PolitiFact: Most rankings don’t call Mexico ‘most dangerous’

Mexico is “now rated the number one most dangerous country in the world.”

— President Donald Trump on Thursday, Jan. 18th, 2018 in a tweet

President Donald Trump this claim about Mexico’s security levels recently while defending his desire for a border wall.

While there are multiple ways to measure danger, there is no single ranking for the most dangerous country in the world. The White House did not respond to our inquiry on the record.

The International Press Institute ranked Mexico first in the number of journalists killed in 2017.

Outside of journalism, however,Mexico scores high on danger levels, but not first.

The Institute for Economics and Peace produces an annual Global Peace Index report, which measures the world’s most peaceful countries using 23 qualitative and quantitative measures of safety, security, ongoing domestic and international conflict, and militarization.

Mexico was ranked 22nd from the bottom of that list. Syria was worst.

Frank Zimring, a crime expert at the University of California, Berkeley, said the two most useful measures of danger are the homicide rate and the rate of some index of reported crime.

Comparing crime across countries is difficult and discouraged due to disparities in legal definitions, incident reporting and data collection.

The main study of intentional homicides is performed by the United Nations’ Office of Drug Control. The figures don’t include war-related killings and deaths from internal conflicts, which are generally far higher than intentional homicides.

Mexico was 10th on the list in 2015, and El Salvador was first. There were 16 intentional homicides for every 100,000 people in Mexico, whereas El Salvador had 109 per 100,000 population. (The United States, by the way, was 54th.)

“While Mexico has a significant problem of violence, it is manifestly false that Mexico is the most dangerous country in the world,” Mexico’s foreign ministry retaliated in a press release about Trump’s tweet. “According to UN figures for 2014 (the most recent international report), Mexico is far from being one of the most violent countries. In Latin America alone, other countries have homicide rates higher than Mexico’s (16.4), which is far below several countries in the region.”

The most recent year did see Mexico’s highest homicide count since the government began counting in 1997: 29,168 homicide cases in 2017, Mexico’s interior ministry told the Associated Press.

That places it slightly above the regional average, according to Eric Olson, the deputy director of the Wilson Center’s Latin American program.

“To maintain that Mexico is the most violent country in the world would be a very subjective claim, and to say it’s the most homicidal is certifiably wrong,” Olson said.

Trump tweeted a similar claim in June. The source of that claim was a report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies that said Mexico’s 2016 intentional homicide total, 23,000, was second only to Syria. After the statistic garnered heavy media attention, a press release revealed a “methodological flaw” in their fatalities calculation, which spokeswoman Anais Auvray said researchers are working to fix.

Our ruling

Experts offered homicide measures as the best measure of a country’s security. By that token, Mexico ranked 10th in the United Nations’ homicides measures in 2015. Mexico’s homicide count reached a record peak last year, according to government statistics.

While certainly a cause for concern, that’s doesn’t make Mexico the “number one most dangerous country.”

We rate this statement Mostly False.

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