A man is arrested by police in Mexico. 11,155 people were murdered in Mexico in the first five months of 2017, according to government statistics. The pace of murders — about one every 20 minutes — represents a 31 percent jump compared with the same period in 2016. Photo: The Wall Street Journal

By Robbie Whelan
5 July 2017

CHIHUAHUA, Mexico (The Wall Street Journal) – On the morning of March 23, gunmen here fired eight shots into a cherry-red Renault Duster SUV, killing newspaper reporter Miroslava Breach as she waited outside her home to drive her 14-year-old son, Carlos, to school.

A hand-painted sign at the scene said the journalist — known for her investigations into ties between drug gangs and local political machines — was murdered “for having a loose tongue.”

After a few years of declining violence under Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, the drug war has come roaring back to life.

Ms. Breach was one of 11,155 people murdered in Mexico in the first five months of 2017, according to government statistics. The pace of murders — about one every 20 minutes — represents a 31% jump compared with the same period last year, and, by year-end, could rival 2011’s 27,213 homicides for the worst body count in Mexico’s peacetime history.

“The momentum of reducing violence in recent years has clearly broken down,” said Earl Anthony Wayne, who served as U.S. ambassador to Mexico from 2011 to 2015. “It’s hardly in the interest of the U.S. to have this violence going on near our borders, both for the effect it could have on U.S. citizens in those areas and for the effect it could have on commerce.”

Many of the causes of the resurgence are long standing, including the growing market for opioids in the U.S. and a bloody competition among rival trafficking groups touched off by the death or arrest of senior leaders.

There is also a counterintuitive dynamic at work, say scholars of the drug trade: In recent months, voters have thrown out of office allegedly corrupt state and local leaders of President Peña Nieto’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. That, in turn, led to the breakdown of unofficial alliances between drug gangs and politicians — what some are calling a pax mafiosa — that had kept the killings in check.

“The local and state governments of the PRI controlled the violence and crime using informal rules,’” said Jorge Chabat, a professor who focuses on security issues and international relations at Mexico City’s nonpartisan CIDE research center. “They would say, ‘You can traffic drugs, as long as you don’t kill too many people.’ ” [more]

11,155 Dead: Mexico's Violent Drug War Is Roaring Back

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