Except for the Horrific Drug Violence, Mexico Is Getting Safer

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How It Works
Jan. 16 2014 4:25 PM

Except for the Horrific Drug Violence, Mexico Is Getting Safer

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Mexican soldiers patrol the streets of Apatzingan, in Michoacan state, Mexico, on Jan. 16, 2014.

Photo by Alfredo Estrella/AFP/Getty Images

Granted, this fact has a bit of an “other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play” feel to it, but a new World Bank briefing paper by Ted Enamorado, Luis F. López-Calva, and Carlos Rodríguez-Castelan notes that at the same time Mexico’s rates of drug-related violence have soared, non-drug-related homicides in Mexico have actually declined:

mexicocrimes

 “While drug related homicides increased by 55 percent annually over the period,” the authors write, “non-drug related homicides actually declined by an average of 4 percent each year between 2007 and 2011. Indeed, drug related murders accounted for 73 percent of all homicides in 2011, while in 2007 the figure was no more than 27.6 percent.”

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The main topic of the paper is the relationship between drug crime and economic growth. Looking at municipal-level data, they find that while “drug-related crimes indeed deter growth,” there’s “no evidence of a negative effect on growth from crimes unrelated to drug trafficking.”

New President Enrique Peña-Nieto, who is currently faced with attempting to quell a mini-civil war between armed vigilantes and traffickers in Michoacan state, has attempted to reframe the international conversation on Mexico to focus on the country’s impressive recent economic growth rather than the drug violence that spiraled out of control under predecessor, Felipe Calderón. But as the report makes clear, the two subjects are hardly unrelated.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog.