Focus on Mexico: most dangerous country in the world?

NEWS RELEASES – It has been 11 years since the former Mexican President Felipe Calderon deployed most of the country’s military forces with the sole purpose to dissolve the drug cartels. However, it seems that, rather than having improved the general situation, the country is today facing the bloodiest time in several decades. The International Center for Peace and Human Rights (CIPADH) offers an article that will give further details and enlighten readers on the general situation of the country, before listing the possible causes of the growing violence and concluding with a few recommendations.


According to The Guardian, Mexico had a record number of murders in 2017: more than 29.000 people were killed. This number amounts to the highest in several decades (even higher than during the Mexican drug war in 2011). An estimated amount of over 200.000 people have been killed since 2006 (without counting all the enforced disappearances, apparently amounting to around 30.000) and this internal violence has been dangerously increasing in the last few years, according to Al Jazeera.

Human Rigts Watch, El Universal and Le Temps give detailed explanations of the possible causes and reasons of this fast-growing violence:

  • Cartel fragmentation: there is a higher number of organized crime groups and cartels in Mexico, especially since the military forces sent by the government have been increasingly involved and show a growing interest in changing the situation rapidly. These smaller groups fight amongst themselves in order to gain greater control over territories, to cultivate illegal products.
  • Corruption: an overwhelming majority of the municipal police is subject to corruption, hence the unwillingness of the federal military and police to cooperate with them.  This problem also leads to an unorganized and decentralized system, feeding the ineffectiveness of the efforts made to improve the situation and leaving better leverage to the cartels to pursue their business.
  • Drug consumption: many people from neighboring countries (especially the United States) increasingly continue buying and consuming drugs, thus raising the demand, production, exportation, fighting and violence. The clients, by nourishing these cartels with money, directly give them further means to buy weapons and fight for territories, thus creating a never-ending vicious circle.
  • Violence resulting from government forces: many of the serious human rights violations are also committed by state officials. Extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture of detainees held arbitrarily in prison (electrical shocks, being choked and held underwater, being hit or kicked, etc.), military abuses and impunity are happening daily to cartel members but also to civilians, journalists and human rights defenders, thus increasing general hatred. The cartel members are defending themselves with the same type of violence.
  • Jeopardized legal system: the criminal courts fail to provide legal protection to all of these victims, notably because of corruption, inadequate training and resources. This failure of law enforcement has caused the emergence of armed citizen self-defense groups all over the country.
  • The lack of involvement from the international community: the main subject covered by the media today are the conflicts in the Middle East. The other gross human rights violations are barely covered, thus limiting the concern and awareness of the world’s population. Furthermore, the fact that most of the journalists and human rights defenders covering the violence happening between the cartels and the government are increasingly targeted and killed, the transfer of information is greatly limited and people who would like to get involved and offer help find themselves discouraged.

These numerous key reasons explain why 2017 has been one of the bloodiest years in Mexico. The government finds itself rather stuck, not knowing which solution is best for the situation to improve. It knows that violence generates more violence but can’t effectively control all of its officials. At this rate, if no drastic changes are made in the near future, the country could enter a long painful phase of armed conflict. Some comparisons to the Syrian conflict have already been made, concluding that Mexico is now considered the deadliest country in the world.

However, it looks like the situation resembles the one in Colombia during the Medellin cartel (mainly led by Pablo Escobar) "rule". They were facing similar casualties a few years ago, but still managed to bring a definitive end to them by negotiating a peace agreement between the government and the armed forces. Even if the whole process generated a great deal of efforts, it ended up being effective and fruitful. The Colombian example could perhaps become an inspiration to the Mexican situation, if most of the parties are willing to put an end to the growing violence.

By Taline Bodart