2017 marked the deadliest year in Mexican history, with 2,219 murders in December pushing the grand total to 25,339. The previous record of 22,409 was reached in 2011.
2017 was also the deadliest year on record for Costa Rica, which is starting to see more drug-related violence. Most illegal drugs coming into the US travel through Central America and then through Mexico. Costa Rica is one of many ‘transshipment points’ for drugs heading north, and the increase in worst in areas where drug activity has increased.
“There does not exist a beach in Costa Rica where narcos haven’t penetrated with a boat with cocaine, coming from Colombia,” complains Gustavo Mata, the nation’s Public Security Minister.
Costa Rica’s homicide rate for 2017 (per 100,000) was 12.1 – more than double the rate in the US. In Mexico, it was 20.5 (up from 16.8 in 2016).
Despite the increase, figures for Costa Rica and Mexico are considerably lower than other Latin American countries (murder rate per 100,000 for the year 2015):
• Brazil and Colombia = 27
• Venezuela = 57
• Honduras = 64
• El Salvador = 109
The increasing murder rate in Mexico is directly linked to the drug trafficking trade, which if anything is getting worse.
Attacks escalated following former President Felipe Calderon’s 2006 military crackdown on drugs, and Mexican security forces have routinely been accused of rights violations.
Analysts have blamed Calderon’s “kingpin strategy” for fracturing gangs into several autonomous groups that spread into new areas and experimented with new crimes. This theory is reflected by the increasing violence in previously quiet states like Baja California Sur and central Guanajuato.
Stats for 2017 are a major blow for President Enrique Peña Nieto, who campaigned on the promised to get gang violence under control ahead of the election in July. Nieto’s failure to calm the violence will make it difficult for his centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party to remain in power.
Mexico’s Congress last week approved a controversial measure that will reinforce the military’s role in domestic security. The move has drawn criticism from human rights groups.
Meanwhile, leftist candidate Andrew Manuel López Obrador is proposing amnesty with criminal gangs to reduce violence. Obrador is the leading candidate despite polls showing two-thirds of Mexicans oppose the amnesty strategy.
Editor’s note: This is a massive jump in the murder rate, highly unusual in times of an improving economy. Mexico is under the influence, if not full control, of the drug trafficking cartels. If they don’t find a way to free themselves, they are destined to descend into chaos.