Is Mexico Under-reporting its Homicide Count?

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An investigation by the newspaper Zeta has concluded that the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto is significantly understating the number of homicides committed in the country.

Zeta reported that while the government has registered 63,816 homicides in the less than four years since Peña Nieto took office, the newspaper’s own investigation, which compiled federal and state homicide figures from several official sources, put the total number of murders at 78,109.

“However, the figure could be higher,” Zeta reported. “The uncertainty about the exact number comes mainly from the number of disappeared people, homicides that are intentionally classified as suicides in several states and the lack of authorities in some areas dominated by armed groups, where murders are committed without a response from police forces or justice operators.”

More homicides were officially reported in July 2016 than during any other month of Peña Nieto’s term. There were 2,073 homicides that month, according to the National Public Security System (sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública – SNSP). July’s homicides bring the 2016 total to 12,376, a 16 percent increase over the same period a year earlier.

The State of Mexico, the nation’s most populous, registered 1,326 intentional homicides in the first seven months of 2016, followed by Guerrero, 1,267; Michoacan, 771; Chihuaha, 723; Jalisco, 698; Baja California, 654; Veracruz, 643; Guanajuato, 606; and Sinaloa, 605.

Zeta reports that the average number of homicides during the Peña Nieto administration is 1,800 a month and 21,600 per year, noting that if the trend continues his government will see 8,000 more homicides than the previous administration of President Felipe Calderon.

InSight Crime Analysis

This is not the first time the government’s homicides figures have been questioned. In July, the president spoke about the important reduction in homicides that had taken place, but a few weeks later the Mexican organization Semaforo Delictivo showed the country was experiencing a clear increase in murders.

SEE ALSOMexico News and Profiles

Despite Peña Nieto’s attempts to change the crime narrative in Mexico, the country continues to suffer high levels of organized crime-related violence. According to the non-governmental organization Institute for Economics and Peace, there were more conflict deaths in Mexico last year than in war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan.

The rise in violence has hurt Peña Nieto’s popularity. A recent survey found the president’s approval ratings stand at just 29 percent, the lowest figure since he took office in December 2012.

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