Mexico’s next president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor and outspoken critic of the political establishment - has a significant uphill battle once he is inaugurated as President on December 01: deadly violence in the country is intensifying and has hit an all-time high.
Mexico posted its highest homicides on record, with a new government report Sunday showing murders in the country rose by 16 percent in the first half of 2018.
The Interior Department said there were 15,973 homicides in the first half of the year, compared to 13,751 killings in the same period of 2017.
According to the AP, the record-breaking homicides have surpassed the violence seen during the dark years of Mexico’s drug war in 2011, along with exceeding all government data since records began in 1997.
At these crisis levels, the department’s homicide rate for the country stands around 22 per 100,000 population for year-end estimates — near the level of Columbia 24.2 and Guatemala 26.0.
Security analyst Alejandro Hope told the AP, “the figures are horrible, but there are some signs that are halfway encouraging.”
For example, the growth in homicides could be slowing; murders were up only about 4 percent compared to the second half of 2017. “The curve may be flattening out,” Hope noted, though he warned his forecast could be incorrect.
Hope noted that the northern border state of Baja California exhibited the largest surge in homicide rates, while other states saw declines.
“Baja California, home to the border city of Tijuana, saw 1,463 homicides in the first half of the year, a 44 percent increase over the same period of 2017. Authorities have attributed the spate of killings to battles between the Jalisco and Sinaloa drug cartels for control of trafficking routes in Baja California. The state is now Mexico’s second most violent, with a homicide rate for the first six months of the year equivalent to 71 murders per 100,000 inhabitants,” said AP.
By comparison, El Salvador and Venezuela are among the deadliest countries in the world — have homicide rates of around 54 to 60 per 100,000.
Thanks to the Jalisco drug cartel, Mexico’s most dangerous state is Colima, on the central Pacific coast, which experienced a 27-percent increase in killings and now has a shocking homicide rate of about 80 per 100,000
Guanajuato, a central Mexican state, saw a 122 percent increase in homicides, which now has a rate of about 40 per 100,000. Government officials have reported that much of violent crime is linked to gangs of fuel thieves who drill taps into government pipelines.
Here are Mexico’s eight most violent states by annual homicide rate, based on federal data. Over the past few years, killings rebounded in Baja California and Chihuahua states:
Mexico is on pace to top the record-setting violence of 2017. The 15,973 murders over the first six months of 2018 exceed the 13,503 reported over the same period last year.
Drug trafficking routes overlaid with homicide rates (2015) — notice a pattern?
Earlier this year, the US State Department published a new multi-tiered travel advisory system to warn U.S. citizens of traveling to Mexico. Travel advisories range from Level 1 (“exercise normal precautions”) to Level 4 (“do not travel”).
According to the Igarapé Institute, a Brazilian-based think tank that focuses on emerging security and development issues, the murder epidemic is not just limited to Mexico, but across all of Latin America.
The Institute stated the current situation is incredibly complex and results from decades of corruption, drug trafficking, organized crime, contraband, illegal mining, land rights, and in some cases, violence by state military forces.