A record high of nearly 35,000 people were murdered in Mexico in 2019, according to official data, as President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador struggled to rein in violent crime in his first year in office.
A report released by the Secretariat of Public Security on Monday showed there were a total 34,582 murders last year, a 2.5 percent increase from 2018, when 33,743 victims were recorded.
It was the highest rate since 1997, the first year for which there is an official record.
The 2019 rate equals an average of 95 murders per day in Mexico a country that has been plagued with violence since 2006, when the government deployed the military to wage the so-called war on drugs.
Since then, nearly 275,000 people have been killed in Mexico, according to official figures that do not specify how many of the cases are linked to organised crime.
June had the highest rate of murders in 2019, with 2,993 victims.
Separate security ministry figures using an older methodology that refers to the number of homicide investigations showed an increase to 29,401 last year from 29,100 in 2018.
On December 1, the same day Lopez Obrador marked his first anniversary in office, the Latin American nation suffered its worst single day of violence with 127 people killed.
For years, Mexico has struggled with violence as consecutive governments battled brutal drug cartels, often by taking out their leaders, which has resulted in the fragmentation of gangs and vicious internecine fighting.
Lopez Obrador assumed the presidency in December 2018 pledging to pacify the country with a less confrontational approach to security, but violence has continued to rise.
To tackle the problem, Mexican officials last week presented politicians with a proposal to overhaul the criminal justice system, paving the way for the Senate to take up the plan next month that could ease security cooperation with the United States.
According to a draft of the criminal justice reform reviewed by Reuters news agency, the plan would allow private communications to be used as evidence and limit legal challenges to avoid extradition delays for criminal suspects, many of whom are US-bound.
Mexican Attorney General Alejandro Gertz told senators the plan would attack entrenched corruption and impunity as well as the roots of criminal activity.
But concern has grown about the president’s strategy, which he says still needs time, after two significant crises in recent months.
Critics blasted the government as weak in October when it ordered security forces to release the captured son of convicted kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman under pressure from marauding cartel henchmen in the northern city of Culiacan.
Then, in early November, three mothers and six children were killed by suspected cartel gunmen in northern Mexico, sparking outrage and revulsion at home and abroad.