Homicides and violence are on the rise in Mexico despite the COVID-19 pandemic 

Despite lockdowns, drug cartels continue terrorizing entire regions in Mexico

Homicides and violence are on the rise in Mexico despite the COVID-19 pandemic 
The March 2020 homicide rate was the highest since the record 3,074 killings registered in July 2018 - Photo: Antonio Tello/EL UNIVERSAL
English 03/05/2020 09:03 AP Mexico City Actualizada 09:26
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Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Mexico’s homicide rate rose in March, even when the country implemented lockdowns to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to figures released by the government.

The report shows homicide rose 8.46% from February to March, from 2,766 to 3,000 homicides. Mexico began implementing shutdowns and social distancing measures to fight the pandemic in mid- to late March.

The March homicide rate was the highest since the record 3,074 killings registered in July 2018, months before President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office. Since then, the government said homicides had stabilized at around 2,850 a month.

President López Obrador blamed the killings on drug cartels “who continue to fight over turf and drug-trafficking routes; they are fighting each other constantly.”

The homicide rate was highest in Guanajuato, which saw 1,163 killings in the first four months of 2020. The state is the scene of a bloody war between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel.

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President López Obrador acknowledged that the homicides in the relatively wealthy, industrialized state of Guanajuato showed that economic growth alone would not stop the violence.

Guanajuato is one of the states with the highest sustained rates of economic growth. For a long time, factories, assembly plants, the automotive industry, auto parts have set up shop there, there are jobs,” López Obrador said. “Nonetheless, it is the state with the most violence. That has to do with other causes, inequality. Growth is not synonymous with welfare.”

Bloodshed also rose in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, and some cities in Michoacán. Homicides decreased in Acapulco.

The violence has affected health workers, for reasons directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic. A series of verbal assaults and other incidents, like people dousing nurses with bleach, may be related to fears of contagion. 

Recommended: Mexico hastens U.S. extraditions of cartel leaders

On Friday, authorities announced attempted homicide charges against two suspects for a brutal attack that occurred on April 17, when a nurse was punched and kicked in Mexico City.

Despite the increase in gang violence, it appears that relatively few federal forces are fighting the drug cartels, while many more are involved in López Obrador’s infrastructure projects.

Mexico’s 100,000-member National Guard and 225,000-strong armed forces had an effective strength of about 161,000 operational members, the rest are in administrative or support roles, with about 26,000 of the 161,000 held in reserve, according to the report.

Of the deployed total, the largest single contingent, about 69,000 troops, were on construction duty, building things like Mexico City’s new airport.

An additional 18,600 troops were enforcing measures aimed to fight the pandemic, while about 12,500 were on border or migration duty. About 4,000 troops were deployed to eradicate drug crops. About 15,000 others are posted in regions where they may indirectly confront the cartels.

Recommended: DEA launched Project Python to dismantle the Cártel Jalisco New Generation Cartel


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