GUADALAJARA, Mexico – The murder rate in Mexico fell in the first half of 2012, marking the first decline in several years.
Outgoing President Felipe Calderon said the number of homicides in the first six months fell seven percent compared with the same period last year.
Murders related to organized crime dropped nearly 15 percent in the same period, Calderon told the National Public Security Council on Thursday.
Calderon, who leaves office at the end of November, has waged an aggressive and controversial campaign against powerful drug cartels, which have been fighting for control of lucrative drug smuggling routes to the United States.
At the beginning of his term in 2006, Calderon deployed thousands of soldiers to spearhead the war against the traffickers.
Since then, more than 55,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence.
But the tide is turning, Calderon said.
“Month after month (in the first half of 2012), we have seen a decrease in homicides with respect to the same month last year,” Calderon was quoted by Spanish news agency EFE as saying.
In his speech, Calderon praised the armed forces and federal police for their “loyalty, efficiency and professionalism,” noting that 22 of the 37 most wanted criminals in Mexico had been captured or killed during his tenure.
But Hector Larios, head of a non-governmental organization that tracks homicides nationwide, cast doubt on the accuracy of the data.
“The chronic deficiency of public data is another problem that prevents us from affirming with certainty that conditions in the country are improving,” Larios was quoted by AFP as saying.
The latest official data states there were 47,500 drug-related murders between December 2006, when Calderon took office, and September last year. But Mexican newspapers and NGO say the figure is much higher.
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