Homicides are on the rise in Mexico after years of decline, and it's the result of a new criminal dynamic

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Mexico Killings: Report Finds Crimes Against Humanity

After several years of declines, Mexico's homicide rate has started to rise, with the total body count for the first half of 2016 the highest since 2012.

The total number of homicides in the first half of this year — 10,301, or about 57 a day — is about 15% more than the 8,979 in the same period in 2015, though it is fewer homicides than in the first halves of 2011 and 2012, when the drug war's violence was considered to be at its peak.

The high rates of killings recorded in those two years are thought to be related to the bloody fight over Ciudad Juarez, contested by "El Chapo" Guzmán's Sinaloa cartel and the Juarez cartel, which resulted in about eight homicides a day on average.

The fight for Juarez started around 2008 and ended during 2011-2012, tapering off before current President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in late 2012.

Related: Protests over murder of photojournalist last year

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NTP: Protests over murdered Mexican photojournalist Ruben Espinosa
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NTP: Protests over murdered Mexican photojournalist Ruben Espinosa
Colleagues of murdered Mexican photographer Ruben Espinosa place their cameras beside his grave during his burial at the Dolores cemetery in Mexico City, on August 3, 2015. Family, friends and colleagues held a vigil Monday for Mexican photojournalist Ruben Espinosa after he was brutally killed in a multiple homicide. Espinosa was one of five victims found dead Friday at an apartment in the capital, their hands bound and their bodies bearing signs of torture. AFP PHOTO / ALFREDO ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
Men carry the casket of murdered photojournalist Ruben Espinosa during his funeral service in Mexico City, Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. With an investigation barely underway, Mexican journalist protection groups are already expressing fears that authorities won't consider Espinosa's brutal killing as being related to his work - even though he fled the state he covered fearing for his safety. Espinosa, 31, worked for the investigative magazine Proceso and other media in Veracruz state. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
Relatives and friends of murdered Mexican photographer Ruben Espinosa mourn him upon arrival at the Dolores cemetery in Mexico City, on August 3, 2015. Family, friends and colleagues held a vigil Monday for Mexican photojournalist Ruben Espinosa after he was brutally killed in a multiple homicide. Espinosa was one of five victims found dead Friday at an apartment in the capital, their hands bound and their bodies bearing signs of torture. AFP PHOTO / ALFREDO ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
A toy camera lies on the grave of murdered Mexican photographer Ruben Espinosa at the Dolores cemetery in Mexico City, on August 3, 2015. Family, friends and colleagues held a vigil Monday for Mexican photojournalist Ruben Espinosa after he was brutally killed in a multiple homicide. Espinosa was one of five victims found dead Friday at an apartment in the capital, their hands bound and their bodies bearing signs of torture. AFP PHOTO / ALFREDO ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives and friends of murdered Mexican photographer Ruben Espinosa mourn him upon arrival at the Dolores cemetery in Mexico City, on August 3, 2015. Family, friends and colleagues held a vigil Monday for Mexican photojournalist Ruben Espinosa after he was brutally killed in a multiple homicide. Espinosa was one of five victims found dead Friday at an apartment in the capital, their hands bound and their bodies bearing signs of torture. AFP PHOTO / ALFREDO ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
Colleagues and friends of murdered Mexican photographer Ruben Espinosa hold their cameras in front of his coffin during his burial at the Dolores cemetery in Mexico City, on August 3, 2015. Family, friends and colleagues held a vigil Monday for Mexican photojournalist Ruben Espinosa after he was brutally killed in a multiple homicide. Espinosa was one of five victims found dead Friday at an apartment in the capital, their hands bound and their bodies bearing signs of torture. AFP PHOTO / ALFREDO ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
A shovel full of dirt is readied to be thrown over the casket of murdered photojournalist Ruben Espinosa during his funeral service in Mexico City, Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. With an investigation barely underway, Mexican journalist protection groups are already expressing fears that authorities won't consider Espinosa's brutal killing as being related to his work - even though he fled the state he covered fearing for his safety. Espinosa, 31, worked for the investigative magazine Proceso and other media in Veracruz state. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
A photograph of murdered photojournalist Ruben Espinosa sits among flowers and candles in front of his casket inside a funeral home before his wake begins in Mexico City, Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. With an investigation barely underway, Mexican journalist protection groups are already expressing fears that authorities won't consider Espinosa's brutal killing as being related to his work - even though he fled the state he covered fearing for his safety. Espinosa, 31, worked for the investigative magazine Proceso and other media in Veracruz state. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
Journalists protest the murder of photojournalist Ruben Espinosa Becerril as they hold printouts of his photo, in Mexico City, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015. Espinosa, 31, who worked for the investigative magazine Proceso and other media was found murdered in an apartment in a middle-class neighborhood of Mexico City, where he had fled because of harassment in the state he covered. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
Journalists protest the murder of photojournalist Ruben Espinosa Becerril in Mexico City, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015. Espinosa, 31, who worked for the investigative magazine Proceso and other media was found murdered in an apartment in a middle-class neighborhood of Mexico City, where he had fled because of harassment in the state he covered., (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
The family of murdered photojournalist Ruben Espinosa is overcome with grief during his funeral service in Mexico City, Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. With an investigation barely underway, Mexican journalist protection groups are already expressing fears that authorities won't consider Espinosa's brutal killing as being related to his work - even though he fled the state he covered fearing for his safety. Espinosa, 31, worked for the investigative magazine Proceso and other media in Veracruz state. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
