According to a new report from the Igarapé Institution called “Citizen security in Latin America: Facts and Figures”, 33% of the world’s homicides occur in Latin American soil, although the region has just 8% of the world’s population. Worse still, just 4 countries in the region: Brazil (13%), Mexico (6%), Colombia (4%), and Venezuela (4%) represent account for 27% of these murders. In 2016, 17 of the 20 most homicidal countries and 47 of the 50 most homicidal cities on the planet were located in the region.
More than 2.5 million Latin Americans have been killed violently since 2000; most of them due to intentional homicide, according to the report. Furthermore, the homicide rate is 21 per 100,000, more than 3 times the global average.
These numbers are explained, according to the Institution, by the speedy urbanization of Latin American cities. As reported by the Economist, this growth causes “concentrated risk factors for lethal violence, [such] as inequality, unemployed young men, dislocated familiars, poor government services, easily available firearms (…)”.
This could explain why half of these victims of murders are between the age of 15 and 29 and 26% of the murders have gang violence or organized crime as their mains causes.
Another explanation resides in the fact that authority is mostly absent in high-crime areas and, in some cases, even involved with organized crime. The direct consequence is that the direct consequence is that out of 20 reported crimes only 1 will get resolved in some parts of the region. Therefore just 19% of Venezuelans report being confident in the police in 2015, the lowest score in the world, compared to 32% in Syria.
There is also a strong link between teenage pregnancy, especially in situations of economic disadvantage, and national homicide rates with a 0.5 increase per 100,000 homicides.
The cost of this type of violence is equal to 3.5% of the GDP of a country, or a number ranging from 114.5 to 170.4 billion dollars a year.
Nevertheless, not everything is bad news. Some Latin Americans cities like Cali and Bogota have achieved effective interventions with the ban on carrying firearms.
Similarly, cities like Sao Pablo and Juarez have succeeded in declining their homicide rates by 70% with a comprehensive citizen security program. Moreover, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala registered an overall improvement on their homicide rates.
This report comes as a surprise, tough violence is not news in the region, the systematization and generalization in all of it is. The region should make an effort in various aspects of its politics, like integration and social aid, concentrating its attention on the marginalized groups, which are the one who are suffering the most. Also, the Latin American countries should learn about each other, as their problems seem to be very similar.