Mexico made criminal justice reforms in 2008 – they haven't done much to reduce crime

Rebecca Janzen, Associate Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature, University of South Carolina, The Conversation on

Published in Political News

Mexico has waged a long, bloody battle on drugs and crime for decades. But violence there continues to soar.

In one of the latest high-profile incidents, Mexican law enforcement arrested Ovidio Guzmán-López, a leader of the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel and the son of imprisoned drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, in early January 2023. The arrest sparked a wave of violence in Culiacan in northwest Mexico, resulting in looting, shootouts and 29 people killed.

The ongoing violence in parts of Mexico is largely associated with drug trafficking organizations like Sinaloa, street gangs and self-defense forces regular citizens have formed to protect themselves from crime because of ineffective police and military deterrents.

I am a scholar of Mexican culture and literature. I have written about how the Mexican government has attempted to reduce violent crime through changes to criminal justice and human rights law.

But these attempts have largely failed, allowing the cycle of violence to escalate.

Here are four key points to understand.


An average of 25 people disappear every day in Mexico. The murder rate stands at 28 per 100,000 people – four times the rate in the United States.

The violence rate in Mexico shot up starting in 2007, with the worst years in 2011 and again from 2018 to the present.

Violent crime varies significantly across the country.

The people most at risk of violence are in the central and southwestern parts of the country, as well as in the northern states of Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Baja California Norte and Tamaulipas.


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