Mexico saw its highest murder rate in at least two decades last year as homicides skyrocketed nearly 25 percent compared to 2016, the country’s Interior Ministry announced last week.
The Mexican government said it tracked 25,339 murders throughout 2017 — an average of about 70 per day — marking the bloodiest year since Mexico began gathering such data in 1997. The statistics top the previous record set in 2011 by more than 3,000 deaths.
The results were expected, as the Mexican government has struggled to tackle violent drug cartels and murder across the country. Last year, a newspaper was forced to shutter in Ciudad Juárez, saying it was too dangerous to continue (six journalists were killed in Mexico in 2017, making it the deadliest country for journalists in the Western Hemisphere). October 2017 was the deadliest month in at least the last 20 years.
The trend has already continued into 2018, after journalist Carlos Domínguez was killed last weekend in the state of Tamaulipas. Authorities are investigating whether his death was related to his work.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto addressed the ongoing violence in a speech in November, saying the government was “still not satisfied” and that it had “lots more to achieve” after taking steps to address the dangers. Mexico’s Congress passed a new law in December strengthening the military and expanding its authority to fight drug crime, but the move was met with criticism.
Peña Nieto’s approval ratings have been plummeting ahead of Mexico’s presidential elections in July. He is not up for re-election due to term limits, but his party is facing strong opposition.
U.S. President Donald Trump slammed Mexico last week as “the number one most dangerous country in the world” in a series of Twitter messages meant to further his ongoing calls to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Mexican government rejected such a distinction.
“Even though Mexico has a significant problem with violence, it is plainly false that Mexico is the most dangerous country in the world,” the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement obtained by Reuters.
El Salvador, Honduras and Venezuela had much higher murder rates per 100,000 people, according to World Bank data from 2015, the last year for which data is available. However, The Associated Press notes some parts of Mexico are particularly dangerous, including the states of Colima, Baja California and Guerrero.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.