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Mexico Violence Up in November, According to Consultancy Firm

A new report from a Mexico consulting firm on organized crime-related killings in November -- the final month of former President Felipe Calderon's term -- describes an increase in these types of homicides across the country, with one significant exception.

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According to Lantia Consultores, a Mexico City firm founded by Eduardo Guerrero Gutierrez, 1,223 people were killed over the course of November in incidents linked to organized crime. This represents a 38 percent increase over October, spread over a larger number of regions: the number of municipalities that registered one such killing leaped from 209 to 266, a jump of 27 percent, according to the report that was provided to InSight Crime.

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The states driving the violence are the same that Mexicans have come to expect over the past five years: Guerrero, Chihuahua and Sinaloa were the three states with the largest number of murders.

According to statistics from the National Public Security System, which compiles data on total murders rather than those linked to organized crime, in 2011 the same trio were, respectively, the second, first, and fourth-ranked states in overall murders (Nuevo Leon was third). With a total of more than 7,000 murders, they accounted for nearly a third of all murders on Mexican soil.

Thus far in 2012, the story is largely the same, according to the Mexican government and Lantia (see the government's 2012 report in .pdf). These states again have the top rankings on the list of Mexico's most violent states -- though Guerrero and Chihuahua have switched positions --and once more account for more than a quarter of the 17,192 murders on Mexican soil through October.

These numbers are all the more striking considering that none of the three states are among the top ten in population, and together they house just 9.6 million people, or approximately 8.5 percent of the total Mexican population.

Following the above trio on the Lantia list were Baja California, Coahuila, Jalisco and Tamaulipas. With the exception of Baja California, where the discovery of a mass grave with more than 100 bodies caused a sharp spike, all of these states are beset by ongoing feuds between different gangs.

However, the participants in the fighting vary a great deal from region to region. In Tamaulipas, for instance, different sects of the Zetas have taken aim at each other, and at the remaining members of the weakened Gulf Cartel. In Guerrero, in turn, a long list of upstart gangs have tried to assert supremacy over the past couple of years. They have all failed, creating an ongoing spiral of violence.

One significant surprise in the report is the absence of Nuevo Leon from the list of the most violent. Thanks to a war that began in 2010 between the Zetas and their onetime patrons in the Gulf Cartel, Nuevo Leon, which had long enjoyed a reputation as an oasis of peace amid Mexico's blood-soaked North, has turned into one of the most violent states in the republic. More than 2,000 people were killed there in 2011, and 1,320 were murdered during the first ten months of 2012. In contrast, in 2009, the year before the two groups split definitively, just 267 were murdered in Nuevo Leon. (See the government's 2009 report in pdf)

The relative peace in Nuevo Leon is stranger still considering that neighboring Tamaulipas remains exceedingly violent, thanks in large part to the fighting between the different Zetas factions. The Zetas conflict is also a driver of the violence in Coahuila, which borders Nuevo Leon on the west.

The Zetas' infighting, which began in the spring and was expected to accelerate with the death of former boss Heriberto Lazcano in September, has subsided in Nuevo Leon even as it rages in surrounding states, which suggests that it is only a temporary calm rather than a durable indicator of stability.

At the city level, the results reported by Lantia largely correspond to state patterns. The city with the most murders in November was Baja California's Tijuana, with 120, largely on the basis of the mass graves that were discovered last week with nearly 100 bodies deposited years earlier. Acapulco, Guerrero, with 76 killings, was second, followed by Torreon, Coahuila, with 56; Culiacan, Sinaloa, the site of 51 organized crime-related murders; Juarez, Chihuahua, with 41; and Reynosa, Tamaulipas, where 23 such killings took place.

Not only did no Nuevo Leon cities appear among the ten most violent, but Monterrey, Santa Catarina, and Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon, were all among the ten cities with the largest drops in organized crime-related murders. Monterrey, in fact, came in first place, with decline of 18 from October.

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