Cosmos the dog of murdered photojournalist Ruben Espinosa stands at his grave side during his funeral service in Mexico City, Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. With an investigation barely underway, Mexican journalist protection groups are already expressing fears that authorities won't consider Espinosa's brutal killing as being related to his work - even though he fled the state he covered fearing for his safety. Espinosa, 31, worked for the investigative magazine Proceso and other media in Veracruz state. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
Family and friends embrace Cosmos, the dog of murdered photojournalist Ruben Espinosa during his funeral service in Mexico City, Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. With an investigation barely underway, Mexican journalist protection groups are already expressing fears that authorities won't consider Espinosa's brutal killing as being related to his work - even though he fled the state he covered fearing for his safety. Espinosa, 31, worked for the investigative magazine Proceso and other media in Veracruz state. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
A placard with a message that reads 'You were eyes for all. Today we will be are your voice that will ask for justice incessantly', lies on the grave of murdered Mexican photographer Ruben Espinosa place their cameras beside his grave during his burial at the Dolores cemetery in Mexico City, on August 3, 2015. Family, friends and colleagues held a vigil Monday for Mexican photojournalist Ruben Espinosa after he was brutally killed in a multiple homicide. Espinosa was one of five victims found dead Friday at an apartment in the capital, their hands bound and their bodies bearing signs of torture. AFP PHOTO / ALFREDO ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - AUGUST 02: Mexican journalists protest against the murder of photojournalist Ruben Espinosa Becerril on August 02, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico. Espinosa, 31, who worked as freelance for the magazine Proceso and Cuartoscuro was found murdered in an apartment in a middle-class neighborhood of Mexico City, where he had fled because of harassment in Veracruz state. (Photo by Miguel Tovar/LatinContent/Getty Images)
Mexican photojournalists hold pictures of their murdered colleague Ruben Espinosa during a demonstration held at the Angel of Independence square in Mexico City, on August 2, 2015. Espinosa was found shot dead on August 1, 2015, in Mexico City, where he had moved two months ago from Veracruz, after reporting strong threats from the government of the state. Since 2010, 11 journalists have been killed and four others have gone missing in Veracruz. AFP PHOTO/ Yuri CORTEZ (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - AUGUST 02: Mexican journalists protest against the murder of photojournalist Ruben Espinosa Becerril on August 02, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico. Espinosa, 31, who worked as freelance for the magazine Proceso and Cuartoscuro was found murdered in an apartment in a middle-class neighborhood of Mexico City, where he had fled because of harassment in Veracruz state. (Photo by Miguel Tovar/LatinContent/Getty Images)
View during a demonstration to demand justice in the murder of Mexican photojournalist Ruben Espinosa in Guadalajara City, on August 2, 2015. Espinosa was found shot dead on August 1, 2015, in Mexico City, where he had moved two months ago from Veracruz, after reporting strong threats from the government of the state. Since 2010, 11 journalists have been killed and four others have gone missing in Veracruz. AFP PHOTO/HECTOR GUERRERO (Photo credit should read HECTOR GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images)
Mexican photojournalists hold a picture of murdered colleague Ruben Espinosa during a demonstration in Guadalajara City, on August 2, 2015. Espinosa was found shot dead on August 1, 2015, in Mexico City, where he had moved two months ago from Veracruz, after reporting strong threats from the government of the state. Since 2010, 11 journalists have been killed and four others have gone missing in Veracruz. AFP PHOTO/HECTOR GUERRERO (Photo credit should read HECTOR GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images)
A photojournalist holds a white flower and a picture of murdered photojournalist Ruben Espinosa during a demonstration in Guadalajara City, on August 2, 2015. Espinoza was found shot dead on August 1, 2015, in Mexico City, where he had moved two months ago from Veracruz, after reporting strong threats from the Government of the state. AFP PHOTO/HECTOR GUERRERO (Photo credit should read HECTOR GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images)
Family and friends mourn during the funeral of murdered photojournalist Ruben Espinosa in Mexico City, Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. With an investigation barely underway, Mexican journalist protection groups are already expressing fears that authorities won't consider Espinosa's brutal killing as being related to his work - even though he fled the state he covered fearing for his safety. Espinosa, 31, worked for the investigative magazine Proceso and other media in Veracruz state. (AP Photo/Sofia Jaramillo)
Journalists hold a late night vigil to protest against the latest murder of a fellow journalist in Veracruz, Mexico, Saturday Aug. 1, 2015. A photographer for the Mexican investigative magazine Proceso, who had fled his home state after being harassed, was among five people found slain early Saturday in an apartment in Mexico City, according to the magazine. The body of Ruben Espinosa, who collaborated with Proceso and other media, was identified by a family member at the morgue Saturday afternoon, Proceso reported, adding that he had two gunshot wounds. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)
Journalists protest the murder of photojournalist Ruben Espinosa Becerril in Mexico City, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015. Espinosa, 31, who worked for the investigative magazine Proceso and other media was found murdered in an apartment in a middle-class neighborhood of Mexico City, where he had fled because of harassment in the state he covered. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
FILE - In this April 29, 2012, file photo, photojournalists place their cameras on the ground during a demonstration in Mexico City condemning the alleged murder of fellow journalist Regina Martinez, a correspondent for the Mexican investigative magazine Proceso. Ruben Espinosa, a photographer who worked for Proceso and other media, was among five people found slain early Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015, in an apartment in Mexico City, according to the magazine. He had recently gone into self-exile from the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, where he felt under threat, the magazine added. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 11 journalists have been killed in Veracuz since 2010, the most recent just a month ago. Two others, including Espinosa, were Veracruz journalists found dead outside of the state. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)
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The slowdown in killing in Juarez is thought to be the reason for the decline in homicides during the first years of the Peña Nieto administration. The rise in homicides in recent years — a 19% jump in 2015 to 18,650, the most since 2012, and a roughly 15% jump in the first half of this year — seems to give lie to the Peña Nieto government's claims that it has halted the bloodshed.

