Mexico’s criminal and political worlds are shifting, and 2017 is off to the most violent start on record

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Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto looks on during Flag Day celebrations at Campo Marte in Mexico City February 24, 2013.

Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, in one form or another, ran Mexico as a de facto one-party state from the 1930s until 2000, when Vicente Fox interrupted the PRI’s hold on the presidency.

The PRI returned to Los Pinos presidential palace in 2012, with the election of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

But that restoration of power appears to be on shaky ground, and the political shifts that the PRI and Mexico are seeing come as the country’s criminal underworld appears to be undergoing its own upheaval.

In many places, times of political and criminal instability have been accompanied by violence. That seems to be the case for Mexico: January 2017 was the most violent January in the last 20 years, and recent trends suggest the killing will not soon relent.

The first month of this year saw 1,938 homicide cases, according to official data from Mexico’s Executive Secretary for the National Public Security System.

Homicide cases in January in Mexico 1997 to 2017
Christopher Woody/Mexican government data

The 2,152 homicide victims recorded in January was the third-highest total for that data point recorded since the government started releasing it in January 2014.

January’s total was exceeded only by August’s 2,158 homicide victims and September’s 2,199. (January also had the third-highest number of homicide cases, also behind August and September.)

Killings have also been concentrated in certain parts of the country.

Twenty-five of Mexico’s 32 states — 78% of the country — saw an increase in homicides in January 2017 compared to January 2016, according to data gathered by Mexican news site Animal Politico.

Much of that violence has occurred in states where organized crime and drug trafficking are rampant.

In Baja California, home to trafficking hub Tijuana, homicides went up 48%; Baja California Sur, just to the south, saw a 500% increase, from seven killings to 42.

In Chihuahua, home to Ciudad Juarez, homicides were up 57%.

In Jalisco state, home to the ascendant Jalisco New Generation cartel, homicides went up 21.6%.

In neighboring Michoacan, also a hotbed of cartel and gang activity, homicides increased by 54%. Nearby Colima saw a 130% spike.

DEA Map cartel territory in Mexico
A map of suspected areas of influence for Mexico’s drug cartels. DEA 2015 NDTA

Sinaloa state, which appears to be straining under a Sinaloa cartel internal conflict, saw a 51% spike in homicides. Sonora, which neighbors Sinaloa to the north, and Durango, to the east, had a 52% increase and a…