By David Gagne / InSight Crime
The number of homicides in May reached levels unseen during the administration of Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto, and the fact that they are more widespread makes the trend increasingly difficult for authorities to reverse.
Mexico’s Executive Secretary of the National System of Public Security (Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública – SNSP) announced there were 1,746 homicides nationwide during the month of May, reported Milenio. The previous high for murders under Peña Nieto was 1,726 in December 2012, the same month he was sworn in as president.
The last time homicides were this high was in September 2012, when former President Felipe Calderon was still in office, reported El País.
Still, May is not an outlier. Mexico’s homicide rate rose to 14 per 100,000 in 2015, reversing a downtrend trend in violence for the first time since 2011. And homicides are up 19 percent during the first five months of 2016 compared to the same time period last year.
Violence in Mexico is not only rising, it’s spreading. Homicides have increased in 23 Mexican states during the first five months of 2016, according to Animal Político. The largest jump has come in Colima, where murders have risen by over 400 percent compared to the same time period in 2015. The Pacific state also owns the country’s highest homicide rate, with 33 murders per 100,000 inhabitants.
Jalisco and Sinaloa Cartel
Security analyst Alejandro Hope told InSight Crime that several factors are likely behind the rise in Mexico’s homicide rate. Hope pointed to the clashes between the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels, the country’s two most powerful drug trafficking organizations. He also said the capture of Sinaloa boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has created a “power vacuum” in north and northwestern Mexico, which “might explain why remnants of the [Beltran Leyva Organization] BLO are trying to progress into Sinaloa territory.”
Hope suggested the failures of authorities at at all levels of government could be to blame.
“State and local governments haven’t been doing their part, and the federal government, [the violence] is so widespread, their resources are spread very thin.”
But ultimately, Hope notes, these are only hypotheses. It’s still not clear what exactly is driving the surge in murders.
“We don’t know for sure,” he said.
That uncertainty is one key reason why it will be difficult for authorities to bring the murder rate back down. If they can’t identify why homicides are going up, it follows that they will have a hard time finding a quick solution.
Another reason is how sweeping the problem has become. Unlike in the Calderon era, when violence was concentrated in certain cities, homicides are now rising across the country. Ciudad Juárez, once the murder capital of the world, has drastically reduced its homicide rate in recent years, bringing down the national rate along with it.
But authorities no longer have the option of simply deploying federal troops to a few violent hotspots. The violence is too widespread. Authorities will have to come up with alternative means to stop the bleeding.
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