'Really nasty fights'

The rise in homicides seems likely related to another criminal dynamic in Mexico: The fragmentation of the major criminal organizations that once operated in the country.

Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope told Vice Newsthat the bloodshed was tied to "really nasty fights" between larger cartels and "increasing violence" among smaller gangs and criminal organizations.

The breakdown of larger cartels has been driven by infighting, outside competition, and pressure from law enforcement.

"Their demise, however, has created a vacuum that has been occupied by a large array of smaller, more local, more predatory gangs," Hope wrote earlier this year.

The role smaller criminal groups have played in the killings is most evident in southern Mexico,particularly in Guerrero state, where the fragmentation of, and rivalries between, larger cartels are occurring alongside the emergence of smaller, regional groups competing for influence.

In that state, the Sinaloa cartel and the Jalisco New Generation cartel (CJNG), generally considered the country's two most powerful cartels, are competing for influence, while the fragmentation of the once powerful Beltran Leyva Organization along with the presence of other groups like Los Rojos, Los Ardillos, and Guerreros Unidos — and the shifting alliances between all those groups — has added an element of confusion to the mayhem.

These groups are mostly fighting over stakes in the heroin trade, for which Guerrero is an epicenter.

"The single most important source of [drug-trafficking organization] earnings are profits from the sale of heroin derived from poppy that is grown in the mountains" in Guerrero, which produces about 60% of Mexico's crop of the drug, University of Alabama at Birmingham professor Chris Kyle wrote in early 2015.

