The 2019 Mexico Peace Index (MPI), produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), provides a comprehensive measure of peacefulness in Mexico. The MPI is based on the Global Peace Index (GPI), the world’s leading measure of global peacefulness, produced by IEP every year since 2007. This is the sixth edition of the MPI, outlining the key trends, patterns and drivers of peace in Mexico, including an analysis through the lens of Positive Peace, which reviews eight societal structures and highlight areas important for government policy.
The report also estimates the economic impact of violence to the Mexican economy, highlighting the need to increase investment and capacity in the criminal justice system. Finally, the report provides quantitative evidence to aid in the development of policies for a more peaceful society. The research is of assistance to policymakers, researchers, business leaders and the general public working towards building peace in Mexico.
Peace in Mexico declined by 4.9 percent in 2018, with ten states improving in peacefulness, while 22 states deteriorated.
The major driver behind the deterioration was an upsurge in the homicide rate, which increased by 14 percent. Mexico’s 2018 homicide rate reached historically high levels, at 27 deaths per 100,000 people, or over 34,000 victims. This level of violence surpasses the prior peak of 2011. The rise in the homicide rate in 2018 was accompanied by a substantial increase in the rate of gun violence, which rose by 16 percent, with 24 of the 32 states reporting escalating rates of firearms crimes.
The main finding of this year’s report is that government is underinvested in the justice system, given the high level of violence. Currently, government spending on police and the justice system is just half of the average for other members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP). And yet, only seven percent of crimes resulted in a criminal investigation in 2017 and less than three percent resulted in a conviction, leaving an impunity rate of 97 percent.
The economic impact of violence rose by ten percent in 2018, reaching 5.16 trillion pesos (US$268 billion), which is equivalent to 24 percent of the country’s GDP.
On a per person basis, the economic impact of violence was 41,181 pesos, more than five times the average monthly salary of a Mexican worker. Furthermore, this figure varies considerably from state to state, ranging from 10,808 pesos in Yucatán to 83,167 pesos in Colima.
The lost opportunity cost is high: reducing violence throughout Mexico to the levels of the five most peaceful states would result in a peace dividend of 2.5 trillion pesos per year, or ten trillion pesos over a four-year period. This would unleash an additional economic value equivalent to 11 percent of Mexico’s 2018 GDP, or more than 11 times what the federal government currently spends on domestic security and justice.
Yucatán was once again the most peaceful state in Mexico, followed by Campeche, Tlaxcala, Chiapas and Hidalgo. However, all five states recorded an increase in their homicide rate last year, consistent with the national trend. Three of the five – Tlaxcala, Chiapas and Hidalgo – had deteriorating MPI scores in 2018, indicating that even the most peaceful parts of the country have been affected by the rise in violence.
Baja California ranked as Mexico’s least peaceful state for the first time in 2018, followed by Guerrero, Colima,
Quintana Roo, and Chihuahua. All five of the least peaceful states deteriorated in 2018. Geographically, these states span the country, with Guerrero, Colima and Baja California along the Pacific Coast, Quintana Roo on the Caribbean Sea, and Chihuahua on the border with the United States. All five states score poorly across nearly all indicators.
The largest improvement occurred in Baja California Sur, which improved its ranking by seven places, from 32 in 2017 to 25 in 2018. Baja California Sur has reduced its homicide rate by 76 percent, from 105 to 26 per 100,000 people. Baja California Sur was the only state in the country to become more peaceful in every indicator.
In the three states that improved the most in the 2019 MPI – Baja California Sur, Sinaloa and Sonora – governments used programs specifically designed to target local challenges. All of these programs incorporated inter-government agencies incollaboration with businesses and the community. Key characteristics of successful security programs are covered in Section 3.
Mexico continues to struggle with high levels of corruption. Nearly 70 percent of Mexicans believed judges were corrupt in 2018, and over 65 percent of Mexicans perceived the Public Ministry, the institution to which they are meant to report a crime, as corrupt.
This figure is higher among people who have been the victim of a crime, reaching 78 percent of survey respondents.
Despite the high rates of homicide, violent crime and organized crime, Mexican states had a median of 110 public security officials per 100,000 people in 2017, underscoring the lack of capacity. This rate is less than half of the average for Latin America. The most recent data shows that Mexico has only 3.5 judges and magistrates per 100,000 people, significantly below the global average of 16.
This deficit in judges means that fewer cases go before the bench and contributes to the low conviction rates.
Promisingly, there have been some improvements in justice capacity in recent years. For example, the number of Public Ministry offices is up eight percent and the share of Public Ministries with specialists in “grave” crimes, such as homicide and rape, has risen from 15 percent of the offices to nearly a third since 2016.
Additionally, the per capita budget for state prosecutors increased 20 percent over the same time, with the number of staff in state attorney generals’ offices rising by three percent in the last two years. Mexico will need to continue to raise its investment in the capacity of the criminal justice system and improve the allocation of funds to arrest the trend of rising violence.
One in three adults in Mexico are the victim of a crime each year, but some types of violence disproportionately affect a particular group. Men are much more likely to be victims of homicide, while 44 percent of women have experienced intimate partner violence in their life. The victims of nine out of ten homicides were men, and in the case of kidnapping, 74 percent were men. However, 85 percent of crimes were committed by men. Youth are more affected by violence than older adults, with the homicide rate for youth aged 15 to 29 being 42 percent higher than that of the general population. Taken all together, the data on victims, perpetrators and justice indicates that sections of Mexico’s young male population are trapped in cycles of violence.
Most of Mexico’s incarcerated people are young men with families and some level of education; 64 percent had at least one child dependent at the time of their arrest. Interrupting this cycle will have flow on benefits for the economy, future levels of violence and development.
IEP’s analysis of the relationships between violence and the factors that sustain peace, known as Positive Peace, finds that four of the eight pillars are weak and deteriorating. The continuing rise in violence indicates that a much broader peacebuilding strategy is needed to address the causes, as well as the symptoms of lawlessness.
IEP’s systemic Positive Peace analysis finds that weak scores in well-functioning government, low levels of corruption and free flow of information have trapped Mexico’s social system in a cycle of violence. Not only are these pillars weak when compared to the rest of the world or Latin America, but they are also deteriorating, which is of considerable concern. Furthermore, IEP’s global research has shown that balanced performance across all pillars is a defining characteristic of highly peaceful countries. However, Mexico’s scores are unbalanced and the gap between the pillars is continuing to grow. Unless these areas are addressed, it will be difficult for Mexico to improve its levels of peacefulness.
An effective strategy will need to look at multiple dynamics and how they interact. For example, the weak rule of law impacts the free flow of information, with journalists facing high rates of violence throughout the country. In 2017, 507 cases of attacks against journalists were recorded. By July of 2018, 389 attacks had already been registered in the year, over 40 percent more than the same period in the previous year.
It should also be noted that changes in the system can produce limited results for a period of time, and then change can be very rapid. The point at which change materializes is known as a “tipping point” and underlines the importance of maintaining the pace of change in Mexico, even when progress appears slow.
This may prove to be particularly relevant for the justice and law enforcement reform programs.