Mexico's Murder Rate Soars To Highest In History As Narco Shootouts Plague Capital

Several weeks ago, we documented how murders in Mexico jumped in 1H19 to the highest on record, despite President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's initiative to reduce crime in the cartel-ravaged country. From January to June, there were 14,603 murders, versus the 13,985 homicides recorded in 1H18. At the current rate, Mexico is expected to register the most killings ever, surpassing the 29,111 record set last year.

In this report, we dive deeper into the cartel-led murder crisis that has notably expanded across the club scene in Mexico City.

Bloomberg notes that drug gangs in Mexico City have become more powerful than ever. They're providing clubs and bars across popular parts of the city with an abundance of designer drugs, cocaine, and marijuana, fueling violent crime that has led to a tidal wave of murders.

Mexico City has always been known as an area that no American tourist should visit, considering murders and gang shootouts are extremely common in ritzy tourist areas.

The violence across the city has become so dangerous that the US State Department has placed a travel advisory for the city. The advisory warns: "violent crime, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery, is widespread."

Since President Lopez Obrador, a nationalist that leans to the left, took office in December, the murder crisis has become the number one spoken subject at gyms, cafes, bars, and offices in Mexico City.

Despite the president running on promises to reduce crime and make the economy more robust, murders have jumped 15%, and the city's economy is faltering under the leadership of Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, a political ally to the president.

Gunfights this summer have pumped bullets into wealthy neighborhoods. There was an uproar earlier this year when two men from middle-class families were kidnapped and murdered, and this forced Sheinbaum to call up the National Guard to hunt for narcos.

Large amounts of uncertainty surrounding the city's murder crisis have left investors with a sour taste as the country as a whole is headed for an economic recession.

"Our clients are far more concerned," said Gonzalo Nadal, who runs Mexico City-based risk consultancy ON Partners, whose clients include the American Chamber of Commerce of Mexico. "Some have expressed serious uncertainty" about whether to expand in the capital.

Sheinbaum said violent crimes had been grossly underreported by the previous administration who modified crime data. She published new statistics for last year that showed homicides were higher than previously thought before she took power.

Critics blame Sheinbaum and the president for the increased homicides. In the last six months, Mexico City has seen 898 murders, a figure that continues to rise.

The National Citizens' Observatory, a group focused on security policy, said Mexico City has to reform and modernize their police departments, hire better-trained detectives that can use technology to make crime-fighting more effective, but the budget cuts instated by the president have made their jobs harder.

Last week the president said in an interview that his new initiatives to combat crime are addressing the causes of the murder crisis and National Guard is providing extra personnel to win the fight against cartels. "I don't delegate this matter to anyone. I'm dealing with it directly," he said.

Cartels over the last several years have formed a new dominance in the city is most evident in nightclubs and bars. Club owners have been forced to hire security and waitstaff chosen by the narcos themselves. Other owners are powerless against the narcos and allow their security guards to oversea narcotics transactions to keep the peace. However, there are times when all hell breaks out, and gang violence erupts in these establishments, and people are left dead.

"Organized crime groups force bars to sell or permit the sale of drugs," Ernestina Godoy, the city's chief prosecutor, said in an interview.

Last week, gunfire erupted at a luxury Mexico City shopping mall, called Plaza Artz mall, where a female assassin killed two Israeli men in an apparent cartel hit. Video footage shows the chaos inside a restaurant in the mall.

Emerging Markets Political Risk Analysis says the mall shooting could have been a turf war between two gangs, Union Tepito and Anti-Union Force. Both gangs are operating with help from cartels, Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation.

Prisoners, who are released from jail, often serve as narcos for cartels, Mexico City authorities said. More and more prisoners have been released since 2008 thanks to an overhaul in the criminal justice system. The city's prison population has plummeted to 25,000 this year from more than 41,000 in 2012.

New federal data has shown homicides in the city have risen so quickly that killings per 100,000 people are only 23% below the national average. They were 33% below last year and 41% less in 2017.

Rafael Guarneros, who sits on a neighborhood crime-stopping taskforce in wealthy Condesa, an area in the Cuauhtémoc Borough of Mexico City, said that the president and mayor's crime-fighting strategies are failing. A member of Guarneros' task force, Cristina Vazquez, was killed by cartels in June after she reported a crime on her block to authorities. Hours after the murder, a man attempted to break into her apartment and was arrested. Local media reports indicate he'd been in and out of jail four times.

"Prosecutors don't know how to send a criminal to prison and keep them there, or they just don't want to," Guarneros said. "This is Mexico City's biggest failure."

Mexico City is diving deeper into a murder crisis; cartels and narcos are overrunning the country as the nationwide murder rate hits a new record high, with at least 90 people murdered per day (doesn't include drive-by shootings, kidnappings, extortion, and other serious crimes). The whole nationalist plan by the president to reduce crime and revive the economy is expected to end in disappointment as a recession is imminent.

With an economy headed south, the murder crisis is expected to deepen through 2H19.

Watch more in the documentary below: