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30 Percent of World's Murders Occur in Latin America and Caribbean

First Posted: Mar 07, 2014 04:44 PM EST
Brazil Gang Member

Photo : REUTERS/Lunae Parracho

Latin America and the Caribbean, it seems, are two of the most blood-soaked regions on the planet. Statistics indicate that 30 percent of the world's homicides occur in the Latin American and Caribbean region.

World Bank Citizen Security Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean Rodrigo Serrano-Berthet revealed in a World Bank report that despite Latin American and Caribbean region having only 9 percent of the world's population, almost one of every three murders globally are committed there. Berthet also states that out of 50 cities around the world with the highest homicide rates, 42 are in Latin America, including the top 16.

"Other areas of concern to Latin Americans, such as inflation, poverty and unemployment, have improved. By contrast, the incidence of crime and violence has not changed in recent decades, and remains at very high levels, much higher than in other regions," Serrano-Berthet said.

"Even in countries with low homicide rates, such as Argentina or Uruguay, the feeling of insecurity is extremely high, in part due to the high levels of victimization, mainly robbery and theft, and to the level of violence associated with these crimes."

Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala make up the countries with the highest murder rates in Central America; Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil rank highest in South America; and in the Caribbean, Belize and Jamaica are the worst, according to Serrano-Berthet.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), there were over 27,000 homicides in Mexico in 2011. Brazil experienced an even worse year, with over 42,000 murders. Despite Serrano-Berthet ranking Belize up high, the UNODC report shows Belize only suffered 124 homicides in 2011, while the Dominican Republic actually had the highest in 2011 with 2,500 murders.

Serrano-Berthet is quick to point out, however, that most of the violent crime is concentrated in cities, neighborhoods, and city blocks. Much like the United States, it seems that half of all crimes can be traced back to 1 percent of city blocks, and 70 percent of all crimes to 5 percent. Many of the victims of violent crimes live in marginalized communities, and in the case of Brazil, 80 percent of homicide victims were Afro-Brazilian, representing a cultural clash.

There is still plenty of hope, however. Serrano-Berthet cites the success of certain programs in the United States such as visiting mothers at risk, a move that has cut arrests among 13-16 year olds by 72 percent. Another is providing strong after school programs for youths at risk, increasing their involvement in sports and other hobbies.

"Three recommendations. Firstly, recognize that there is no magic wand to resolve the problem. To address the problem it is necessary to invest in a portfolio of comprehensive interventions with a proven impact on risk factors for violence. Secondly, focus on the geographical areas and population groups at greatest risk, particularly young people. Thirdly, strengthen the capabilities of municipal governments which are most affected by violence to generate local partnerships to enable implementation of the first two recommendations," Serrano-Berthet advises.

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