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Mexico sees the most deadly year of Peña Nieto presidency

2016 set to close with over 20,800 homicides due to a spike in drug cartel violence since July

For Mexico, 2016 will be remembered as the country’s most violent in recent years, with 20,858 murders registered between January and November, the highest number so far in President Enrique Peña Nieto’s four years in office, according to figures compiled by the National Public Security System.

A forensics photographer at a crime scene in Cuernavaca, Morelos.
A forensics photographer at a crime scene in Cuernavaca, Morelos. Cuartoscuro

The figures are based on investigations undertaken by state-level public prosecutors, and show that November was the bloodiest month so far this year, with 2,018 murders, 25% up from the same month in 2015. The total number of homicides for 2015 was 18,673, up from the 17,324 for 2014.

Renewed violence between drugs cartels lies behind much of the violence

Mexico’s murder rate spiked this summer, with 2,094 killings reported in July, and never falling below 2,000 a month since then, a trend unseen up to that point during the Peña Nieto administration. The government’s security strategy has failed to halt the killings, which have increased in 24 of the country’s 32 states. August saw an increase, followed by September’s 2,189 homicides. That was the worst month since May 2012, when Mexico was still under Felipe Calderón, who launched a massive crackdown on drug cartels after his election in 2006.

The reasons for this year’s increase lie with renewed turf wars between the country’s drug cartels. Colima, a small state on Mexico’s Pacific coast that had largely escaped the violence, was the setting for bloodletting between the Jalisco Nueva Generación cartel and other criminal gangs for control of the port of Manzanillo. This sent the murder rate soaring by almost 300%. Colima, with just 350,000 inhabitants, now has the highest per capita murder rate in the country at 89 per 100,000.

The murder rate is rising toward levels of five years ago

Guerrero, another Pacific coast state, has also witnessed a sharp increase in violence despite efforts by security forces and the government. The state, with a population of 3.4 million, registered 212 murders in November, the highest figure for the entire country. Over the course of this year, there have been more than 2,000 killings there, putting the per capita figure at around 70 per 100,000. In absolute terms, Guerrero is overtaken only by Mexico state, whose population is five times greater.

The figures, collected by the Interior Department's National Public Security System (SNSP), will now be checked against those of the National Statistics and Geography Institute (INEGI), which tend to be broken down in more detail than those provided by local prosecutors’ offices. Typically, the INEGI’s total is higher than that of the SNSP, but it takes up to a year to reach its conclusions, meaning that it will not be until July of next year that Mexico will know just how lethal 2016 has truly been.

A 10-year war on the drug cartels

L.P.B.

It is now 10 years since President Felipe Calderón sent troops to Michoacán in a bid to quell the rising tide of violence between the drug cartels there. In 2007, the country saw it its murder rate fall to the lowest levels in its modern history, with just 8,867, a rate of 8.2 per 100,000. But within two years, the rate had doubled. By 2011, the murder rate had soared to 27,213, or 24 per 100,000. Security experts say that this year will likely see the per capita rate rise to around 20 per 100,000.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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