Guerrero's 163 organized-crime-related homicides in May were almost twice as many as recorded that month in other states with high homicide rates, and in 2015 the state's homicide rate jumped 39% to 2,402, or 67 per 100,000 people, the second-most killings in the country that year.

In the long-term, these smaller criminal organizations won't be able to wield power like the larger, transnational cartels of the past, but in the near term, they will continue to be responsible for bloodshed and deep disorder in Mexico.

A wave of violence

While Guerrero has proven to be the most glaring example of the spike in deadly violence in Mexico, much of the country has seen an increase in organized-crime-related killing over the last year and a half.

Like Guerrero, Mexico state — which reported the most homicides last year, 2,671, about 17 per 100,000 people — is also experiencing fighting between smaller criminal groups.

In northern Mexico, organized-crime-related violence is also rising.

In Tamaulipas, fighting among various factions of the Zetas cartel, along with the Zetas' clashes with the Gulf cartel, has resulted in a number of killings, and the continued fighting and realignment of those groupsaugurs more bloodshed in the future.

In the northern states of Chihuahua and Sinaloa, with homicides rates of 42 and 36 per 100,000, respectively, recent violence is likely related to some criminal groups "smelling weakness in Sinaloa" after the rearrest of Sinaloa kingpin "El Chapo" Guzmán earlier this year, Hope told Vice News.

In June, it was reported that a faction of the Beltran Leyva Organization launched an attack on Guzmán's hometown in Sinaloa, killing several and forcing hundreds to flee, including Guzmán's mother.

That attack was reportedly backed by Rafael Caro Quintero, a former ally of Guzmán who is himself on the run from authorities after he was released 28 years into a 40-year sentence for killing a DEA agent. Caro Quintero has denied he is at all involved in the drug trade.

Chihuahua reported the third-most homicides in the country last year, with 1,541, while Sinaloa recorded the fifth-most, 1,089.

In Baja California, the Sinaloa cartel is believed to be fighting the CJNG for control of trafficking territory in Tijuana, while in Baja California Sur, Sinaloa cartel infighting is thought to have been exacerbated by the recent arrival of the CJNG.

Farther south, in Colima, Mexico's smallest state, criminal groups — including Sinaloa and CJNG — are suspected of launching a new round of violence, competing for lucrative smuggling routes centered around Manzanillo, one of Mexico's major Pacific ports. The state saw a 338% increase in homicides in the first half of this year, compared to the same period last year.

In Michoacan, formerly a battleground between the Knights Templar cartel and various civilian-organized self-defense groups, there were 480 homicides in the first five months of this year, a 37% increase over the same period last year, according to Hope.

In Zacatecas, in north-central Mexico, homicides have risen 93% this year. In Nuevo Leon, just west of Tamaulipas, killings are up 45%.

Veracruz, site of recent killings of journalists as well as fightingbetween CJNG and Zetas cartel factions, has seen a 77% spike in homicides (which has occurred amid continued allegations about government corruption).

The southern state of Oaxaca has seen two multiple killings in just a few days this month, including eight members of a family of fishermen. On July 26, La Silla Rota reported that the state had seen 20 homicides in two weeks.

Oaxaca, on Mexico's Pacific coast, is believed to be a transit point for drug traffickers.

Some Mexican states haven't seen significant spikes in their homicide rates. Based on national statistical board data, Aguascalientes and Yucatan both had rates of 3 per 100,000 in 2015, while Querétaro y Campeche had 7 per 100,000. The US, for comparison, had a homicide rateof 4 per 100,000 in 2013, down from 8 in 1995.

Figures released by the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Safety System (SESNSP), which gathers data from law-enforcement sources, showed 2015 had 18,650 homicides in Mexico, the most since 2012 and the first increase since that year.

Another set of data from the national statistical board (INEGI), which bases its reports on death certificates, showed that 2015 had 20,525 homicides, a 2.5% increase from the year before. The INEGI's figures indicate that the national homicide rate last year was 16.9 per 100,000 people, a slight increase from 16.7 in 2014.

June this year, with 1,828 homicides, was the second-most-deadly month since the SESNSP started recording monthly totals in January 2014.

SEE ALSO: The bodies are piling up in one of Mexico's tourist havens
NOW WATCH: Federal agents found one of the longest US-Mexico drug tunnels hidden under a dumpster

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