Is Mexico really the second-deadliest country in the world?

A ‘shoddy’ study endorsed by Trump has caused an angry reaction in Mexico, which has been trying to improve its international image

Parts of Mexico have suffered horrific violence since the then president, Felipe Calderón, declared war on organized crime a decade ago. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

The headlines were as stark as they were shocking: Mexico is the second-deadliest country in the world.

According to an annual survey by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Mexico in 2016 was more violent than war zones such as Afghanistan or Yemen, with a death toll surpassed only by that of Syria.

The study was widely reported, and even Donald Trump – who has often used America’s southern neighbour as a political punching bag – retweeted a link to a CNN article on the report.

But the report landed with a thud in Mexico, where the government has been trying to improve the country’s international image amid a decade of drug-war violence.

“Mexico is far from being one of the most violent countries in the world,” the foreign and interior ministries said in a testy joint statement, which pointed out that according to UN figures, the country’s homicide rate of 16.4 murders per 100,000 residents was significantly lower than several other Latin American countries, including Brazil (25.2 murders per 100,000 residents), Venezuela (53.7 murders per 100,000 residents) and Honduras (90.4 murders per 100,000 residents).

Parts of Mexico have suffered horrific violence since the then president, Felipe Calderón, declared war on organized crime a decade ago. That struggle has claimed an estimated 200,000 lives and left more than 30,000 missing.

But large swathes of the country are unaffected by drug violence, (tourism visits grew by a healthy 9% in 2016), and the suggestion that Mexico was comparable to Syria – now in its sixth year of war – infuriated Mexicans.

Many argue that the the country’s violence is fueled by US demand for illegal drugs and the black market in American firearms – neither of which are likely to be stopped by a border wall such as that proposed by Trump.

Trump’s apparent endorsement of the study only added to the angry reaction in Mexico.

“I hope these morons are happy. Their idiotic report was already retweeted by @realDonald Trump,” tweeted Alejandro Hope, a Mexican security analyst.

Police officers and forensic personnel work at the place where six corpses were found on a road in Mochitlán, Guerrero State, Mexico. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

“Violence related to organized crime is a regional phenomenon, which goes beyond the borders which Mexico shares with the United States, Guatemala and Belize,” the statement said. “The challenges Mexico confronts in this area cannot be isolated from the phenomena related to other jurisdictions, such as arms trafficking and demand for drugs.”

Mexico has killed or captured dozens of drug bosses – such as Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán,…

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