The number of murders in Mexico exploded in 2018 by 33% as the narco-state broke its all-time record for the number of murders in a year for the second year in a row.
"Investigators opened to 33,341 murder probes compared with the previous year’s record of 25,036, according to information from the Interior Ministry published on Sunday," Reuters reported. "Mexico has struggled with years of violence as the government has battled brutal drug cartels, often by taking out their leaders. That has resulted in fragmentation of gangs and increasingly vicious internecine fighting."
Reuters notes that former Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto "presided over a 40 percent rise in murder investigations across his six-year mandate from his first full year in office in 2013."
Last week, Colombian drug lord Alex Cifuentes Villa testified in a New York federal court that Sinaloa drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman paid a $100 million bribe to Nieto. The New York Times reported:
According to Mr. Cifuentes, Mr. Peña Nieto first reached out to Mr. Guzmán about the time he was elected president in late 2012, asking the drug lord for $250 million in exchange for calling off a nationwide manhunt for him.
Nieto and those close to him had previously been linked to the Juarez cartel and the Los Zetas cartel.
In 2017, a top U.S. intelligence officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Dallas News that "the Mexican government has no or very little control over the cartels," adding, "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."
In 2016, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ (IISS) Armed Conflict Survey, Mexico ranked as the second deadliest country in the world:
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 another 2016 report from risk analysis firm Verisk Maplecroft, Latin America was ranked as 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."