Murders in Mexico jumped in the first half of the year to the highest on record, according to official data, underscoring the vast challenges President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador faces in reducing violence in the cartel-ravaged country. There were 14,603 murders from January to June, versus the 13,985 killings registered in the first six months of 2018, according to data posted over the weekend on the website of Mexico’s national public security office. Mexico is on course to surpass the 29,111 murders of last year, an all-time high. For years the country has struggled with violence as governments battled brutal drug cartels, often by taking out their leaders. That has resulted in the fragmentation of gangs and increasingly vicious internecine fighting. Veteran leftist Lopez Obrador , who took office in December, has accused previous administrations of exacerbating the violence through their economic policies and said his government was targeting the issue by rooting out corruption and inequality in Mexico. 66 killed, dozens injured by blaze at illegal tap on Mexico fuel pipeline “Social policies are very important – we agree they’ll have positive effects. But these positive effects will be seen in the long term,” said Francisco Rivas, director of the National Citizen Observatory, a civil group that monitors justice and security in Mexico. The complexity of fighting criminal groups is a major test for Lopez Obrador’s young administration, which has vowed to try a different approach than that of his predecessor. His administration last month launched a new militarised National Guard police force tasked with helping to fix the problem.