The 2013 Global Study on Homicide released by the United Nations has listed the Americas as the world’s most violent region, accounting for 36 percent of the world’s 437,000 homicides in 2012. In particular, one of the world’s most violent sub regions is the so-called “Northern Triangle” of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras. Honduras remains the world’s most violent country by far, with 91.4 murders per 100,000 people in 2012.

Organized crime has played a key part in the uptick in violence in Latin America and accounts for about 30 percent of all murders in 2012, up from 25 percent in 2011. The report contrasts this figure with the region of Asia, where gang activity accounted for only about 1 percent of murders. This does not mean that there are fewer gangs or less gang activity in other parts of the world, only that they are more firmly established and therefore do not need to fight amongst each other and the government for territory.

Importantly, the report notes that the conviction rate for murder in Latin America is a paltry 24 percent, way below the 48 percent figure in Asia or the 81 percent figure enjoyed in Europe.

Gender also plays a role in the murders; the murder rate for males between 15-29 years of age in Latin America is four times higher than in the rest of the world.

Although the UN report stated figures that were widely expected, the report also mentions some policy reforms that could mitigate the rate of violence in Latin America. Cracking down on police corruption is one method of ensuring a decreased murder rate, as is allocating more funds and resources to police forces in the region, which are severely underfunded.

Overcrowded prisons within Latin America are also a problem, as criminals often end up committing violent crimes after being released from prison. Strengthening alternatives for at-risk youth in the region, such as education programs would also help to reverse the systemic causes of the violence.

–Jeff Meyer

Sources: Insight Crime, UNODC, Latin Times
Photo: Fun of Art

Venezuela is a beautiful country known for its striking natural beauty and urbanized culture. Venezuela is also home to some of the world’s largest oil deposits, and houses large quantities of coal, iron, ore, bauxite, and gold. The country has experienced great wealth and prosperity as a result of its natural resources.

However, economic growth in Venezuela had disproportionately benefited some people more than others. A majority of Venezuela’s citizens live in impoverished areas and have not benefited from the oil wealth. Over 60% of the households in Venezuela are poor families, and the unemployment rate has only been increasing over the last few years. Sewage flows into the once beautiful Guaire River, which has led to its declining safety and toxicity. Streets are covered in trash, and citizens to not have enough clean water to bathe in regularly.

Venezuela has also been experiencing an increasing crime rates. Families such as the Olivero family, live in fear of the violence, for gangs and increasing violent crimes are growing in their home town of Caracas. Every night around six, the family gathers together in their home and locks the main entrance to their house. Their homes are not the most secure protection from the violence outside, for Mr. Olivero has stated to the Huffington Post that their neighbor’s roof was penetrated by a stray bullet recently.

For the Olivero family and many others, the violence does not seem to end. Venezuela’s homicide rate is the fifth highest homicide rate in the world and is 20 times higher than that of the United States. Unfortunately, RFI explains, crime within Venezuela continues as a result of the high poverty and lack of impunity, and will not come to an end until the country’s economy improves.

Venezuelan cities are also undergoing current food shortages, for store owners are unable to fill their shelves with basic goods. Anglys Bericote, a local, explains how private businesses hold on to the supplies and goods. Bericote also stated to the Huffington Post that her town has been so low on supplies, that she was unable to buy toothpaste or toilet paper for herself and her family.

Another local, Yaneth Solano, said she does not believe that the government will help the citizens of Venezuela with these current issues of violence or poverty. She believes that nothing can or will change Venezuela, for only God could help them now. As crime, food shortages, and littering continue within Venezuela, its citizens will not see improvement until the government places more focus on helping the impoverished improve their standard of living.

Grace Elizabeth Beal

Sources: The Huffington Post, BBC, RFI