Mexican President Felipe Calderon said drug-related murders are down 12 percent this year, the latest sign that the country's violent drug war may be subsiding despite a seemingly endless rash of mass killings.
Calderon told the Wall Street Journal that public institutions, especially the police and courts, had significantly improved under his administration, which will end in November following a July 1 presidential election.
He declined to offer exact numbers on drug-related murders, providing only the 12 percent figure, citing criticism suggesting his administration was pre-judging homicides before the legal system could.
The Wall Street Journal's report notes that federal government estimates of the drug-related homicide rate are usually about 25 percent higher than estimates by newspapers, and that the Reforma newspaper counted 4747 drug deaths through June 9, compared with 12366 for all of 2011.
The Mexican president said that despite progress in his country, the region still faces serious challenges. "Looking at things in a regional context, the good news is that Mexico is confronting the problem and making progress. But from what I see in Central America and the Caribbean, they don't have the institutional capacity to confront these gangs, and it's eating at their societies," he said.
InSight Crime Analysis
This is the latest sign that Mexico's security situation is improving, but it still too early to call a victory for Calderon's militarized anti-drugs strategy. While a 12 percent decline is no doubt a significant mark of progress, there is no reason the trend cannot be reversed. The Wall Street Journal noted in the same report that the last time the government released hard numbers on drug-related homicide in January 2011, projections showed violence increasing over the preceding year. So while Calderon's good news has been echoed elsewhere, the decline in violence is still relatively new.
Still, the good signs are not wholly unprecedented. Analyst Alejandro Hope noted in January that since June 2010, drug volence slowly began to stabilize. Prior to this the country saw a surge in homicides starting in 2007 which was more than twice number seen in Colombia during the crackdown on kingpin Pablo Escobar. But Hope also recently estimated that, at the current rate of decline, violence will not drop to pre-2007 levels until 2018.