MEXICO

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Mexico murder rate reaches new high as violence rages amid Covid-19 spread
Apr 03, 2020
* March sees 2,585 homicides – highest monthly figure on record * Mexico tries to pour resources into containing coronavirusMexico’s homicide rate raced to a new record in March, as violence raged even as Covid-19 spread across the country and authorities urged the population to stay home and practise social distancing.Mexico registered 2,585 homicides in March – the highest monthly figure since records began in 1997 – putting 2020 on track to break last year’s record total for murders.The surge in killings comes as federal and state officials put resources into containing the Covid-19 crisis and confront the prospect of an already sluggish economy falling even further – potentially deepening the misery for the more than 40% of the population living in poverty.“It’s business as usual [for drug cartels] with a risk of further escalation, especially if at some point the armed forces are called away for pandemic control,” said Falko Ernst, senior Mexico analyst at the International Crisis Group.Violence has flared throughout the country, but it has been especially intense in the central state of Guanajuato, where criminal groups have battled over lucrative territories rife with theft from pipelines.The bloodshed has hit shocking levels in the city of Ceyala – home to a major automotive manufacturing plant – with gunmen engaging security forces in shootouts, blockading streets and torching businesses.Francisco Rivas, director of the National Citizen Observatory, which monitors security issues, attributed the increasing violence in Guanajuato to the fallout of the federal government trying to stamp out petrol theft.The crackdown weakened the local Santa Rosa de Lima cartel, Rivas said, prompting the rival Jalisco New Generation cartel (CJNG) to move in and attempt to take its territory.Other causes for rising violence, Rivas said, include growing pains with a new militarised police known as the national guard, the lack of a federal strategy and cutting the security budget to its lowest level in 20 years.“We’re seeing iolence hitting its peak and we’re left asking, ‘who’s going to stop it?’” Rivas said.Calderón sends in the armyMexico’s “war on drugs” began in late 2006 when the president at the time, Felipe Calderón, ordered thousands of troops onto the streets in response to an explosion of horrific violence in his native state of Michoacán.Calderón hoped to smash the drug cartels with his heavily militarized onslaught but the approach was counter-productive and exacted a catastrophic human toll.
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