The month of March saw over 2,000 homicides, the highest body count since 2011 when Mexico was coping with massive cartel violence. Now, unlike previous spikes in bloodshed, the killings are not confined to any one particular area or state. Instead, bodies are turning up across Mexico.
According to government statistics, the first quarter of 2017 has seen more murders than comparable periods in more than 20 years. In 25 out of 32 Mexican states homicide rates have increased relative to last year alone. Mexican police and political leaders say the violence is linked to a variety of factors related to a booming drug production and smuggling industry, as well as internal cartel leadership quarrels and external turf battles between rival cartels.
Previously Mexico’s violence capital was Ciudad Juarez, where executions and mutilated corpses were routine events as cartels fought for influence and territory primarily between 2008 and 2012. Now, even previously innocuous and tourist destinations like Cancun have become a battleground for cartel gunmen.
Beyond staggering body counts, the violence paints a picture of a Mexican government beleaguered with the challenges of fighting a war on drugs that has been dragging on for more than 10 years with no end in sight. Even after the Mexican military was tasked with reducing the cartels in 2006, murders and violence have only increased. The insatiable appetite in the United States for illicit drugs drives the business over which the cartels fight and kill for.
Last year’s arrest of Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was a major victory for the governments of Mexico and the United States, who had called him the most dangerous man on the planet. However, in the aftermath of his capture, a war between Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel and the Jalisco New Generation cartel has broken out in the Baja region of Mexico.
Image courtesy of CNN