Feb 112012
 

Drug related violent deaths during the first nine months of 2011 increased by about 13% compared to 2010.  Data released by the Office of the President  in January 2012 indicate that from January through September 2011 Mexico had a total of 12,903 drug war deaths. This is a rate of about 15.3 per 100,000 people per year [2011 rates were adjusted because data are available for only the first nine months of the year] compared to 13.6 in 2010 and 7.55 in 2009 [“Mexican drugs war murders data mapped”]. While the rate of increase declined significantly in the past two years, still drug violence is increasing rapidly.

The geographic pattern of drug violence is still mainly concentrated in northern border states and some western states. Chihuahua was still the most violent state with 2,289 deaths in 2011 (Jan-Sept) for a rate of 90 deaths per 100,000 per year.  Other states with high rates were Guerrero (61), Durango (58), Sinaloa (53), Tamaulipas (45), Nayarit (42), Nuevo León (33), and Coahuila (28). Note that four of these states are along the border and four are in western Mexico.

At the other end, Yucatán had only one death for a rate of 0.07. Other states with low rates were Tlaxcala, 0.8; Puebla, 1.22; Querétaro, 1.24; Campeche, 1.62; Chiapas, 1.73; Hidalgo, 1.75; and the Federal District (Mexico City), 1.83. It is very interesting that the drug war death rate in the capital city was one of the lowest in the country and less than one eighth the national. A future post will investigate drug war death rates in Mexico City.

Among border states, drug war death rates decreased significantly for the western states. Baja California was down 38%; Sonora down 36%, and Chihuahua down 31%. Before 2010, Baja California and Sonora had death rates over twice the national average largely because of high death totals in Tijuana and Nogales. However for 2011 the rates for Baja California and Sonora were 31% and 22% below the national average. The worst drug violence in these two northwestern states might be a thing of the past.

The eastern border states all suffered increases. Coahuila was up 99% and Nuevo Leon was up 143%. Both now have death rates over twice the national average. Tamaulipas’ already high rate of 37 in 2010 increased 22% to 45, almost three times the average. Clearly the battleground of drug cartel clashes along the border has shifting to the east.

Violence is up in some western states where it already was quite high. The rate in Guerrero increased 80% to 60 deaths per 100,000 people, four times the national average. Nayarit suffered an increase of 21% to a rate 42, almost three times the average. Smaller, but still significant, increases were registered in Colima, up 24%, and Michoacán, up 40% putting these two states above the average. On the other hand, the some of the violent non-border states experienced declines. The rate in Sinaloa declined 19%; but with a 2011 rate of 53 it is still three and half times the average. Morelos was down 18% putting it just above the average.

Drug violence increased very rapidly in some non-border states that were relatively peaceful through 2010. The drug war death rate in Zacatecas increased 361% while that in Veracruz was up 302%. While these increases are alarming, these two states still had rates below the national average in 2011. Jalisco suffered an increase of 40%, but its 2011 death rate of 11 was still less than three-fourths of the average. The State of México was up 24%, but its rate was still less than a third the average.

In conclusion, drug violence in Mexico continued to increase in 2011. The violence appears to be mostly concentrated in a wide geographic arc formed by the border states and those in western Mexico. Within this region some areas are suffering rapid increases while drug violence is declining in other places.  It is not clear how this pattern will change in the years ahead. To get a clearer picture of the current pattern, in future posts we will investigate trends in drug violence among Mexico’s 2,458 municipalities.