Dangerous cities list: Latin America confirmed as world murder capital

CIMG5049Forty-three out of the world’s 50 most violent cities are in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to an annual report by Mexico’s Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice (CCSPJP). The list does not count cities currently considered to be in combat zones.

The Igarapé Institute in Brazil has confirmed this situation, noting that 14 out of the 20 countries with the highest homicide rates are in the same part of the world.

Latin America and the Caribbean are home to eight percent of the global population, yet account for 33% of homicides.

Venezuela has the dubious honor of being the only country with four cities in the top 10, with the capital, Caracas, leading the world ranking at 130.35 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants.

The Mexican city of Acapulco comes in second with 113.24 homicides per 100,000 residents, followed by San Pedro Sula in Honduras, with a rate of 112.09 per 100,000.

The CCSPJP report only focused on cities with 300,000 residents or more, and did not factor in deaths in combat zones or in locations with no reliable data collection. This means that a lot of cities were left out of the list.

The government of strife-torn Venezuela, for instance, has not released accurate statistics on 2017 homicides. In order to reach a reliable figure for Caracas, an estimate was made based on activity at the Bello Monte morgue, which receives all kinds of victims – those who died in gang warfare and from gunshots, but also from car accidents. This information is of vital importance because the city’s funeral parlours do not organise wakes for victims of violence (mostly from firearms) that might involve gang warfare.

Robert Muggah, research director at the Igarapé Institute, says that Latin American cities have the highest levels of inequality on the planet, which might be one of the main reasons for their high ranking.

Venezuela has the dubious honor of being the only country with four cities in the top 10

While national elites grow – not just business leaders but also high-ranking politicians and members of government) – a large section of the population still lacks access to basic services such as drinking water (15% in Dominican Republic), electricity (18.1% in Nicaragua) or a sewer system (39% in Bolivia).

Muggah says that fast urban growth also has an impact on security.

In an article titled “Why is there so much crime in Latin America?” published in Insight Crime, author Nathalie Alvarado lists five factors that favor the rise of uncontrolled violence: an increase in local drug markets, a surge in organised crime, drug traffic exchanges between nations, and corruption at government level.


The 10 most dangerous cities in the world, according to the CCSPJP, are the following (figures represent murders per 100,000 residents):

1. Caracas, Venezuela (130.35)

2. Acapulco, Mexico (113.24)

3. San Pedro Sula, Honduras (112.09)

4. Distrito Central, Honduras (85.09)

5. Ciudad Victoria, Mexico (84.67)

6. Maturín, Venezuela (84.21)

7. San Salvador, El Salvador (83.39)

8. Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela (82.84)

9. Valencia, Venezuela (72.02)

10. Natal, Brazil (69.56)


This article was previously published on El País – Seres Urbanos (in Spanish) and later in English.


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