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Study blames spike in homicide rates on Mexican drug war

"The results of our study suggest that military interventions in the Mexican drug war increased homicide rates in the short term," researcher Valeria Espinosa claimed.

By Brooks Hays
Study blames spike in homicide rates on Mexican drug war
Mexican federal police forces in the violent border city of Ciudad Juarez. Photo by Frontpage/Shutterstock

MEXICO CITY, April 2 (UPI) -- Often, the premise for escalating a drug war is the promise that drug-related violence will be reduced. Kill the violence-doers, and less violence will be exacted. It makes sense; but it doesn't always work.

Increasingly -- as even even some drug policy experts are starting to acknowledge -- evidence suggests the opposite happens. Now, another new study confirms that the military's intervention in the Mexican drug war served to escalate homicide rates and encourage violence, not deter it.

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For nearly a decade -- beginning with President Felipe Calderon's drug-fighting policies in 2006 -- the Mexican government and military have been waging an internal war against drug traffickers.

Recently, statistical analysts at Harvard University set out to determine the effect of this ongoing effort on violence in affected regions.

Researchers looked at the homicide rates for 18 regions affected by military intervention. They compared those rates to projected rates based on trends prior to intervention. Their results suggested military intervention was to blame for 11 additional homicides per 100,000 inhabitants across all afflicted regions.

"The results of our study suggest that military interventions in the Mexican drug war increased homicide rates in the short term, especially in the Juarez region," Valeria Espinosa, a doctoral graduate of Harvard University's statistics department now working as a quantitative analyst for Google, explained in a press release.

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"While the effect on short-term homicide rates is only one factor Mexican policymakers must account for when deciding whether and where to send troops," Espinosa added, "measuring the effect accurately should increase their ability to find the optimal tradeoff between short-term violence and long-term objectives."

The new study was published in the journal The American Statistician.

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