In mid-January 2012, under pressure from media and watchdog groups, the Mexican government released new data on the casualties of the drug war in Mexico. These data confirmed that drug-related violence has steadily worsened since the beginning of the administration of President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (2006-12), who has waged a vigorous effort to rid the country of drug trafficking and organized crime.
According to the Mexican government, there were over 47,500 documented “organized crime related homicides” from President Calderón’s inauguration on December 1, 2006 to September 30, 2011, though data from the fourth quarter were not available as of the release of this report.
While the levels of homicide in Mexico do not nearly approach some other Latin American countries, the toll of drug related violence has been unacceptably high. At the start of the Calderón administration, there was one drug related homicide every four hours; by 2011, the worst year on record, there was one every 30 minutes. Now, roughly half of all homicides in Mexico are attributable to drug violence.
Still, the government’s data confirmed prior assessments by the Trans-Border Institute (TBI) that the trajectory of violence began to shift in 2011, with a lower rate of increase than in previous years and significant declines in the number of homicides in certain key cities (Ciudad Juárez, Culiacán, and Chihuahua). At the same time, as reported by TBI throughout the year, it is clear that violence has begun to spread to new areas of the country, including the wealthy industrial metropolis of Monterrey and the vital port city of Veracruz.
In this report, the authors provide detailed analysis of the available empirical measures and patterns of drug related homicide, evaluate the underlying contributing factors, and the possible policy options to reduce the growing toll of the drug war in Mexico. In the process, the authors provide a comprehensive overview of the key trends and events in 2011 with respect to the activities of Mexico’s major criminal organizations.