By Hanna’Tameez / Wall Street Journal
Criminal violence in Mexico is rebounding after a three-year decline, reaching levels not seen since 2011, when the country’s murderous war between drug cartels was at its worst.
The government’s tally of murders, the vast majority of which it links to organized crime, rose to 14,549 for the first eight months of the year, an 18% increase over the same period a year earlier. In August alone, there were 2,147 homicides, the highest toll for any month since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office at the end of 2012.
Last week, two Catholic priests were killed in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, which has been ravaged by drug-gang violence. Last Tuesday, Spanish authorities said the niece of the president of the Spanish Football Federation was found dead near a highway in the State of Mexico after being kidnapped in the upscale Mexico City district of Santa Fé.
Those incidents follow a shootout between soldiers and suspected gang members killed 11 people in the border city of Nuevo Laredo and the discovery of two dismembered bodies thrown off a bridge in Tijuana. In the beach resort of Acapulco, now one of the world’s most violent cities, police found a pair of severed hands wrapped in tortillas like tacos.
The violence has spread to previously calmer spots like Guanajuato, a central state known as a growing hub for automotive production. Suspected cartel members have executed high-ranking state-police officers there in recent weeks, and grenade attacks are growing common against shops that refuse to pay extortion fees. Two such attacks took place recently in the tourist town of San Miguel de Allende, home to many U.S. retirees.
“The change [in violence] we are observing is most likely not a spike, but a clear-cut change in trend,” said Dwight Dyer, a former head of analysis at Cisen, the Mexican national intelligence agency.