Jan 292011

Despite what some media reports might suggest, not all parts of Mexico are plagued with serious drug war violence. A previous post – Deaths from war on drugs have increased rapidly since 2006 – discussed which states accounted for the most drug war deaths during the last four years and noted that these states were mostly in northern and western Mexico. The data on drug war deaths include deaths of drug cartel members, law enforcement personnel, and innocent by-standers.

A more accurate way to compare states is to incorporate population to determine the rates of drug war deaths. The table above, and the map below, were compiled using the recently released data on deaths and the preliminary results of the 2010 census. There are some obvious methodological issues associated with combining drug war death figures for a four-year period with a population “snap shot” taken in mid-2010, but we believe these issues are minor and will not have any significant effect on the broad patterns of drug war deaths that the analysis reveals.

Drug war death rates, by state, December 2006-December 2010

The national average rate is 30.81 deaths per 100,000 population. It is not surprising that the State of Chihuahua, which led the country with 10,135 deaths, had the highest rate, almost 300 deaths per 100,000 population. The rate for Chihuahua is almost ten times the rate for the country as a whole. The rates for the other leading drug war states are significantly smaller, but way above the national average.

The four most populous states, Mexico, Federal District, Veracruz and Jalisco, are centrally located and have death rates ranging from half the national average for Jalisco down to about a fifth for Veracruz. Interestingly, for these four states the rates decline from west to east. This pattern does hold when less populous intervening states are included. Two of these, Querétaro and Puebla have about the lowest rates in the country, about one-fifteenth the national average.  Yucatán also has a very low rate. The drug war death rates for Tlaxcala, Puebla and Yucatán are less than one half of one percent of the rate in Chihuahua. Clearly, some parts of the country are far more affected by drug wars than others.

Previous post in this mini-series:

Related posts about the geography of drug trafficking and drug cartels in Mexico:

Other relevant link

Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico discusses drug trafficking in several chapters. A text box on page 148 looks at the drug trafficking business and efforts to control it. Buy your copy today to have a handy reference guide to all major aspects of Mexico’s geography!

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