MEXICO CITY - Gradually but notably, the mood of Mexicans has brightened about their personal security and the broader war on crime, a shift in this country's state of mind that coincides with a sharp reduction in bloodshed in once violent regions.
Ciudad Juarez, the border city across from El Paso, that was once one of the most violent in the world, registered only 30 murders in October, the lowest monthly number in five years.
On 14 days last month, no one was murdered at all.
The better mood provides 11th-hour solace to President Felipe Calderón, whose legacy after he leaves office Dec. 1 likely will be tainted by the bloodshed that began to surge at the beginning of his term when he deployed some 50,000 soldiers and federal police to take on well-equipped narcotics cartels.
"Mexico is emerging triumphant against these adversities," Calderón said last week as the clock wound down on his six-year term.
"Mexico saw already in 2011, the highest point, an inflection point (on violence), and probably, for example, the homicide rate in 2012 will be lower not only than that in 2011 but even probably lower than in 2010," Calderón told Jewish leaders on Monday at Los Pinos, the presidential palace.
Along much of the 1,970-mile border between Mexico and the United States, levels of violence that peaked in 2011 have fallen steadily, even dramatically. The area from Ciudad Juarez west to Tijuana has seen homicides plummet, allowing cities to spring back to life.
Ciudad Juarez, once dubbed "Murder City," tallied fewer homicides in October than Chicago, which chalked up 36 murders.
While something as intangible as the public's perception of the nation's security is difficult to measure, surveyors from the National Institute of Statistics have been asking Mexicans for their views in recent years.
The questions include: How do you see your personal security as compared to a year ago? How do you see it next year? How about the security in the nation as a whole compared to a year ago? And what's your level of confidence in walking alone near your home between 4 and 7 p.m.?
October's public security index hit 104.4, the fourth straight month in which people voiced greater optimism than the baseline month of April 2009, before violence really spiraled upward in Mexico. The lowest month, according to the index, was November 2010, when the index stood at 92.