Newly unveiled homicide statistics in Mexico confirm that 2017 was in fact the most homicidal year in the country’s recent history, underscoring continued problems surrounding strategies used to combat organized crime groups.
Authorities in Mexico recorded 29,168 homicides* in 2017, yielding a homicide rate of 22.5 per 100,000 inhabitants -- a 27 percent increase from the number of homicides recorded in 2016. The figure represents the highest national murder tally since records started being kept in 1997, according to data from the Executive Secretariat for Public Security (Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública – SNSP).*
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In 2017, 26 of Mexico’s 32 states reported an increase in homicides compared to 2016. The Pacific states of Colima and Baja California Sur recorded the highest homicide rates in the country -- 93.61 and 69.15 per 100,000 inhabitants, respectively. The western state of Nayarit saw the greatest increase in its homicide rate, skyrocketing 542 percent from 3.1 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2016 to 20.1 in 2017, Animal Político reported.
Homicides in Mexico have risen steadily since 2014, increasing by 58.2 percent between then and the end of 2017, according to Animal Político.
The extreme brutality of criminal violence in Mexico was on stark display last year, with reports of clandestine graves, brutal beheadings, executions of young people and the alleged involvement of security forces in murders and disappearances featuring prominently throughout 2017.
InSight Crime Analysis
Despite posting its most homicidal year in recent years, Mexico appears poised to continue using the controversial and counterproductive strategy of relying on increased militarization to combat organized crime groups operating in the country.
In December 2017, lawmakers in Mexico approved the Internal Security Law, effectively cementing the military’s role in the fight against organized crime groups and codifying the armed forces ability to intervene in domestic security issues. Mexico’s armed forces have for years been linked to rights abuses and extrajudicial killings.
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However, there appears to be growing momentum for a different approach to combating violence and crime. A number of civil society organizations and opposition senators have presented a series of legal actions against the law, describing it as unconstitutional. In addition, Alfonso Durazo, the security advisor for leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, voiced his support for seeking new ways to end the violence in Mexico, including exploring the idea of granting conditional amnesty to Mexico’s drug cartel leaders.
*This article was updated from its original version to correct the number of homicide victims.