With more than 15,000 murders blamed on Mexico's criminal gangs, 2010 was the deadliest year yet under President Felipe Calderon's controversial military offensive against organized crime.
Calderon vowed to fight the country's powerful drug gangs when he took power after disputed elections four years ago, deploying tens of thousands of soldiers to help underfunded and often corrupt police.
Gruesome killings, including beheadings, hangings and mass killings, have spread across the country since then, as the gangs have fought back and broken into splinter groups.
Arms and human trafficking as well as extortion were also on the rise, he said.
Almost 1,000 areas of the country lacked formal State control, according to studies conducted in May 2010.
Daytime shootouts added to a growing climate of fear in Monterrey, a northern city and business hub, while the popular weekend retreat of Cuernavaca, near Mexico city, saw roadside hangings and threats to civilians as drug traffickers battled in the area.
Officials insist the situation is under control.
The government points to successes including the arrests and killings of a string of top drug traffickers as well as drug seizures, such as the record haul of 134 tons of marijuana in Tijuana, on the US border in October.
But near daily killings continues.
Gangs, such as the mysterious La Familia based in western Mexico, garner support and offer protection to communities neglected by the state, as well as carrying out extortion on scores of businesses.
Despite recent small measures to counter money laundering, experts estimated that more than 77% of Mexico's economic sectors were partially in the hands of criminal groups.
Mexican drug traffickers use billions of dollars of mainly US profits to enrich their organizations each year.