AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Mexico’s government is contesting a new international report that says the country had 23,000 homicides in 2016 — a level surpassed only by Syria. The International Institute for Strategic Studies says that intense violence fueled by Mexico’s drug cartels has reached the level of an armed conflict.

“The annual survey’s lead investigator says Mexico’s second-place ranking was surprising, considering the deaths are nearly all attributable to small arms,” NPR’s Carrie Kahn reports, “and not tanks or aircraft fire as in the political wars of Syria or Iraq.”

News of the report has made headlines in Mexico, a country that can boast the world’s 15th-highest gross domestic product, according to the most recent World Bank tally. On Wednesday, the government questioned the methods of the U.K.-based IISS and its decision to include Mexico in its annual Armed Conflict Survey.

In a joint statement, Mexico’s secretaries of governance and foreign relations said the report irresponsibly points to the existence of an armed conflict within the country.

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