The small west Mexico state of Colima has seen homicides rise by more than 900 percent compared to last year in a surge of violence that likely is linked to organized crime and has the potential to spill over into neighboring states.
In April, there were 73 homicides in Colima, a 32.7 percent rise from March and a 942.9 percent rise from the April 2015 figure, according to figures published by Mexico's National Public Security System (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública -- SNSP) (pdf).
Colima -- which borders the states of Jalisco and Michoacán -- saw a total of 206 homicides between January and April this year compared to 189 in the whole of 2015 (pdf). The wave of murders has given the Pacific coast state the highest murder rate in Mexico (pdf) for the first time since the SNSP began keeping homicide records in 1997.
The trend of rising violence in Colima began in late 2015. Over the course of 2016, murders have been increasing month on month at a rate of between 17 and 52 percent. Compared to the same period in 2015, month on month rates have shot up between 138.5 and 942.9 percent.
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InSight Crime Analysis
While Mexico has seen a generally worrying increase in homicides over the course of 2016, Colima outstrips all other states by far.
As security analyst Alejandro Hope points out, Colima's situation does not seem to follow regular organized crime patterns -- there have been no kingpin captures that would suggest a local power vacuum, nor a major deployment of federal troops in the state. However, there are indications that organized crime and cartel rivalries are behind the increase.
The initial spike in violent deaths roughly coincided with an announcement by the Sinaloa Cartel that it would be "cleaning up" the area, as reported by Mexico News Daily. According to the publication, in September 2015 the Sinaloa Cartel posted on the now-disappeared Facebook page "C.D.S. Cartel de Sinaloa" that a local leader had met with the Familia Michoacana to strengthen their alliance in "protecting local citizens." The group stated that it would "exterminate" criminals including extortionists and kidnappers, adding that "Sinaloa is now in Colima."
SEE ALSO: CJNG Profile
According to national security officials consulted by Jornada, the catalyst of the violence was a feud between the Sinaloa Cartel, the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (Cártel de Jalisco - Nueva Generación -- CJNG) and a faction of the Zetas for control of the Pacific port of Manzanillo, which is a key dispatch point for illicit goods.
Despite its relatively small population, the situation in Colima should not be overlooked. According to Hope, the state's current crisis is comparable to the drastic outbreak of violence in Ciudad Juárez in 2008, and could be closely followed by a big spike in kidnappings and extortion. If the violence in Colima is not addressed effectively, it could even "engulf the state of Jalisco, and rekindle the war in Michoacán," Hope concludes.