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Homicide in Latin America and the Caribbean - Statistics & Facts

Latin America has been labeled the “murder capital of the world” and is considered one of the most violent regions around the globe. Since the 1980s, most Latin American and Caribbean countries have faced a challenging scenario of recurring economic crisis and social inequality. This unfortunate situation, also characterized by high unemployment rates and poorly financed education systems, is the main factor causing the subcontinent’s violent crime problem. The lack of basic infrastructure inherited from colonial times, as well as the resulting power imbalance between the global North and South have also contributed to the consistent, violent realities of Latin America. The degree of severity, nonetheless, varies among countries: for instance, Jamaica was the nation with the highest homicide rates in the region in 2020, with an average of 46.5 victims per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Venezuela and Honduras. More specifically, seven cities in Mexico, two in Brazil and one in Venezuela were among the most murder-plagued Latin American municipalities.

Mexico and Central America

In Mexico, the number of homicides has been increasing since 2015. One of the reasons can be traced back to 2006, when the government deployed armed forces to combat drug cartels in the national territory. However, those attempts have often proved ineffective, and sometimes counterproductive, causing a surge of violent occurrences in some areas, instead of preventing them. In recent years, violence and homicide have had a great impact on the Mexican economy; the cost of preventing and containing violence per capita can be five times the average wage of a Mexican worker. In 2020, some of the Mexican states with the highest number of homicides were Guanajuato and State of Mexico, with this type of violence mostly occurring in the country's urban centers.

In the case of Central America, even though many of these countries usually top the regional homicide rankings, there have been efforts to improve the fight against violent crime in the past few years, such as anti-gang measures. It is difficult to say whether these actions have proved effective, but recent data shows a considerable fall of the murder rate in the Northern Triangle of Central America, namely Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. In El Salvador, the number of homicides every 100,000 people has decreased 70 percent since 2015. A similar decline in the homicide rate has been identified in Honduras, once described as the “world’s most murderous country”, and in Guatemala in recent years. All the while, this seemingly positive tendency has occurred alongside the immense exodus of migrants escaping these countries’ fragile economies and rule of law, aiming for Mexico and, ultimately, the United States.

The Caribbean

In 2020, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Puerto Rico registered some of the highest homicide rates in the whole Latin American and Caribbean region. It was estimated that more than 53 people every 100,000 inhabitants were murdered in the Puerto Rican capital every year. In the Dominican Republic, the most unsafe regions based on number of homicides in 2020 were the province of Santo Domingo, followed by Santiago and the country's capital, Santo Domingo City.

South America

Venezuela is, without a doubt, the country that is worse-off among all its South American neighbors, at least when it comes to crime rates. The country has been through years of political and economic turmoil, mostly since 2013, when Nicolás Maduro succeeded Hugo Chávez as president. Lately, crime in Venezuela has intensified due to the population’s increasingly unmet needs, whereby basic goods and services such as food, water or electricity are not always available. From 2014 to 2016, the homicide rates in Venezuela greatly fluctuated, though a noticeable downward trend can be identified since 2017. Regarding the most dangerous cities in the country, Cumanás and Guayana were the ones with the highest number of murder victims in 2020.

Another South American country facing considerable crime and violence problems is Brazil. Almost ten percent of the country’s population, roughly 20 million people, live below the poverty line. In the past years, the Northeast region of Brazil had the highest number of homicides, followed by the Southeast and the North region. In 2020, Feira de Santana and Fortaleza were the cities with the highest homicide rates.

The situation is also serious in Colombia, where the number of homicide victims has been well over 10,000 per year since 2008. As in most of Latin America, the largest number of homicides in Colombia usually occur in large cities, while murder rates in rural areas are often low.

Interesting statistics

In the following 4 chapters, you will quickly find the 35 most important statistics relating to "Homicide in Latin America & Caribbean".


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