Mexico’s drug wars claimed the lives of thousands of victims last year, making the collective conflict the second most deadly in the world in 2016.
Twenty-three thousand lives were lost in Mexico’s drug wars last year, second only to Syria, where 50,000 people perished as a result of their civil war.
“This is all the more surprising, considering that the conflict deaths [in Mexico] are nearly all attributable to small arms,” said John Chipman, chief executive and director-general of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), which released its annual survey of armed conflict on Tuesday.
“The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan claimed 17,000 and 16,000 lives respectively in 2016, although in lethality they were surpassed by conflicts in Mexico and Central America, which have received much less attention from the media and the international community,” said the survey’s editor, Anastasia Voronkova.
The death toll in Mexico is rising, with IISS reporting that there were 15,000 conflict deaths in Mexico in 2014 and 17,000 in 2015.
According to Voronkova, the number of homicides were up in 22 of Mexico’s 32 states during 2016 and the cartel rivalries led to intensified violence.
“It is noteworthy that the largest rises in fatalities were registered in states that were key battlegrounds for control between competing, increasingly fragmented cartels,” she said.
“The violence grew worse as the cartels expanded the territorial reach of their campaigns, seeking to ‘cleanse’ areas of rivals in their efforts to secure a monopoly on drug-trafficking routes and other criminal assets.”
Such rivalries between cartels also threaten the lives of civilians who have nothing to do with the drug trade. Many have become victims of the drug wars including bystanders, people who refused to join cartels, migrants, journalists and government officials.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security reports that Mexican drug cartels take in between $19 billion and $29 billion annually from U.S. drug sales.
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