SAN DIEGO -- The University of San Diego’s Trans-Border Institute has released its annual report on drug violence in Mexico, and researchers found it appeared to have decreased in 2012.
In 2011, violence in Mexico was still on the rise, but was slowing compared to previous years, with homicides totaling about 27,000 nationwide.
In the latest report, University of San Diego researchers estimate homicides declined to between 20,000 and 25,000 last year.
Between 45 and 60 percent of those murders bore the signs of drug violence, like the use of high-caliber weapons, torture and dismemberments. But researchers had a hard time pinning that precise number down because unlike in previous years, the government wouldn’t release data.
“The Peña Nieto administration has actually come out and said that they believe that the dissemination of information about violence in Mexico creates greater overall public fear about the problem," said David Shirk, the Trans-Border Institute's director. "And so they want to diminish public fears by keeping people in the dark.”
Researchers relied on general homicide statistics and drug murder tallies by the nation’s largest newspapers to reach their estimates.
Violence has surged in some cities like Acapulco. But Shirk attributes the overall national decline to both the arrests of major cartel leaders and the settling of turf wars between cartels themselves.
Nationally, the number of municipalities free from violence increased by 16 percent, according to the report.
Baja California has seen some of the most dramatic declines in violence. Ciudad Juarez, once considered a murder capital of the world, also saw major security improvements.
The report estimates that during the recent six-year administration of former President Felipe Calderón there were between 120,00 to 125,000 homicides nationally, and that between 45,000-55,000 of those were organized-crime-style murders. The president had launched a campaign to dismantle the drug cartels.