The problem of urban violence in Latin America is reflected crudely in the statistics, particularly in the impressive figures that show that 42 of the 50 most violent cities in the world are located in this region.
According to the classification of the NGO Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice (CCSPJP), the Mexican city of Los Cabos, with 111.33 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, is the most violent in the world per capita.
Caracas, on the other hand, figures as the second most violent city in the world, with 111.19 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. But the capital of Venezuela has the highest absolute number of homicides per year with 3,387 murders .
(Los Cabos, which has a population of 328,245 inhabitants, only registered 365).
For the rest, among the top 10 places on the list, there are five Mexican cities, although Brazil is the country with the highest number of cities in the ranking: 17.
While the only cities in the list that do not belong to Latin America are Kingston (Jamaica), Americans San Luis, Baltimore, New Orleans and Detroit, as well as Cape Town, Durban and Nelson Mandela Bay in South Africa.
How can this situation be explained?
Poverty and gangs
The statistics did not surprise security experts in Latin America.
In the last decade, urban violence has increased in many areas of the continent as a result of the territorial war between gangs and, especially in the cases of Brazil and Mexico, by the growing influence of the drug cartels.Another factor is the fall in standards of quality of life and failures in security policies during a process of sustained urban growth.
And the evidence shows that this deterioration can happen very quickly : in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza, which hosted some 2014 World Cup matches, homicides increased by 86% in 2016.
Violence in paradise
The war between drug cartels is the main reason why the coastal city of Los Cabos is at the top of the list, as are the other 11 Mexican cities listed there.
Los Cabos saw their numbers skyrocket: from 61 murders in 2016 to 365 last year.All this without taking into account that the place is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.
In 2017, an article in the American newspaper The Early In Times described Los Cabos as “a paradise for tourists, a hell for locals” , due to the violence that was lived in the suburbs of the city in contrast to the situation in the Luxury resorts located in the best areas of the coast.
And along with that, according to the report, it is impunity that makes the outlook worse.
The CCSPJP accused the Mexican government of a lack of “systematic action to eradicate militias and criminal gangs.”
Likewise, in Brazil, where there were about 61,000 murders in 2016, 90% of them remained unresolved, according to local sources.Now, the deep political and economic crisis in Venezuela perhaps explains why that country has five cities on the list.
The shortage of food and medicines has led to an increase in smuggling and black market transactions.
But the list brings some news to celebrate: in cities that were once among the most violent in the continent, the numbers have decreased.
An example of this is San Pedro Sula , in Honduras, a city marked by gang violence, which went from third place in the list in 2016 to number 26 this year due to a 54% reduction in the homicide rate.
“This extraordinary change was not fortuitous, it was due to the government’s effort to eradicate the criminal cells, punish the crimes committed by the gangs and impose order in the prisons,” the report said.
The investigation also indicated that the classification has the “political objective of highlighting the serious issue of urban violence in Latin America so that the authorities feel under pressure to fulfill their duty to protect their citizens and guarantee their right to security. public. “