Mexico’s deadly drug war continues to tear the country apart as Mexican officials project that 2017 will be the deadliest year in the nation’s history since the government started releasing crime records two decades ago.

The Mexican government projects that by the end of 2017, over 27,000 will have died as a result of the violence that is fueled by drug cartels, The Dallas Morning News reported.

Key takeaways from Dallas News’ report:

  • The violence from Mexico’s drug war has become so bad and security has declined so rapidly that the government approved on Friday the use of the military on streets.
  • Twenty-seven of Mexico’s 32 states — including areas that are popular tourist destinations like Cabo San Lucas and Cancun — reported having major drug violence in 2017.
  • A top contributing factor in the explosion of violence is the “kingpin” strategy, which goes after the top leaders in the drug cartels. When the leadership is taken out it creates “dangerous power vacuums filled by smaller, more bloodthirsty groups that target everything and everyone, from siphoning fuel from pipelines to kidnapping Mexico’s middle class and wealthy for ransom.”
  • When Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was captured and extradited to the United States, his drug cartel, the Sinaloa cartel, became fractured, which allowed the Jalisco New Generation cartel to step up its operations.
  • The Jalisco New Generation cartel is comprised of highly-trained ex-special forces soldiers from Mexico’s military and uses hyper-violent methods to obtain power.
  • Mexico’s homicide rate is 21.3 per 100,000 people, 3X higher than the U.S.
  • More than 220,000 people have been killed in Mexico since the drug war began in 2006.
  • The Mexican government has acknowledged the disappearance of more than 30,000 people during that period.
  • In Mexico, 97% of all homicides are never solved.

“The Mexican government has no or very little control over the cartels,” a top U.S. intelligence officer told Dallas News, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of his position. “I don’t think narcos get up in the morning and worry about what the good guys may do to them because they will get away with the crime. It’s impunity. No one pays for the crime. ... The Jalisco New Generation is worrisome. They’re more violent, more aggressive and in an expansive mood.”

In 2016, Mexico ranked as the second deadliest country in the world with approximately 23,000 homicides reported, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ (IISS) Armed Conflict Survey.

The report notes:

This assessment of violence in the region is based on more than numbers, although the 39,000 people killed in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador in 2016 indicate a security crisis much more complex and serious than most other countries in the region. Mexico’s 2016 intentional homicide total, 23,000, is second only to Syria. …

In all four countries, armed forces have been deployed for many years specifically to fight criminal gangs and, in the case of Mexico, transnational drug-trafficking cartels, with military-grade weapons and vast financial resources. In all four countries, criminal groups have ambitious territorial claims: they fight amongst themselves and use arms to challenge the state directly for local control. Unlike traditional political conflicts, these criminal conflicts are fought to establish autonomous territories, not to pursue national politico-ideological goals.

In addition to the report from IISS, CNN reports that despite the fact that the number of conflict fatalities continues to decline across the globe, Mexico's murder rate is accelerating:

As the Armed Conflict Survey shows, intentional homicides jumped by 22.8% from 2015 to 2016. Violence continues to increase. The first two months of 2017 were the most violent January and February on record, with 3,779 homicide cases registered by the authorities. The following month was even worse: March 2017 saw 2,020 murders. This was the highest monthly tally since June 2011, a bloody moment in the midst of Mexico’s ‘war on drugs’. In December 2006, President Felipe Calderon deployed the armed forces to the streets with the mission of crushing the cartels. But the resulting conflict brought misery to Mexico: 105,000 people lost their lives in intentional homicides between that month and November 2012.

A separate report from Verisk Maplecroft, an independent risk analysis firm, indicated that Latin America is the most dangerous region in the world:

Latin America has been named as the world’s highest risk region for violent crime, due to the widespread prevalence of drug trafficking organisations (DTOs), kidnapping, extortion and robbery across 11 countries, including in its four largest economies, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia. The findings come from new research released by risk analytics company Verisk Maplecroft, which evaluates the risks to populations, business and economies from violent crime in 198 countries.

Weak political institutions, widespread drug trafficking and ineffective police and security forces see conflict stricken Afghanistan topping Verisk Maplecroft’s Criminality Index. However, as home to six of the 13 countries rated ‘extreme risk,’ Latin America ranks as the world’s highest risk region, ahead of South Asia and West Africa. Guatemala (ranked 2nd highest risk), Mexico (3rd), Honduras (6th), Venezuela (7th), El Salvador (8th) and Colombia (12th) all feature in the ‘extreme risk’ category of the index. A further five, including Brazil (31st) and Argentina (43rd), are categorised as ‘high risk.’

In their 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment, the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) labeled the Mexican drug cartels as the greatest criminal threat to the United States.

"No other criminal organization currently possesses a logistical infrastructure at the national level that can rival Mexican TCO dominance over the U.S. drug trade," the report states. "It is anticipated that Mexican TCOs will continue to grow in the United States through expansion of distribution networks and interaction with local criminal groups and gangs. This relationship will insulate Mexican TCOs from direct ties to street-level drug and money seizures and drug-related arrests made by U.S. law enforcement."