REGION: The most violent cities

Latin America and the Caribbean is the most violent region of the world. This emerges from the third successive listing by the Mexico-based Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Pública y Justicia Penal (CCSPJP) of homicide rates across the world. The highest rates are not only concentrated mainly in Latin America and the Caribbean but also in a handful of countries within the region. One finding well worth highlighting, though, is that the picture is not static: many countries have lowered their rates, and some have dropped off the list entirely.

Of the 50 cities with the highest homicide rates in the world, 41 are in Latin America and the Caribbean. Of these, 35 are in four countries: Brazil (15), Mexico (9), Colombia (6), and Venezuela (5). Eight cities in these four countries are among the 10 with the highest homicide rates in the region: three in Mexico, two each in Brazil and Venezuela, and one in Colombia. They are not, however, at the very top of the list; this place is occupied by the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, which also has the distinction of having recorded the highest homicide rate in the world for two years running (169 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012). Also among the top 10 is the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, with a rate of 102 per 100,000).

The picture that emerges from the CCSPJP data is not all bad news. To start with, of the 40 Latin American countries that figured on the 2011 list, four did not appear in 2012: the Mexican cities of Durango, Veracruz, and Mazatlán (Sinaloa) and Panama city. This was offset with the appearance of seven cities that were not on the 2011 list: the Brazilian capital, Brasília and João Pessoa (Paraíba); the Venezuelan cities of Maracaibo (Zulia) and Valencia (Carabobo); Santa Marta (Magdalena) in Colombia, Ciudad Victoria (Tamaulipas) in Mexico, and Port-au-Prince in Haiti.

Then there is the fact that in 16 of the Latin American and Caribbean cities included in the 2012 list the homicide rates were lower than in 2011, some of them considerably lower. Eight of the cities were Brazilian: Maceió (-48.8%), Belém (-37%), Macapá (-28.9%), Manaus (-12.4%), Belo Horizonte (-13.6%), Vitória (-10.9%), Recife (-7.6 %), and Cuiabá (-5.7%). Four were Mexican: Ciudad Juárez (-62.1%), Chihuahua (-46.8%), Monterrey (-22.3%), and Culiacán (-15.4%). Two were Colombian: Medellín (-27.4%) and Barranquilla (-17.7%), and another two were Central American: Guatemala city (-8.2%) and San Salvador (-44.6%).

This adds up to a substantial, albeit uneven, improvement — which must be put into perspective: for its list the CCSPJP looks at cities with populations of at least 300,000 in countries with national homicide rates of more than 20 per 100,000 inhabitants.

In the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, the lowest homicide rate in the 2012 list was 29.4 per 100,000 (Barranquilla, Colombia). This is more than 3½ times higher than the threshold at which rates begin to be considered epidemic.

? The CCSPJP has been criticised in Honduras for having used for its 2012 table the official figure of homicides in San Pedro Sula in 2011. It did so openly because of the difficulty of obtaining reliable data from official sources for this last year, which it attributes to a deliberate government decision.

The CCSPJP notes that the government was able to publish detailed data on the number of homicides of women across the country in 2012. It also notes that the official figure for 2011 was higher than the CCSPJP’s calculation for that year, and assumes that there has at least been no decline, since that would have been highlighted by the authorities.

The highest homicide rates in Latin America & Caribbean

City

Country

Homicides

Rate per

100,000

2011

2012

% var

San Pedro Sula

Honduras

1,143

1,218

6.6

169.30

Acapulco

México

1,029

1,170

13.7

142.88

Caracas

Venezuela

3,164

3,862

22.1

118.89

Tegucigalpa**

Honduras

1,123

1,149

2.3

101.99

Torreón

México

990

1,087

9.8

94.72

Maceió

Brazil

1,564

801

-48.8

85.88

Cali

Colombia

1,720

1,819

5.8

79.27

Nuevo Laredo

México

191

288

50.8

72.85

Barquisimeto

Venezuela

621

804

29.5

71.74

João Pessoa

Brazil

(*)

518

..

71.59

Manaus

Brazil

1,079

945

-12.4

70.37

Guatemala

Guatemala

2,248

2,063

-8.2

67.36

Fortaleza

Brazil

1,514

1,628

7.5

66.39

San Salvador**

Brazil

2,037

2,391

17.4

65.64

Culiacán

México

649

549

-15.4

62.06

Vitória

Brazil

1,143

1,018

-10.9

60.40

Cuernavaca

México

198

359

81.3

56.08

Ciudad Juárez

México

1,974

749

-62.1

55.91

Ciudad Guayana

Venezuela

554

578

3.6

55.03

Cúcuta

Colombia

335

346

3.3

54.29

São Luís

Brazil

516

509

-1.4

50.16

Medellín

Colombia

1,624

1,175

-27.4

49.10

Kingston

Jamaica

550

568

3.3

48.48

Belém

Brazil

1,639

1,033

-37.0

48.23

Cuiabá

Brazil

403

380

-5.7

45.28

Santa Marta

Colombia

(*)

209

..

45.26

Recife

Brazil

1,793

1,656

-7.6

44.54

Valencia

Venezuela

(*)

977

..

43.87

Chihuahua

México

690

367

-46.8

43.49

Goiânia

Brazil

484

547

13.0

42.01

Port-au-Prince

Haiti

(*)

495

..

40.10

Victoria

México

(*)

126

..

37.78

Pereira

Colombia

177

167

-5.6

36.13

Maracaibo

Venezuela

(*)

784

..

35.44

Curitiba

Brazil

720

597

-17.1

34.08

San Salvador

El Salvador

1,343

744

-44.6

32.48

Macapá

Brazil

225

160

-28.9

32.06

Monterrey

México

1,680

1,305

-22.3

30.85

Belo Horizonte

Brazil

1,680

1,452

-13.6

29.74

Brasília

Brazil

(*)

764

..

29.73

Barranquilla

Colombia

424

349

-17.7

29.41

* Not among the world’s top 50 in 2011.**Including the metropolitan area.

Source: Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Pública y Justicia Penal



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