Politics: Violence Rebounds to 2011 Highs

MEXICO - Report 28 Jun 2017 by Guillermo Valdes and Esteban Manteca

Last week brought more bad news on the security front as the May report on crime revealed the highest absolute number of murder investigations opened in any month since the current national system of official crime statistics was launched 20 years ago. In fact, there were more such murder cases than during the most violent periods experienced during the administration of Felipe Calderón (2006-2012).

In relative terms, the murder rate per 100,000 inhabitants has yet to surpass the peak year of 2011, but the difference is not significant. For all practical purposes, the rate of violent homicides has rebounded to levels of six years ago.

The accumulated rise has been considerable as there has been a 54% increase in the number of violent homicides (from 1,589 to 2,452), since May 2014. And there is no sign the upswing might let up in a broad trend that has extended to 25 out of 32 states. The most pronounced annual increases were recorded in Baja California Sur (227%), Veracruz (151%), Baja California (137%), and Sinaloa (119%).

Many factors help to explain this dynamic, which has been manifest in distinct regional crises for which the federal government lacks specific strategies, and here lies one of the chief political conundrums facing the current government: By trying, from the time it took office, to shift all the blame on the actions of its predecessors, and to claim all the credit for a continuing drop in violent crime during the first two years of its administration, the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto has boxed itself into a political corner in which it has no one else to blame for the resurgence of violent crime, try though it may.

And no one is paying a greater political price than Interior Minister Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, who by having centralized crime-fighting powers under his command and boasted responsibility for early, yet ephemeral successes, has left himself open to attack from other officials jostling for the PRI presidential nomination.
In short, there is no end in sight to the political costs and, most troublingly, to the rise in violent crime.

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