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Crime and violence in Brazil – statistics & facts

Violence and crime have become an outstanding facet of Brazil’s national and international identity, a topic of conversation as widespread as the country’s world-famous barbecues and Carnival. Even though Brazil’s numbers falter in comparison to several Central American and Caribbean nations, it ranks third in South America, in terms of homicide rates, following Venezuela and Colombia. The rise in crime may come as no surprise, as Brazil has one of the highest income inequalities in the region. The combination with drug trafficking routes from its neighboring countries – Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, the three biggest cocaine producers in the world – are some of the factors that have made the country a breeding ground for widespread organized crime and violence.

The battle against crime shows its first results

In 2018, Brazil experienced one of its lowest homicide rates in the last decade. In comparison to the year before, when the South American country reported its most murderous year in history, this sudden drop may appear shocking at first glance. However, the decline of crime can be attributed to a series of factors, including a drop in the young, male population as well as several national, state, and municipal security policies put into place in recent years. Another major factor was a negotiated peace between Brazil’s two main drug trafficking organizations, the First Capital Command (PCC) and the Red Command (CV), which led to a reversal to the ever increasing homicide rates in Brazil’s North and Northeast regions – even though states in these two areas still claim the highest rates in the country. However, a sustained peace remains to be seen, following a recent change in government with promises of relaxing gun control legislation and increasing levels of incarceration.

Violence with a racial and gender profile

Although “Black Lives Matters” protests in the U.S. made global news in the first months of 2020, cases like that of George Floyd have unfortunately also been a part of the daily life of Brazilians for years. Nearly eight out of every ten homicides reported in the South American country have black victims. In fact, while the homicide rate of non-blacks decreased by nearly 20 percent between 2006 and 2017, the homicide rate of persons of color increased by more than 30 percent in the same period, showing that racial bias in law enforcement is not restricted to Trump’s America.

In contrast, while the majority of homicide victims in the Portuguese-speaking country are men, sexual violence is still mostly directed at women. In 2018, over 80 percent of reported rape cases in Brazil had female victims. Often times, this burden falls on the weakest individuals in society: young girls. Out of the combined rape cases reported in 2017 and 2018, nearly 54 percent of victims hadn’t reached their fourteenth birthday, while around one fifth were aged between 14 and 17 years old. And regardless of the decrease in homicides in 2018, the year had the highest number of rape cases in the decade, with over 66 thousand occurrences reported to authorities, demonstrating the urgent need to improve efforts in battling violence against women.

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Crime and violence in Brazil

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Femicide

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