Mexican murders edge up in July, femicides stubbornly high

FILE PHOTO: People stand near the names of femicide victims, painted by women, as part of a protest marking International Women's Day, at Zocalo square in Mexico City, Mexico March 8, 2020. REUTERS/Gustavo Graf

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Murders in Mexico edged up in July amid the hunt for a well-known drug gang leader, government data showed on Thursday, while the murders of women remained elevated in the first seven months of the year.

Mexico has been blighted by gang violence for many years, with successive governments failing to tackle the problem. According to the latest data available, more than 34,600 murders were registered last year, a record.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador promised to reduce the violence with a new strategy after taking power in December 2018, but homicides have continued to tick up.

After three months of falling murder figures, Mexico in July recorded a 3.9% rise in homicides compared to the previous month, as 2,980 people were killed, official data showed. Compared to July 2019, murders rose 0.3%.

Mexico’s Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said the uptick in violence was partly due to violence surrounding the hunt and high-profile arrest of Jose Antonio Yepez, a cartel leader who was one of the government’s biggest targets. [nL1N2F4046]

“July was a very tense month derived mainly from all the public security actions in the state of Guanajuato that concluded with the arrest of the leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel,” Durazo told a news conference.

Overall murders in Mexico are up 1.6% in the first seven months of the year compared to the same period in 2019, the bloodiest year in Mexico’s recorded history.

Murders of women because of their gender, categorized as femicides, are up 5.4% in the first seven months of the year compared to the same period in 2019. Another 74 women were killed in July, data showed.

Other serious crimes, including kidnappings and robbery, have fallen during the coronavirus pandemic.

Reporting by Raúl Cortés Fernández; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Alistair Bell