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Yucatan as an Exception to Rising Criminal Violence in Mexico

March 23, 2022
Shannan Mattiace and Sandra Ley


In analysis for Political Violence At A Glance, an IGCC-supported blog dedicated to political violence and its alternatives, Shannan Mattiace, Professor of political science at Allegheny College, and Sandra Ley, Associate Professor at Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas, analyze why Yucatan is an exception to Mexico’s widespread criminal violence but subject to increased police and gender violence.

Over the last several months, violence in the Riviera Maya region of Quintana Roo, a favored destination for domestic and international tourism, has escalated notably. In February 2022, for example, a firefight between rival cartel members left two dead in one of Tulum’s most elegant restaurants. In the neighboring state of Yucatán, however, things are—and have been—very different. The international and national press routinely publish articles about Yucatán as a safe destination. In 2019, CEOWORLD Magazine ranked Mérida, the capital of Yucatán, as the second safest city in North America and the safest city in Latin America.

For decades, despite rising criminal violence across Mexico and an ongoing War on Drugs, the state of Yucatán has registered a very low homicide rate of 2.5 per 100,000 people (akin to Connecticut), compared to the Mexican national average of 29 per 100,000. That’s not to say that violence doesn’t occur at all. Both police and gender violence have risen in the past few years, and there have been instances of unsettling narco-related violence. The most serious incident occurred in August 2008 when 11 decapitated corpses draped with narco messages were found on the outskirts of Mérida. High-ranking leaders of several OCGs have been arrested in Mérida in recent years, and Lantia Intelligence, a security consulting agency, documented the presence of the Sinaloa Cartel, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, and the Gulf Cartel in Yucatán state between 2019–20.

On the whole, though, and despite the criminal presence, levels of violence are low in Yucatán. What explains the historically low homicide rate in Yucatán state even as neighboring states have exhibited much more visible violence?

Read the full blog post at Political Violence At A Glance