Mexico breaks another record for murders in 2018 by quite a bit
Murders in Mexico hit record high as police, government struggle to contain violence
Jonathon Gatehouse · CBC News · Posted: Jan 22, 2019 1:54 PM ET | Last Updated: January 22
A Mexican soldier stands guard on Nov. 9, 2018, outside a funeral parlor during the wake of Valeria Medel, the daughter of Mexican congresswoman Carmen Medel, who was gunned down at a gym in Ciudad Mendoza in a suspected case of mistaken identity. (Oscar Martinez/Reuters)
Mexico has set a new murder record for the second year running, with 33,341 homicides in 2018.
The new figures, released by the Secretariat of Security and Citizen Protection, represent an almost 15 per cent increase from last year's 29,168 murders. The current wave of violence eclipses the previous peak of the country's drug wars in 2011, when 27,213 died.
So far, 2019 isn't shaping up to be any better.
On Sunday, police in Cancun found seven dead bodies in a house in the city's centre — victims, they say, of a dispute between "street-level drug dealers." Last year, the popular vacation destination saw 540 murders, more than double the 227 recorded in 2017.
(The Pacific coast paradise of Acapulco retains the title of murder capital, however, with a homicide rate of 103 killings per 100,000 inhabitants, placing it among the most violent cities in the world.)
Forensic personnel and Mexican soldiers carry the body of a murdered man, who was found in Caletilla Beach, Acapulco, on April 15, 2018. Guerrero, home to popular beach destinations such as Acapulco, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, is also one of the poorest states in the country and one of the hardest hit by organized crime violence. (Francisco Robles/AFP/Getty Images)
Also on Sunday, police discovered the battered corpse of a missing journalist, Rafael Murua Manriquez, in northwestern Baja state. He is the 122nd reporter slain in the country since 2000.
Last week, police in the border city of Juárez were embroiled in a series of running street battles with La Linea, the local drug cartel, that left eight officers wounded and saw a city bus set alight. So far in January, there have been more than 60 homicides in the municipality, which sits just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.
The week before, authorities in Ciudad Miguel Alemán — 1,100 kilometres to the southeast but still along the Texas border — found 20 bodies, most of them burned beyond recognition, after a clash between two rival drug gangs.
Well over 150,000 people have died since the Mexican government declared war on the cartels in 2006. Tens of thousands more have simply disappeared, many abducted and murdered by security forces. But illicit drugs remain a $29 billion US a year business.
An expert in ballistics analyzes shell casings at the Laboratory of Expert Services and Forensic Sciences of the Attorney General of Chihuahua. (Henrika Martinez/AFP/Getty Images)
And now the soaring murder rate is also being driven by another type of crime: fuel thefts.
The illegal tapping of pipelines and refineries has become a $2.5 billion to $3.5 billion US enterprise, with 11,240 breaches discovered in the first nine months of 2018 alone. And with organized gangs recruiting entire neighbourhoods to collect the spoils or block police, violent turf wars have followed.
Newly installed President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador came to power vowing to bring an end to the bloodshed in the country's streets. But over his first six weeks in the job, there has been little indication that he intends to follow a different path than his predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto.
The army, which he once promised to return to its barracks, has instead seen its public profile strengthened. The military has been dispatched to protect 58 key fuel installations, and put in charge of building Mexico City's new airport.
Students in Guadalajara hold signs that read 'No more silence!' and 'No more violence!' at an April 26, 2018 demonstration. They were protesting the murder of three film students who have become emblematic of Mexico's missing, after they were abducted by a drug cartel while filming a school project at a family member's house. (Eduardo Verdugo/Associated Press)
And AMLO, as the president is popularly known, seems to be wavering when it comes to his intent to seek a negotiated solution with the cartels.
To the surprise of many, the leftist reformer has been actively trying to keep the military in the fight, creating a new National Guard to battle the cartels after the country's Supreme Court ruled that the army's never-ending deployment in the streets was unconstitutional.