Photographer: Fernando Brito/AFP via Getty Images

Mexico Rejects Label as World's Second-Deadliest Conflict Zone

  • Report methodology uncertain, data origin unknown: ministry
  • Think tank IISS on Tuesday said Mexico trails only Syria

Mexico’s government rejected research showing the country had become a more deadly conflict zone than Afghanistan and Iraq, after President Donald Trump retweeted a report on the findings.

The London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies found that Mexico only trailed Syria in terms of deaths last year. Mexico’s Foreign Relations and Interior ministries contested Wednesday that the annual Armed Conflict Survey gives similar treatment to nations with situations that aren’t comparable.

The number of fatalities in Mexico, which is riven by a war between drug cartels, grew to 23,000 in 2016, compared with 17,000 in Afghanistan and 16,000 in Iraq, according to the report. The largest number of fatalities occurred in Mexican states that have become “key battlegrounds for control between competing, increasingly fragmented cartels,” IISS director general John Chipman said.

"The report signals in an irresponsible way the existence of a non-international armed conflict in Mexico," the ministries said in an emailed statement. "That is incorrect: the existence of criminal groups is not sufficient criteria to speak of a non-international armed conflict. Neither is the use of the armed forces to maintain order within the country."

In response to the statement, Antonio Sampaio, a research associate for IISS, said that the statistics used for the number of homicides come from an April report from Mexico’s Interior Ministry. While it includes some homicides that are not necessarily related to organized crime, it’s the most appropriate data available, he said in an emailed note. While countries like Brazil and Venezuela may have higher homicide rates, they are the result of more fragmented rather than organized violence over control of territory, he added.

The violence in Mexico is nothing new. More than 175,000 people have been killed since President Enrique Pena Nieto’s predecessor, Felipe Calderon, sent the army to take on drug cartels shortly after taking office in 2006. Pena Nieto’s government has continued the strategy of deploying the army to combat organized crime in places where local or state police forces are too weak to handle the security burden alone.

Trump, who launched his campaign in 2015 by calling some undocumented Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists, on Tuesday retweeted a Drudge Report posting of a CNN story about the report’s findings on Mexico.

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