Mexico City (CNSNews.com) – Mexican activists fear this year could end up being one of the deadliest in their country’s recent history, as a surge in homicides sweeps the nation, with journalists and priests among those in the firing line.
The number of intentional murder investigations spiked nearly 30 percent, to 9,916, in the January to May period this year compared to the same period in 2016, according to the citizens’ group National Citizen Observatory which tracks government crime statistics.
In fact May saw the second highest number of intentional homicide investigations (2,186) since official record keeping began in 1997, according to a posting on the group’s website.
An intentional homicide investigation was opened by authorities every 20 minutes and 25 seconds on average during that month. Authorities record intentional homicides differently from accidental ones.
(Meanwhile extortion investigations were up by 28.6 percent in May compared to the same month in 2016, while business robbery investigations surged by 40 percent.)
Mexico’s homicide rate peaked at 27,213 in 2011 and dropped to 20,010 in 2014, before beginning an upward climb to a preliminary total of 23,953 last year, according to figures recently released by the nation’s census bureau.
In Mexico City alone, the homicide rate increased by 21 percent in the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2016, according to a report last week by the citizens’ group Security, Justice and Peace.
More than 330 “executions” tied to drug trafficking have been reported by local media, and law enforcement agencies are investigating a least 10 organized crime organizations in the city and its outlying areas, it said.
National Citizen Observatory director Francis Rivas called the 2017 figures “worrying” and “very serious.”
As do other activists, he blamed the most recent increase in homicides on a fracturing of organized crime groups in Mexico and the lack of effective crime-fighting efforts by federal and state authorities.
The nation’s biggest organized crime groups, Rivas told CNSNews.com, began to break up “into smaller and smaller organizations” during the administration of former President Felipe Calderon (2006-2012) who deployed federal troops to battle the drug cartels locally in states including Michoacán in 2006.
Since then, “smaller bands are constituting themselves and battling for territory, fighting internally and externally,” he said.
Rivas tied the most recent rise in violence to the capture of the notorious Sinaloa cartel leader “El Chapo” Guzman, who was extradited to the U.S. in January for trial.
Government anti-crime efforts, he said, have been “badly thought out,” producing poor results. Authorities “don’t know how to attack the problem,” are using “the wrong techniques” and making “bad policy decisions.”
Ma Elena Morera, president of the citizens’ anti-crime group Causa en Comun, agreed.
She said the government’s use of the military to attack the drug cartels initially led to a decline in the homicide rate in 2013-2014.
But the effort should have been coordinated with increased social programs and a strengthening of local law enforcement institutions, Morera said.
“If Calderon had maintained his effort in Michoacán with social programs it would have been better.”
Morera said policing has not improved during the administration of President Peña Nieto, and promises to increase the size of the federal police force have not been kept.
The nation’s law enforcement institutions are “worse off instead of better,” and there has been “no construction of public security institutions.”
The more Mexico uses the military to fight crime, she said, the less the nation invests in local police.
“We don’t see a federal security strategy.”
Ten journalists have been killed in Mexico so far this year, according to the news outlet Telesur TV.
The Catholic Multimedia Center reports that 19 priests have been killed in Mexico since 2012.
The death last week of a Catholic priest who died of wounds sustained when stabbed inside the city’s metropolitan cathedral after celebrating Mass on May 15 brings the number of Catholic priests killed this year to four.
There have been two attempted kidnappings.
In a report issued last week, the center said Mexico is the most dangerous country in Latin America for priests for the ninth year in a row.
“This year 2017, in particular, has been a disastrous year for the priesthood and the Church in Mexico.”
“We cannot be silent anymore, the blood of thousands of Mexicans is still being spilled,” the report said. “Things are far from improving.”