More than 200 U.S. citizens have been slain in Mexico's escalating wave of violence since 2004 – an average of nearly one killing a week, found a Houston Chronicle investigation. Rarely are the killers captured. The U.S. State Department tracks American homicides abroad, but the department releases minimal statistics and doesn't include victims' names or details about the deaths. The Chronicle examined hundreds of records to document the personal tragedies behind them.
More U.S. citizens suffered unnatural deaths in Mexico than in any other foreign country – excluding military killed in combat zones – from 2004 to 2007. Most died in the recent outbreaks of violence in border cities – Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, and Nuevo Laredo. Mexico's most violent urban centers had have homicide rates below those of major U.S. cities, but recent attacks and border violence linked to drugs have escalated well beyond limited narco-executions. The Chronicle found some U.S. homicide victims involved in organized crime. The dead include at least two dozen victims labeled hitmen, drug dealers, human smugglers or gang members, based on published investigators' accusations. Others were drug users or wanted for crimes in the United States. In at least 70 other cases, U.S. citizens appear to have been killed while in Mexico for innocent reasons: visiting family, taking a vacation, or simply living or working there.