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Have we forgotten about the world's second deadliest conflict?

Have we forgotten about the world's second deadliest conflict?
By Chris Harris
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The media’s crosshairs have been firmly focussed on Syria for years as the country is ripped apart by civil war.


The media’s crosshairs have been firmly focussed on Syria for years as the country is ripped apart by civil war.

But this may have come at the expense of talking about the world’s second deadliest conflict.

There were 23,000 people killed in Mexico’s drugs wars last year – more than 60 murders-a-day.

It represents an increase of more than 20 percent compared with 2015, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

The bodies are continuing to pile up so far this year: the first two months of 2017 were the most violent January and February on record, with 3,779 murders.

IISS’ Armed Conflicts Survey says drug-trafficking cartels with military-grade weapons have pushed violence to levels seen in traditional armed conflicts, like Syria.

Mexico’s drugs war, which began with a crackdown on cartels in December 2006, has killed more than 100,000 people.

Experts say President Enrique Pena Nieto indicated in 2012, when he took office, that security would be more focussed on tackling violence that affects civilians, rather than going after the kingpins of the drug-trafficking cartels.

Murders linked to drugs-related violence declined over in 2013 and 2014, according to June Beittel, a Latin American analyst.

But they have since returned to levels last seen in 2011 – the deadliest year in Mexico’s 11-year conflict.

Antônio Sampaio, a researcher for IISS, said: “The most recent wave of violence can be traced back to a militarisation, an arms race of sorts, by criminal groups seeking the most effective tools of intimidation against rivals and the state.

“The aim of the groups was autonomy – over urban territories and illicit economies such as cocaine smuggling, heroin production and, increasingly, synthetic drugs laboratories.”

He added the roots of the conflict were also linked to Mexico’s weak institutions and insufficient economic growth.

“The police has been a particularly problematic institution in Pena Nieto’s administration, highlighted by the most high-profile crime of his time in office – the 2014 disappearance of 43 students from a teachers’ college in Guerrero state, following a protest against a local political family with links to the United Warriors criminal group.

“Investigators believe that local police officers abducted the students and handed them over to the United Warriors, who tortured and murdered them – although so far the case remains unsolved.

“Following the students’ disappearance, Pena Nieto resurrected an old proposal to abolish municipal police agencies and place officers directly under state governments’ oversight. This proposal has a real chance of improving police performance – but so far has been stalled in congress.”

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