Mexico’s murder rate: Going up again

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El Daily Post

After two years of declining homicide rates, the trend has been upward for the last three months. New figures reveal that May was the deadliest month since at least January of 2014, and that 2015 may be the first year during the Peña Nieto administration that ends with an increase in the murder rate.

The May figures bring the total number of murder victims nationwide so far in 2015 to 7,428. Photos: Cuartoscuro

There were 1,621 intentional  homicide victims in Mexico last month, the highest number in a year and a half.

The May figure confirms a rising trend in the murder rate that had not been seen since 2013 — three straight months with an increase in the number of intentional homicides reported.

It also marks the first time in the last 40 months in which there have been more murders than in the same month the year before. In May of 2014 a total of 1,416 homicide cases were opened.

The May figures bring the total number of murder victims nationwide so far in 2015 to 7,428. That’s a 2.7 percent decrease from the same five-month period in 2014, but the March-April-May increases seem to indicate a reversal of the downward trend.

In fact, the numbers are raising concern that, after two years of a declining murder rate, 2015 could end up being the deadliest of the Peña Nieto administration, possibly surpassing 18,000 homicides (compared to 17,300 in 2014). The fear is that the period of declining homicide rates may be over.

The actual number of murder investigations opened in May was 1,463. But the total victim count, 1,621, a 6 percent increase over the previous month of April,  is the highest recorded since such statistical data separating the number of investigations from the number of victims was first made public in January 2014.

A monthly homicide victim total of 1,621 translates to 52 people on average losing their lives each day, more than two an hour.

More than half of the homicides were carried out with firearms. Among the victims were soldiers, police officers and presumed criminals, but also candidates for various elected offices, university students, young children and migrants.

Five states account for 40 percent of the 7,428 homicides in Mexico that took place from January through May of 2015. All five — the State of Mexico (with 977 murders so far in 2015), Guerrero (802), Chihuahua (514), Jalisco (433) and Sinaloa (409) — have a strong organized crime presence.

While the State of Mexico’s raw number of 977 murders is the highest, the top murder rate is found in Guerrero, with 22.4 cases per 100,000 residents, followed by Sinaloa with 13.7, Chihuahua with 11.1, Morelos with 10.1, and  Baja California with 8.67.

Michoacán’s absence from both lists is significant. The troubled state had finished 2014 with the highest number of murder victims.

Also standing out among the statistics is Baja California Sur, where the number of murders has increased threefold this year over last, with 76 victims so far in the year.

Though the Federal District is not among the top murder-rate federal entities, the incidence in Mexico City went up by 16 percent.

Design: El Daily Post
Design: El Daily Post

800 kidnappings

The latest crime figures were made available by the Executive Secretary of the National Public Security System, a body of the Interior (Gobernación) Secretariat charged with carrying out the policies of the National Public Security Council, the top national law enforcement agency.

Also released were figures on kidnappings — 123 nationwide in the month of May. That brings the yearly total through May to 642 cases involving 800 victims.

The May total cannot be compared to May of 2014, since the numbers for federal kidnap cases (32 of the 123 in May of this year) weren’t available last year. However, the state cases showed a decrease of 33 percent.

Still, the 91 state cases in May is the second highest total of the five months in 2015 for which figures are available.

About a quarter of May’s abductions took place in the border state of Tamaulipas.

Extortion cases dropped from April to May, according to the released figures. But the 435 cases in May is still higher than the year’s low in January, when fewer than 400 files were opened.

Lost lives

As for the murders, the number committed in May by firearms appears to approach 60 percent of the May totals, although for more than 400 cases information on the murder weapon is unavailable. Knives, clubs and other instruments were used in 183 cases.

Beyond the raw numbers, the May murders include some especially notable circumstances that remind the nation of the human toll of Mexico’s violence. One happened on May 17, when a six-year-old boy was found tortured and killed in the city of Chihuahua, allegedly at the hands of five other youngsters who, according to local authorities, were “playing kidnap.”

Migrants working their way from Central America to the U.S. border continued to be murder targets. On May 26, for example, Salvadoran migrants reported that one of their group had been riddled with bullets aboard a train in Pénjamo in the state of Guanajuato. On May 31, in a mountainous area outside the border city of Tecate, Baja California, another migrant was shot to death.

The campaign leading up to the June 7 midterm election also exacted a toll. Two examples: On May 1, Ulises Fabián Quiroz, a PRI-Green Party candidate for mayor of the Guerrero town of Chilapa, was gunned down. Two weeks later another mayoral candidate, this time in the Michoacán town of Yurécuaro, Morena’s Enrique Hernández Salcedo, was shot to death at the close of a campaign rally.

“During elections, organized crime also sends its messages,” said Francisco Rivas, director of the National Citizens Observatory anti-crime organization.

— with reporting by Arturo Ángel

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