MEXICO CITY — Mexico has surpassed 2,000 homicides in a month for the first time since the summer of 2011 and had more killings in the first quarter of 2017 than in the start of any year in at least two decades, according to data released Friday.
Unlike 2011, when bloody cartel clashes in Ciudad Juarez drove the national toll to new heights, the killings pushing the 2017 total have been spread across a number of states. Authorities attribute them to vicious turf battles resulting from breakdowns in the leadership of some cartels and the splintering of others into smaller gangs.
The southern state of Guerrero, where Acapulco is located, continues to be the homicide leader, with 550 during the first three months of the year.
But Baja California Sur with 133 slayings during the first quarter had the largest year-on-year percentage increase, skyrocketing 682 percent from the 17 homicides it had during the same period in 2016. A territorial dispute between the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels is believed to be driving much of the violence in the southern part of the peninsula popular with foreign tourists.
Nationally, there were 2,020 homicides in March, up about 11 percent from February. For January through March, the national total was 5,775 killings, up 29 percent from the same three months last year.
Pioquinto Damian Huato, a business leader in the Guerrero state capital of Chilpancingo, led an anti-crime crusade until an attempt was made on his life that resulted in the death of his daughter-in-law in 2014.
"Every now and then bagged bodies appear in Chilpancingo," he said. "Yesterday three appeared." The leader of the state's leftist Democratic Revolution Party, Demetrio Saldivar, also was killed Wednesday night in Chilpancingo.
"I live in my home with armored doors to be able to protect my family," Damian Huato said. "How could I go out when they could kill me in any moment?"
Mexico's surge in violence comes at a time when legislators are debating a national security law that would have implications for the military's continued role in domestic security. Rising violence could pose a problem for the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party of President Enrique Pena Nieto in next year's presidential election.
Other states seeing significantly more homicides this year include the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, which registered 372 through March, up 94 percent from the same period last year. A former Veracruz governor, Javier Duarte, was arrested last weekend in Guatemala after six months on the run from corruption charges.
Chihuahua state, home to Ciudad Juarez, is also seeing more violence this year. Its 384 homicides through March were 78 percent more than the same period last year.