Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2019
The report by the Citizens’ Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice found that five out of six of the world’s most violent municipalities were in Mexico, where homicides have risen to historic levels in recent years amid a military-led war against criminal groups.
In Tijuana, where local gangs have been battling over a lucrative domestic drug market, the report tallied 138 killings per 100,000 residents last year, or about seven killings on average per day. The Mexican resort city of Acapulco was in second place, with 111 killings per 100,000 people. Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, which has been beset by crime and food shortages amid the country’s political crisis, was in third place with 100 killings per 100,000 people.
The fourth- and fifth-most violent cities, according to the Citizens’ Council, were in two of Mexico’s northern border states: Ciudad Victoria, in the state of Tamaulipas, and Ciudad Juarez, in Chihuahua. Irapuato, a city in the state of Guanajuato that has been the site of fierce battles over control of stolen gasoline, is sixth on the list. There were 15 Mexican cities on the list of 50, more than any other country in the world.
The report paints a picture of a nation in crisis, and calls into question the efficacy of Mexico’s militaristic approach to fighting crime.
Mexico’s new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, campaigned on a promise of pacification, criticizing Calderon for converting “the country into a cemetery.” The military-led strategy was maintained under Calderon’s successor, Enrique Pena Nieto, the predecessor of Lopez Obrador.
As a candidate, Lopez Obrador pledged to use economic development, not the military, to address the root causes of crime. He also proposed a controversial amnesty plan that would allow some non-violent criminals to walk free.
Lopez Obrador made headlines shortly after he was sworn into office when he declared “there is officially no more war” against criminal groups. Still, he recently sent a large battalion of soldiers to Tijuana and has pushed for the creation of a 70,000-member national guard to help restore public safety.
Violence in Mexico has come under added scrutiny in recent months since the U.S. began sending some Central American migrants who have applied for political asylum back to Mexico to await rulings in their cases. The program began in Tijuana and is expected to expand to other border cities.