stay in business. If they branch out beyond drugs, there may well arise a dictator in Mx if people’s basic security is threatened.

  • Güerito

    That’s right. Of course, there are problems with all crime figures in Mexico, but the debate is really between whether narco murders are about one-third or one-half of all murders.

    I don’t know why that would be surprising:

    “Estimating how many homicides are related to drug violence is an imprecise science, but leading newspapers in Mexico estimate that since 2006, organized crime-style homicides account for 40% to 50%.”

    See also:

    “Tallies compiled independently by media organizations in Mexico suggest that at least a third and as many as half of all intentional homicides in 2014 bore characteristics typical of organized-crime related killings.”