Murders in Mexico reach record levels in first four months of 2020

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Homicides in Mexico hit record levels in the first four months of 2020, climbing by 2.4% from the same period last year, official data showed on Wednesday, dealing a setback to the government’s efforts to restore order.

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President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador pledged to bring down gang-fueled violence afflicting Mexico when he took office in December 2018, but homicides hit a record level in 2019 and have continued to climb even during the coronavirus lockdown.

In the first four months of this year, 11,535 murders were registered, up from 11,266 homicide in same period last year, preliminary data from the security ministry showed. Just over 34,600 murders were logged in Mexico in all of last year.

Mexico in late March began imposing restrictions to curb the coronavirus outbreak, a development that some analysts hoped might lead to a reduction in criminal violence.

But nearly 6,000 murders were registered between March and April, one of the worst two-month periods on record.

Lopez Obrador has taken a more conciliatory strategy to tackling violence, one that aims to focus on the causes of crime, in particular by reducing poverty and corruption.

However, he has conceded Mexico must do better, and this month ordered the armed forces to help handle security on the streets for another four years, extending a policy pursued by his predecessors he had long criticized.

The president has also come under fire for the government’s record on tackling violence against women.

The latest data hinted at progress.

In the year through April, there were 314 femicides, a crime described under Mexican law as murder of a woman for reasons of gender. That was a drop of 2.2% compared to 2019.

Reporting by Anthony Esposito and Dave Graham; Editing by Lisa Shumaker