An increase in homicides has brought a decline in peace, according to the 2017 Mexico Peace Index, released this week by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), an international think tank.
The 4.3% decline in peacefulness, the first since 2012, comes as a result of an 18% increase in homicides last year, an upward trend that began in 2015, said a report accompanying the release of the index.
The country’s homicide rate is 16.7 per 100,000, well above the global average of 7.3 but a big improvement on the 2011 rate of 20.
The report highlighted the importance of improving the capacity of its judicial and law enforcement systems, noting that 91% of crimes go unpunished. “. . . there is little wonder why Mexican people see impunity as a more worrisome issue than narco-trafficking.”
The system itself doesn’t have sufficient resources to carry out what needs to be done: Mexico has 3.5 justice officials per 100,000 people, much lower than the global average of 16.
The Peace Index estimates the cost of violence increased 3% to 3.07 trillion pesos, or US $180 billion, equivalent to 18% of the Gross Domestic Product.
On the other hand, the report observes that things are better than they were in 2011.
“Despite the deterioration in 2016, Mexico remained almost 14% more peaceful in 2016 than in 2011, with improvements being recorded 21 out of the 32 states.”
Violent crime dropped to a 14-year low last year, a 34% improvement over its peak year, 2011, and organized crime-related offences have been falling for five years.
Globally, Mexico kept its ranking of No. 140 among the 163 countries evaluated.
Drilling down geographically, Guerrero was the least peaceful state for the fourth year in a row. With a homicide rate of 61.6 per 100,000 inhabitants, the Pacific coast state has reached the levels reported elsewhere during the worst years of the war on drugs.
Guerrero was followed by the states of Colima, Sinaloa, Baja California Sur, Baja California, Morelos, Zacatecas, Nuevo León and Chihuahua.
Colima registered the worst deterioration overall, as its homicide rate tripled while the number of violent and organized crime-related violence doubled.
“The level of violence in this state is worse today than what it was during the peak of the war on drugs,” said the report.
In Zacatecas, Baja California Sur, Michoacán and Nuevo León “the deterioration is between 20% and 27%, a fact that indicates that ruptures in peace are quicker and sudden than improvements.”
The most peaceful states were Yucatán, Nayarit, Tlaxcala, Hidalgo, Coahuila, Chiapas, Campeche and Querétaro.
Still, in 21 of the 32 states peacefulness registered some deterioration or worsening when compared to the previous year.
The index suggests there are four areas of public policy that require attention and change in order to bring about high levels of peace. They are combating impunity, strengthening police, implementing strategies to reduce homicide rates and focusing on the role of local governments in solving the problem.
The full Peace Index can be found here.