A total of 12,903 people were killed in drug-related violence between January and September 2011 in Mexico, an increase of 11 percent with respect to the same period of 2010, bringing the drug war death toll since December 2006 to 47,515, the government said.
The Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday’s released figures through Sept. 30, 2011 “on homicides which, due to their characteristics, may have occurred in the context of rivalries among criminal organizations.”
Of the drug-related deaths in the first nine months of 2011, 10,200 were “executions,” 1,652 were shooting deaths in clashes with the authorities, 740 were the result of “direct aggression” and 311 occurred in clashes among criminal gangs, the report said.
The country’s most violent city continued to be Ciudad Juarez, which is located across from El Paso, Texas, and is the scene of a brutal turf war pitting the Sinaloa and Juarez drug cartels.
The federal government says 1,206 homicides occurred in Juarez between January and September 2011, while the Chihuahua state Attorney General’s Office has already put that city’s drug war death toll for all of last year at 1,974.
Though still extremely high, drug-related murders last year in Juarez were down sharply from 2010, when the number of homicides topped 3,100.
The Pacific resort city of Acapulco ranked second with 795 organized crime-related deaths, followed by the northern cities of Torreon (476) Chihuahua (402), Monterrey (399), Durango (390), Culiacan (365) and San Fernando (292).
The homicides remain concentrated in a handful of states, according to the AG’s office, which said eight states accounted for 70 percent of the apparent drug-related deaths.
“2011 is the first year in which the the homicide growth rate is significantly lower compared with what was seen in previous years,” the AG’s office said.
The nationwide drug war death toll between January and September 2011 was up 11 percent relative to the same period of 2010; by way of comparison, homicides climbed 70 percent between 2009 and 2010, 63 percent between 2008 and 2009 and 110 percent between 2007 and 2008.
A total of 15,273 organized crime-related homicides occurred in 2010, the biggest yearly figure since President Felipe Calderon militarized the struggle against the nation’s well-funded, heavily armed drug gangs shortly after taking office on Dec. 1, 2006, deploying tens of thousands of soldiers and federal police to drug war flashpoints.
The AG’s office released the updated homicide figures amid clamoring by non-governmental organizations and the media for a new official death toll.
The previous homicide figure had been published a year ago, when authorities reported a total of 34,612 organized crime-related killings between Dec. 1, 2006, and the end of 2010.
“Beyond the legitimate interest in crime statistics, the important thing is to guarantee that each one of the cases is being investigated” by the state and federal authorities, the AG’s office said, adding that it will continue working on a homicide database to guarantee access to justice for victims’ relatives and facilitate exchange of information among the different levels of government.
In fact, international human rights organizations say that few cases are investigated.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a report late last year that the Mexican AG’s Office only opened 997 investigations into drug-related murders between 2007 and August 2011 and that “federal judges have only convicted 22 defendants for homicides and other offenses tied to organized crime.”
Based on those statistics, the organization also questioned claims by Calderon’s government that the vast majority of victims of drug-related violence are criminals.