Violent criminality across Mexico has continued to worsen this year, based on the latest official statistics.
This data shows that the countrywide incidence of murder increased by 14% in the first seven months of 2016 compared with the same period in 2015. And more than half of the country has experienced intensified violence. State-by-state figures show that the rising violence is not limited to a few hotspot areas; the number of killings increased in 20 of Mexico’s 32 states, including the Federal District.
Our countrywide security risk level for Mexico remains substantial, and we have not changed our risk levels for individual states (see B-12-04-16-MX for these). Worsening violence in much of the country is mainly indicative of ongoing conflicts between organised crime groups. But the trend also reflects the government’s apparent inability to effectively respond to the situation. The government has shown little indication that it intends to revise its security policy, meaning that violence is likely to intensify further still over the coming months.
The crime figures published by the interior ministry’s National Public Security System (SNSP) last week cover the period from 1 January to 31 July. They show the continuation of a longer-term rise in the number of murders, with 2,073 murders countrywide in July. This is highest monthly number of murders recorded since the SNSP began publishing monthly figures in 2014. The percentage difference in the number of killings by state over the period can be seen on the above image.
The greatest rise in the incidence of murder was in Colima state, reflecting a pattern that we have already reported on (see B-27-05-16-MX for a more detailed assessment on this trend). The distribution of killings also indicates that insecurity has again worsened in states that had previously experienced some improvement over the past five years. In Veracruz, the number of murders rose by 120%. In Nuevo Leon and Michoacan, the increases were 52% and 51% respectively.
The continued worsening of violence reflects an intensification of turf wars between competing organised crime groups. According to Semaforo Delictivo, a usually reliable monitor of violence in Mexico frequently quoted in the Mexican press, the proportion of killings countrywide linked to organised crime groups has risen over the past year. According to the monitors, gang activity accounted for 48% of all murders in 2015. This rose to 60% this year.
This trend is illustrated in reports of mass-casualty killings in different parts of the country. Mexican news outlets said that police found the bodies of eight people in Alto Lucero, Veracruz, on Saturday. Eleven people reportedly died in a spate of armed attacks in Matazlan, Sinaloa, over the weekend. The Mexican press has suggested that they were part of a feud between the Sinaloa Cartel and the Beltran Leyva organisation.
Worsening violence is also a result of President Pena Nieto’s security strategy. The president has persisted with the so-called ‘kingpin strategy’, which seeks to undermine crime groups by arresting gang leaders. As we have previously noted, this has often resulted in the fragmentation of criminal groups, leading to internal fighting as well as competition between smaller and more numerous gangs. In turn, this has lead to increased violence. With the government seemingly unlikely to change its position on tackling organised crime, the number of murders across Mexico is unlikely to significantly reduce anytime soon.