Mexico Peace Index: Mexico’s 5-Year Gains in Peace Slow Significantly in 2015

While Mexico saw a 10% decrease in the rate of violent crimes and 8% decrease in the rate of organized crime in the last year, this was countered by a 6% increase in the homicide rate, as well as increases in the rates of crimes committed with firearms and prisoners incarcerated without a sentence. The analysis takes into account multiple sources, public surveys, and methodological guidance from an expert panel, adjusting, where possible, official data to account for underreporting.

The report also evaluates the costs associated with violence and the socio-economic factors related to peace in Mexico, known as Positive Peace. Since the height of the drug war in 2011, the country´s level of peacefulness has improved by 13%. Since the height of the drug war in 2011, the country´s level of peacefulness has improved by 13%. According to the report, 25 of the 32 Mexican states are more peaceful than they were in 2011, with rates of violent crime, homicide and organized crime-related offenses down by nearly 30% for the period from 2011 to 2015. It is too early to determine if the minor improvement in peacefulness in 2015 is an exception to the current 5-year trend or if peacefulness will continue to plateau. 2 The MPI indicates that about 85% of Mexicans live in states that are more peaceful today than they were in 2011. The states with the greatest improvements in peacefulness since 2011 are: Nayarit, Durango, Nuevo Leon, Chihuahua, and Baja California. In 2011, these were among the seven least peaceful states.

The report has identified a worrying trend towards greater impunity, with the rate of convictions for homicide dramatically deteriorating since 2007. In that year, there were four convictions for every five cases of murder, but by 2013 there was only one conviction for every five cases. This, coupled with the increase in prisoners being held without trial, reveals the saturation of the judicial system, as indicated by the statistics of prison overcrowding. The five most peaceful states in 2015 are: Hidalgo, Yucatán, Veracruz, Tlaxcala and San Luis Potosí, while the least peaceful states are Guerrero, Sinaloa, Morelos, Baja California and Baja California Sur.

The report stresses the need for government bodies to improve data capacity. The current reliability of official crime statistics in Mexico is a concern, as indicated by the following factors: 93% of some crimes are not reported (referred to in Mexico as cifra negra); the 20% discrepancy in 11 states between the numbers of homicides registered by the Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública (SESNSP) compared to those recorded in death certificates by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI); and the data published by Registro Nacional de Datos de Personas Extraviadas o Desaparecidas (RNPED) that lists over 26,000 people as disappeared since 2007 who remain missing, a figure considered to be conservative.

To illustrate this challenge, the MPI includes a discussion on the accuracy of official data, with the state of Veracruz topping the list. While Veracruz ranks as the third most peaceful state in the MPI, it also records the highest discrepancy in the reporting of homicide victims between SESNSP and INEGI. SESNSP only recorded 63% as many homicides as INEGI in 2014. Mexico’s victimization survey also reports that 80% of citizens in the state of Veracruz feel insecure. However, there is great potential to improve peacefulness. In comparison to countries with similar levels of violence, Mexico benefits from the second highest difference in the world between its actual peace and its Positive Peace, the factors that sustain peaceful societies. This is reflected in the relatively high scores in the domains of sound business environment, equitable distribution of resources, and good relations with neighboring countries. Investing in improving the judicial system and lowering levels of corruption will lead to improvements in peacefulness, which will reap social and economic rewards. 

Mexico is investing in police, judicial and penal system reforms, including the New Criminal Justice System (NSJP), the implementation deadline for which is in June 2016. This will allow defendants to challenge prosecution evidence more effectively, and should reduce trial times. It will also establish the presumption of innocence to accused parties, guarantee their right to a licensed public defender, and prohibit torture, intimidation and incommunicado detention. As of March 2014, the public security secretariat has also been required by law to publish victim counts for the investigations into homicide, kidnapping and extortion, a requirement that represents advancement in efforts towards transparency. The economic impact of violence in 2015 was 2.12 trillion pesos (US $134 billion), the equivalent of 13% of Mexico’s GDP. This corresponds to 17,525 pesos per person, roughly equal to two months’ salary of an average Mexican worker. Improvements in levels of peace have generated an economic benefit of 802 billion pesos (US $50 billion) in Mexico in the four years since 2011. This is a reduction of 38% in the economic impact of violence, equivalent to about 1.5 times the size of agricultural production in Mexico in a year.

“Mexico has an opportunity to reach higher levels of peace, but the country needs to confront two fundamental problems: the administration of justice and corruption. Improvements will have direct benefits given that the states with the lowest levels of peace are the states where corruption levels are perceived to be the greatest,” said Patricia de Obeso, Manager of IEP in Mexico. The report also highlights the relationship between the attitudes, institutions and structures of Positive Peace and the pace of recovery from the high levels of violence experienced in 2011. States with higher levels of Positive Peace, such as Nuevo León in particular, have shown greater improvements in their MPI scores in the last five years.

“Viewing the levels of violence in Mexico through the approach of Positive Peace provides us with an understanding of how the country can go about improving peacefulness. Since violence peaked in 2011, most states have seen improvements in their peacefulness. Those improvements have been consistently larger in states with higher levels of Positive Peace, where there has been greater resilience to cartel violence,” said Steve Killelea, Executive Chairman of IEP. For more information on the Mexico 2016 Peace Index (including interactive maps) and to download the report, visit