As debate continues over claims by Mexico's president that his security policies are behind a drop in violence, statistics showing rapid growth in the number of kidnappings stand as a reminder of the country's precarious security situation.
Speaking at a National Security Council meeting, President Enrique Peña Nieto said homicides related to federal crimes -- often taken as an indicator of organized crime linked murders -- had fallen 20 percent since he took office in December last year, with the biggest drops coming in the most violent cities. He also highlighted the capture of 62 of the 122 "most dangerous" criminals during that time period, reported El Universal.
The president attributed these successes to his security policies, which he said had favored intelligence gathering over aggressive operations, reported Milenio.
However, kidnapping figures from January to July 2013 show that despite reaching record highs last year, kidnappings continue to rise sharply, with 911 registered in the first seven months of 2013, compared to 720 in the corresponding period last year, reported news agency Agencia Proceso.
InSight Crime Analysis
Peña Nieto should be wary of taking credit for apparent security gains -- if the murder rate starts to increase again then he will have backed himself into a corner, and he will in turn have to accept responsibility for any decline in security.
The president's claims that violence is decreasing should also be approached cautiously. The practice of using murders linked to federal crimes to illustrate violence levels has been criticized by civil society groups, and under the new administration doubts over crime figures continue.
However, there can be little doubt that kidnapping is on the rise, with figures from a variety of sources all showing record numbers, which are still climbing steeply.
The rise in kidnappings is most likely due to two major evolutions in Mexico’s criminal landscape: namely the diversification of criminal organizations into activities outside drug trafficking, including contraband smuggling and human trafficking, and the fragmentation of criminal groups.
As centralized cartels with a national reach have crumbled amid wars among themselves and against the state, criminal organizations have fractured into more locally focused groups, which fund themselves with micro-trafficking, extortion of small businesses and kidnapping for ransom.