Mexico’s Murder Rate Falls — But the Drug War Is Far From Over

The biggest decline is near the border

War Is Boring
Aug 10, 2015 · 4 min read

by ROBERT BECKHUSEN

Mexico’s homicide rate is dropping, according to a new report (.pdf) published by Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography.

That’s good news, and it’s a sign that the drug war is slowing down after years of bloodshed. The bad news is that the homicide rate is still far higher than it was a few years ago. In 2007, fewer than 10,000 people were murdered in the country.

This number increased — along with the escalating drug war — to more than 27,000 people in 2011. In 2014, this number fell to below 20,000, or a rate of 16 murders per 100,000 people.

Promising to reduce the homicide rate was a central part of Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto’s strategy during the 2012 election. The statistics, if accurate, show that murders began a slow but steady decline during the election year and continued since.

It’s also important to put the rate in a regional context. Mexico as a whole is considerably safer than Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Venezuela and Brazil. But homicides are never evenly distributed, and the rate varies within Mexico. Sure enough, the highest rates in the country are in Guerrero and Chihuahua, at 48 and 46 murders per 100,000 in those states, respectively.

What’s also interesting is where the rate is dropping the fastest. That’s in the north near the U.S. border, which is the region that has seen the most serious conflict.

InSight Crime, a Latin America organized crime monitoring website, summed up the report and described Mexico’s geography of violence.

Mexico’s six border states Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas, plus adjacent Durango and Sinaloa, represent the historical home of Mexican organized crime. Virtually all of the most powerful groups in recent decades — among various others, the Juarez Cartel, the Sinaloa Cartel, the Gulf Cartel, the Zetas, and the Arellano Felix Organization — all called these states home. The plazas within this region included Mexico’s most valuable, and the groups mentioned above have long waged war to control them.

All of these states saw their total number of killings drop from last year. In most of them, the drops were substantial. Nuevo Leon and Coahuila, for example, registered drops of 40 and 45 percent, respectively. With the exception of Sonora and Baja California, each of these states registered their most violence-free year since 2010.

The term plaza refers to a drug market. One possible reason why:

The winding down of several conflicts across the North largely explain the increased tranquility. The most prominent is the years-long battle for control of Juarez between the Sinaloa Cartel and Juarez Cartel and their respective allies. The organization controlled by Guzman essentially emerged on top, making the border town, once the world’s most violent metropolis, a far calmer place.

While the rivalries remain in place, the Sinaloa Cartel’s battles with the Beltran Leyva Organization, which sparked waves of bloodshed in Sinaloa and elsewhere in Mexico starting in 2008, and the Zetas dispute with the Gulf Cartel, a driver of violence across the Northeast since 2010, have also eased.

Guzman broke out of prison on July 11, 2015.

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