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Is Mexico the world’s second most dangerous country, as Trump says? That depends

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump rankled Mexico again, this time calling it the second deadliest country in the world.

In a tweet Thursday afternoon, he said, “Mexico was just ranked the second deadliest country in the world, after only Syria. Drug trade is largely the cause. We will BUILD THE WALL!”

Mexico quickly countered, saying Trump’s claim is wrong.

So who’s right? Well, it depends on how you crunch the numbers.

If you go with raw numbers, Trump is right

Trump is believed to be citing a report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies; he previously retweeted a link to a CNN story on the report published in May.

The British think tank, which produces an annual armed conflict survey, said that in 2016, Mexico’s “intentional homicide total” of 23,000 deaths was “second only to Syria.”

In other words, the report uses whole numbers — the absolute number of fatalities — not rates of murders.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan claimed 17,000 and 16,000 lives respectively in 2016 with Mexico surpassing both by 23,000 deaths, the report said.

But Friday, the IISS said there was a “methodological flaw” on their report that requires revision.

“Our researchers are working to rectify this and we will share the results in due course. We anticipate this will result in Mexico’s conflict remaining among the 10 most lethal in the world, by estimated fatalities attributable to an armed conflict,” the institute said in a statement.

Based on population, Mexico is right

Mexico doesn’t deny the country’s “significant problem” with violence. But it cited a 2014 UN report that found Mexico was far from being one of the most violent countries — based on per capita rates.

In a statement, the Mexican government said, “In Latin America alone, countries such as Honduras, Venezuela, Belize, Colombia and Brazil had homicide rates of 90.4, 53.7, 44.7, 30.8 and 25.2, respectively, per 100,000 inhabitants, while Mexico had a rate of 16.4, well below many of the countries in the region.”

In other words, Mexico is citing a UN report that adjusts for population — a widely accepted way to analyze crime.

Countries with larger populations would, logically, have a larger total number of homicides.

Either way it’s troubling

Whatever way you slice it, violent crime is a concern in Mexico.

Just this week, the country said May was the bloodiest month in at least two decades, with homicides up sharply compared to last year.

According to Mexico’s Interior Department, there were nearly 10,000 killings nationwide during the first five months of the year — a spike of about 30 percent over the same period last year.

That’s an average of 74 homicides per day in 2017. And no country in the world wants that.