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UN Homicide Report: Violence in Latin America

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