The cartel violence in Mexico has reached alarming levels as the country has now reported its highest rate of homicides ever recorded.
Though it will take several months to reach an official tally, security experts have expressed certainty the "figure will mark the country's highest murder rate at least since official statistics began in 1997 — and potentially the highest in the nation's modern history."
Francisco Rivas, director of the Mexican research group the National Citizens' Observatory, says the spike "comes back to a failed security strategy that has been completely exhausted."
Does this make Mexico one of the "most dangerous" countries in the world, as President Trump asserted in a tweet several weeks ago? Not necessarily, since tracking data from other countries has proven difficult.
"Outside of war zones, El Salvador recorded the highest homicide rate of any country — 109 per 100,000 inhabitants — in 2015, the last year for which the United Nations provides global data," reports NPR. "That year, Mexico registered 16 homicides per 100,000 people, behind other Latin American countries like Honduras, Venezuela and Brazil. With the new statistics from 2017, analysts estimate Mexico's rate climbed to roughly 24 per 100,000 inhabitants."
According to Jose Antonio Polo, director of the public safety watchdog Common Cause, Mexico's homicide numbers may actually be higher than recorded.
"It's very likely that the number of homicides [in 2017] is actually around 32,000," says Polo. "So the bad news isn't that the current number is the highest ever — it's likely to get even higher."
More from NPR:
Polo explains that the country's recent annual homicide totals, as counted by the Department of the Interior, increased by roughly 10 percent after being analyzed by the national statistics agency, which includes killings that went misclassified or unreported.
More details will likely come out in analyses of the final death toll. But some trends are already clear. On the whole, homicides increased throughout the year. In the first quarter of 2017, there were an average of 72.3 homicides per day. By the last quarter, it had increased to 86.4 a day.
The State Department currently lists five of Mexico's 32 states under "Do Not Travel."