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Homicides in Central America up 99% in the last decade, major report reveals

A new report has found a staggering 99% increase in the number of homicides in Central America between 2003 and 2012. The report, Crime and Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean, shows that 139,256 homicides were committed in the region in 2012 alone. This is an annual murder rate of 23.5 deaths per 100,000 people. The US has an annual homicide rate of about 4.8 per 100,000.
The document was compiled by the Asociación para Politicas Publicas in Argentina and sheds light on the impact of armed violence on countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The report includes a set of country profiles that provide further information on the levels of violence for each country in the region.

Responding to the findings, Diego Fleítas, one of the co-authors, said: “It is disturbing that almost 30% of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean is afraid of violence. They consider security to be the main problem in their countryOur research finds that security as a problem is partly explained by higher levels of homicide and by a higher income. This means that, except in cases where there are high levels of crime, the first priority of people in low-income countries is the economy. Richer countries and neighbourhoods seem to be more concerned by the question of insecurity.”

“Even though it seems only very brutal homicides make the headlines, this report shows that robberies are by far the most common violent crime perpetrated in Latin America and the Caribbean and that this has the greatest impact on the security of the region,” said Serena Olgiati, Head of Advocacy at Action on Armed Violence. 

Despite these findings, the report also highlighted the issue of poor data and national reporting figures. The authors highlight important disparities in the number of deaths recorded by official institutions. In Chile for example, health data shows 43% more homicides than data recorded by the police. Data on sexual assault, at an annual incident of 16 per 100,000, is impacted by high rates of under-reporting.

Other key findings of the report include:

  • In 2012, 91% of homicide victims recorded were men (101,041 cases) and 9% women (9,704 cases)
  • The homicide rate in El Salvador in 2009 was 222 per cent more than the average rate in Latin America and the Caribbean. There were 3,763 homicides in 2009 – a rate of 60.9 per 100,000. The average rate in Latin America and the Caribbean was 18.9 per 100,000.
  • In Mexico the homicide rate has risen by 86% between 2008 and 2012. The homicide numbers in 2008 for Mexico was a recorded 14,006. In 2012 it was 26,037.
  • Honduras has a murder rate of 90.4 per 100,000 residents. This compares to 4.78 in the US and is 283 per cent worse than the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean. There were 7,172 homicides in 2012 in Honduras.  This is a rate of 90.4 per 100,000.  The Average Rate in Latin America and the Caribbean was 23.6.
  • 73% of all homicides were committed with firearms (80,387 cases) in 2012.
  • In total 96,389 firearm deaths occurred in the region (including homicides, suicides, accidents, deaths of undetermined intent with those arms, and legal interventions).
  • There was a 9.2% increase in homicides in Brazil between 2008 and 2012, up to 50,108 a year. This is a rate of 24.5 per 100,000, 30% more than the Latin American and Caribbean average.


  • There were 26,213 suicides in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2012. 80% of suicide victims were men (20,860 cases). 13% of all suicides were with firearms (3,475 cases).


  • A quarter of all people in the Andes have been a victim of crime, according to the report. 18% of the overall population of Latin America and the Caribbean reported to have been victim of a crime.
  • In Brazil over a million people were robbed in 2011, a rate of 553 per 100,000 – this is over 50% more than the average rate in the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • In Venezuela, 10% of the population reported having been a victim of armed robbery.  Just under 5% of the total population of Latin America and the Caribbean has experienced armed robbery.
  • 87,589 rapes were reported in the region, at a rate of 16.4 per 100,000 according to UNODC data for the latest year available. There appears to be notably higher rape rates in the Caribbean, Central American and Andean countries.
  • Almost a third (29%) of respondents said that security was their biggest concern. The countries with the highest stated concern were Venezuela and Trinidad & Tobago.
  • 10.2% of the population in the region has suffered a bribe request by police officers.
  • 12.9% of the population have considered moving away from their neighbourhood in Latin America and the Caribbean. This sentiment was particularly high in the Dominican Republic and in the Andean region.




Download the English summary of the report.

Download the full report in Spanish.



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