2017 Was Mexico’s Deadliest Year In Two Decades

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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The number of murders in Mexico last year surged to its highest level in 20 years, as rival drug cartels battled for control of trafficking corridors to the lucrative U.S. drug market.

There were 25,339 so-called “intentional homicides” in 2017, a 23 percent increase from 2016, which was also a particularly violent year. It was the highest total of murders in a single year since 1997, reports the Wall Street Journal, citing data released Sunday by Mexico’s interior ministry.

Though Mexico has long suffered from cartel violence, the last few years have been particularly deadly as upstart drug trafficking organizations have moved in to compete with established cartels riven by infighting. Much of the spike in murders can be attributed to battles between the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG) and several legacy organizations, with the former group moving to seize territory in the corridor along Mexico’s mountainous west coast, from Guerrero to Baja California.

Earlier this month, the State Department put five Mexican states — Sinaloa, Guerrero, Michoacan, Colima and Tamaulipas — in the “do not travel” category of its revised travel warning system, the same designation applied to near-failed states plagued by terrorism and open warfare. Cartels in those states operate with relative impunity, bribing and threatening state and local officials to eliminate resistance.


At the outset of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s term, Mexico had appeared to turn the corner on the horrific violence it experienced during the tenure of former President Felipe Calderon from 2006 to 2012. Calderon’s war on the drug cartels left more than 100,000 people dead in the span of six years, but the violence had had begun to wane by 2014.

Last year, however, saw renewed inter-cartel fighting that sent homicides soaring 63 percent from 2014. In Mexico’s deadliest state, Colima, the murder rate hit 94 per 100,000 residents, surpassing those of the Western Hemisphere’s most violent countries — El Salvador, Honduras and Venezuela.

The murder rate for Mexico as whole was 20.5 per 100,000 residents, more than four times higher than the U.S. rate.

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