Mexico's annual homicide count on pace to be highest in decades as nearly 100 killed daily

The homicide count in Mexico is on pace to reach its highest overall annual total since the country’s government started keeping track in 1997, with new statistics showing nearly 100 people are killed each day.

Figures from Mexico’s Secretary General of National Public Safety state that there have been 29,414 homicides there so far in 2019 – up from 28,869 over the same period last year.

In 2018, there were a total of 36,685 murders in Mexico -- the most since the office started gathering data on the crime more than two decades ago. This year, the number of homicides is expected to surpass that figure.

The coffin that contains the remains of 12-year-old Howard Jacob Miller Jr. is lowered into a grave at the cemetery in Colonia Le Baron, Mexico, on Nov. 8, during a burial service for Rhonita Miller and four of her young children who were murdered by drug cartel gunmen.

The coffin that contains the remains of 12-year-old Howard Jacob Miller Jr. is lowered into a grave at the cemetery in Colonia Le Baron, Mexico, on Nov. 8, during a burial service for Rhonita Miller and four of her young children who were murdered by drug cartel gunmen. (AP)

Figures released this week state that June has been the deadliest month in Mexico this year with 3,076 murders – an average of about 102 per day.

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As of October, that rate declined to around 94 per day.

The release of the figures comes at a time when Mexico's president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is facing growing criticism for his government’s "hugs, not bullets" policy of not using violence when fighting violent drug cartels.

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador looks on during a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, November 13, 2019. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido - RC2EAD9PS4NH

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador looks on during a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, November 13, 2019. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido - RC2EAD9PS4NH

The country made international headlines in early November after nine Americans were gunned down in a drug cartel ambush.

The three women and six children -- all members of dual-citizen families that lived in La Mora, a decades-old settlement in the Sonora State founded as part of an offshoot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- were on their way to see relatives in the U.S when they were targeted about 70 miles south of Douglas, Ariz. by cartel members.

“It was lamentable, painful because children died, but do we want to resolve the problem the same way (as previous administrations)? By declaring war?” Obrador asked during a media briefing in the days afterward. “That, in the case of our country, showed that it does not work. That was a failure. It caused more violence.”

A burning bus, set alight by cartel gunmen to block a road, is pictured during clashes with federal forces following the detention of Ovidio Guzman, son of drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, Mexico October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Jesus Bustamante - RC13B02793C0

A burning bus, set alight by cartel gunmen to block a road, is pictured during clashes with federal forces following the detention of Ovidio Guzman, son of drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, Mexico October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Jesus Bustamante - RC13B02793C0

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The president has used the catchy phrase “hugs not bullets” – or “abrazos, no balazos” in Spanish – in his promise to clear out violent drug cartels, not by waging war, but instead changing communities by tackling what he said is at the root of the problem: extreme poverty.

“We are carrying out a different policy because the policy that was applied during 36 years was a resounding failure and it caused a lot of damage, a lot of sadness, a lot of deaths, a lot of losses for Mexicans,” Obrador said recently. “We will not continue with the same and we will show that our proposal works, despite it not being easy. We are confident that we will achieve good results.”

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Lopez Obrador's approval rating has fallen by nearly 10 percentage points following the surge in gang-related violence, a recent poll showed. The survey of 1,000 Mexicans found that Lopez Obrador had an approval rating of 58.7 percent, down from 68.7 percent in late August.

Security experts said that the president’s strategy does not directly address the terrifying power of the country’s criminal underworld.

Fox News’ Lucia I. Suarez Sang, David Aaro and Brie Stimson contributed to this report.