By Juan Montes / Wall Street Journal
Mexico’s roaring capital city, among the most populous in the Western Hemisphere, has long been considered a haven from the violent drug gangs that run unchecked across many parts of the country. But a sharp rise this year in violent crime here has many worried that the city’s favored status is in jeopardy.
The Federal District, home to some nine million of the 20 million inhabitants in the Mexico City metropolitan area, saw homicides rise 21 percent to 566 in the first eight months of this year, according to Interior Ministry data released last week, putting the capital’s murder rate at its highest level over the same period since 1998.
“It has been a slow process, but it appears that criminal activity around Mexico City is finally moving into the capital. This is a very worrying trend,” said Juan Salgado, a security expert at CIDE University and a member of nonprofit government-accountability group Causa en Común.
The increase in murders in Mexico City has contributed to a nationwide rise in homicide for the first time since President Enrique Peña Nieto took power in late 2012, months after the rate of killings linked to the country’s murderous drug war began to fall.
The rising toll is a big challenge for Mr. Peña Nieto, whose administration had trumpeted the decline in murders over the past two years as proof that the government’s security initiatives, such as improved coordination between crime-fighting agencies like the army and federal police, were working.