Record violence in Mexico: first half of 2020

In the first six months of this year, 17,982 people were murdered in Mexico. This is an average of almost 100 premeditated murders every day in 2020, most of them with firearms. This is an unprecedented level of violence for the first semester in the country.

Violence in Mexico: Police presence on the Mexican beaches. Archive file
Violence in Mexico: Police presence on the Mexican beaches. Archive file

The number of homicide and femicide victims officially reported in the first six months of this year is more than 300 compared to the 17,653 registered in 2019, which until now had the highest level of violence in the last quarter of a century.

These figures also mean that, for the sixth consecutive year, there is an increase in homicidal violence in Mexico, at least for the first half of the year. The rise in intentional homicide rates reached more than 14% from one year to the next, although it has slowed down in the first two years of the current six-year period.

The numbers prove it: in the first semester of 2018, the homicide rate was 13.4 victims per 100 thousand inhabitants, while in 2019 the rate was 14.01 cases, an increase of 4.5%. Meanwhile, the 2020 rate stood at 14.14 murders, an increase of less than 1%.

At the same time, however, the statistics show that the level of violence is very high. To measure it, it is enough to review that in the first semester of 2015 the number of victims of homicide and femicide was 8,818, while in 2020 the number of murders at the national level is more than double.

The increase in violence in the first half of 2020 has been concentrated mainly in 11 of the 32 states. Similarly, there are six states that alone account for more than half of the murders committed in Mexico.

As for the states that register an increase in homicidal violence this year, the most notorious case is Zacatecas where the number of murders rose from 296 in the first half of 2019 to 466 in the same period of 2020, equivalent to a 57.4% increase in absolute numbers.

It is followed by Michoacán where the number of murders rose from 811 to 1,251 in the referred periods, an increase of 50.5%. Then comes the Yucatan, which, although it only reports 28 murders this year, is equivalent to a 47.3% increase over last year.

Next is Campeche with a 33.3% increase in murders; San Luis Potosi with a rise of 32.9%; Guanajuato with a rise of 31.8%; Sonora with 25.3%; Chihuahua with 10.3%; Hidalgo with 9.5%; Colima with 3.3%; and Durango with 1.3%.

The increases in homicides and femicides in Guanajuato, Chihuahua and Michoacán are especially serious if we take into account that these three states, along with Baja California, the State of Mexico and Jalisco concentrate a total of 9,193 murders in 2020, a little more than half of all the murders committed in the country.

Positively highlights the remarkable decrease in the number of murders in some entities such as Baja California Sur with a fall of 43.1% in the first half of 2020, followed by Tlaxcala with a decline of 38.7%, as well as Veracruz, Chiapas, Coahuila and Tabasco with falls of more than 20%.

With regard to the average number of intentional homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, the most violent states in the first half of the year are Colima with a rate of 46.3 homicides; Baja California with 37.9; Chihuahua with 37.2; Guanajuato with 36.8; and Zacatecas with 26.6.

The official information published by the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System shows that of the homicides and femicides committed in the first half of 2020, a total of 12,747 were perpetrated with firearms. This is 70.8% of the total. This means that at least 7 out of every 10 murders in Mexico are currently carried out with a firearm.

Estimates by the federal security cabinet suggest that at least 60% of crimes in the country are a direct or indirect result of organized crime in Mexico. This is a similar level to that of the past six years despite the security strategy implemented by the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.