April 22 (UPI) -- Nearly 8,500 people were killed in Mexico during the first three months of this year -- a spike of nearly 10 percent for the country's murder rate, government officials say.
The Executive Secretariat of the Public Security National System said in a report the rise was punctuated over the weekend when 13 people were killed at a restaurant in Veracruz in the deadliest shooting attack since Mexican President Manuel Lopez Obrador took office Dec. 1.
The report listed 8,493 killings between January and April, a pace that could see 33,900 homicides before the year ends. More than 33,500 people were killed in 2018, which was the worst year since 1997.
"What concerns us the most is guaranteeing public safety," Lopez Obrador said. "That is why a reform of the constitution was proposed so that the army and the navy can help us."
The Mexican government last year enlisted its army to take over policing the drug cartels, but the move has failed to calm the violence. Experts say the breakup of large cartels left its warring factions fighting for drug routes and territory, which is pushing up the homicide rate.
Veracruz has been home to gang violence and political corruption for years. An oil refinery in Minatitlan is one of six run by government-run Petroleos Mexicanos.