Young men in Latin America and the Caribbean face some of the highest risks in the world of becoming a victim of intentional homicide, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its first Global Study on Homicide, released Oct. 6.
“Firearms are behind rising murder rates in those regions [Latin America and the Caribbean], where almost three quarters of all homicides are committed with guns, compared to 21 percent in Europe,” said the body in a statement.
Twenty-seven percent of the 468,000 estimated homicides in 2010 occurred in the Americas.
Along with the Caribbean, homicide rates in Central America are “near crisis levels,” largely due to the increase in drug violence there, particularly in border regions. The report said that the increasing use of the Caribbean as a trafficking hub, in addition to Central America, is exacerbating the problem.
“High levels of crime are both a major cause and a result of poverty, insecurity and underdevelopment. Crime drives away business, erodes human capital and destabilizes society. Targeted actions are needed,” said the UNODC.
But the report said that this is not the whole story for Latin America and the Caribbean.
“In comparison to countries in other regions, countries in the Americas have, on average, high homicide rates associated with relatively high levels of development, suggesting that factors other than development, such as organized crime, play a disproportionate role in driving homicide levels,” said the report.
Jamaica had the highest rate in the Caribbean with 52.1 homicides per 100,000 residents, followed by St. Kitts and Nevis with 38.2. Honduras topped the list in Central America with a rate of 82.1, followed by El Salvador with 66, 41.7 in Belize and 41.4 in Guatemala. In 2009, the latest available data for all South American countries, Venezuela’s rate was highest at 49. Colombia’s reached 34.6, Brazil’s totaled 22.7 and Ecuador’s 18.4.