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LATIN AMERICA

Mexico’s steady decline in murders begins to slow down

Mexico state knocked Chihuahua from the number one spot for homicides in 2012

Pablo de Llano Neira
A funeral worker holds the crosses for the graves of two young men shot dead in Chihuahua on Saturday.
A funeral worker holds the crosses for the graves of two young men shot dead in Chihuahua on Saturday.José Luis González (Reuters)

Mexico’s steady murder rate decline from 2008 showed a quick slow down last year, the country’s National Statistics Institute (INEGI) said Tuesday.

In 2012, there were 26,037 homicides (22 per 100,000 population) compared to the 27,213 murders (24 per 100,000) the year before. Figures still show a continuous drop but leave the country well off the numbers before they began to spike: in 2007 there were 8,876 homicides, three times fewer than in 2012.

The INEGI statistics measure the total number of homicides that took place throughout Mexico, but does not detail how many are related to organized crime and drug trafficking – specific data of most concern among Mexicans – since the murder statistics began to fall when a government war was declared against the cartels by then-President Felipe Calderón during his term in office from 2006 to 2012.

The number of deaths linked to organized crime is separately provided every month by the Mexican Interior Ministry. Data from July indicates that the homicide rate connected to organized crime dropped 18 percent – from 8,631 to 7,110 – in the first seven months of Enrique Peña Nieto’s presidency (between December 2012 and June 2013) compared to the same period last year, when Calderon was still in office.

The jurisdiction that recorded the most homicides last year was Mexico State, which borders Mexico City, and is the most populous of the nation’s 31 states. Mexico State had 2,905 murders last year, knocking Chihuahua in northern Mexico from the number one rank. Chihuahua went from 4,500 deaths in 2011 to 2,783 in 2012. In terms of population, however, Mexico State had 18 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants (slightly below the national average) while Chihuahua recorded 77 per 100,000.

Last year both Chihuahua and Guerrero, in southwestern Mexico, tied for the top spot of the number of homicides per resident. Michoacán, just north of Guerrero, has become the epicenter of violence between drug trafficking cartels and armed vigilante groups, but only reported 18 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants last year, one fewer than in 2011.

The two states with the lowest murder rate figures were Aguascalientes and Yucatán

In other northern states – the troubled drug corridor to the United States – there is also diversity in crime statistics. In Nuevo León, according to data from 2012, the murder rate dropped from 45 to 38 per 100,000, while in Tamaulipas, the state that borders it to the east, homicides rose from 32 to 46. In Coahuila, to the west, it climbed from to 26 to 41 per 100,000.

The two states with the lowest murder rate figures were Aguascalientes, in central Mexico, and Yucatán, in the southeast, with 4 and 2 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, respectively. Mexico City, the capital, had 12 per 100,000, the same figure recorded in 2011 and the year before.

The national average for homicides, 22 per 100,000, is much lower than that of neighboring Central American nations such as Honduras (92 per 100,000 in 2011) and El Salvador (69 per 100,000 in 2011), and is also below that of a country with which it is compared through drug violence, Colombia, which has other added factors of violence such as guerrillas and in 2012 registered 31 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the police. The figure for Mexico is in a range close to that of Brazil, which in 2010, according to the latest data provided by the United Nations, had 21 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

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