As violent crime plummets in the U.S., Latin America is becoming a global hotbed for murder, with 34 of the world’s 50 most violent cities located in the region.
According to a 2014 report by Mexico’s Citizens Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, when excluding warzones, well over half of the world’s most violent cities are in Latin America. Fueling this violence is a volatile mix of drug cartels, political turmoil, and poverty.
As the murder rate in Latin America booms, the U.S. rates have declined–even despite both Detroit and New Orleans, clocking in at numbers 24 and 27 on the list respectively.
Below are the five most violent cities in Latin America, and consequently the world.
5.) Maceio, Brazil
Population estimate: 966,733
Murders in 2014: 795
Murder rate per 100,000: 79.76
photo by Michel Rios via Flickr
While Maceio, like Acapulco, is city eager to portray its sunny side, it too has a violent underbelly of murder and gang activity.
Alagoas, the state where Maceio is located, has been one of Brazil’s most crime ridden states for some time now. In 2011, Alagoas’ murder rate was 60 out of every 100,000 people.
4.) Cali, Colombia
Population estimate: 2,319,684
Murders in 2014: 1,930
Murder rate per 100,000: 83.2
photo by inyucho via Flickr
According to the Washington Post, Cali’s murder rate is still over four times that of Chicago–a rate that actually represents progress in a city where the murder rate was 126 per 100,000 just two years ago in 2012.
Despite Cali still clocking in at number 4 on the list of the world’s most violent cities, the prospects are at least encouraging.
With current mayor Dr Rodrigo Guerrero’s measured approach, both he and Cali’s police have seen progress in quelling some of Cali’s crime.
3.) Acapulco, Mexico
Population estimate: 833,294
Murders in 2014 940
Murder rate per 100,000: 112.80
photo by Christopher Jensen via Flickr
Beneath Acapulco’s reputation for sun stroked beaches and crystalline waters underlies a city far more troubled than the one depicted in post cards.
Away from the resorts and tourist attractions, Acapulco is subject to the full gamut of violent crimes. From turf wars between rival cartels and the discovery of severed heads by Mexican authorities, there is a reason (or multiple) that despite, Acapulco’s lush beaches, the U.S. still maintains its travel warning for those visiting the destination.
2.) Caracas, Venezuela
Population estimate: 3,000,000
Murders in 2014: 4,364
Murder rate per 100,000: 134.36
photo by Julio Cesar Mesa via Flickr
Much like San Pedro Sula, Caracas experiences the laundry list of problems seen throughout Latin America. In particular, however, Caracas is known for it’s deep seated corruption of the judicial system which has only been exacerbated by the rule of Hugo Chavez.
Among murders, armed robberies and kidnappings also plague Caracas’ population.
1.) San Pedro Sula, Honduras
Population estimate: 753,990
Murders in 2014: 1,411
Murder rate per 100,000: 187.14
photo by Ben Beiske via Flickr
Both Honduras and San Pedro Sula can be considered murder epicenters of the world. According to the Violence Observatory at the National Autonomous University of Honduras, there are 20 murders each day in Honduras.
San Pedro in particular is the most violent of all cities in Honduras. Honduras’ lax gun laws which permit citizens to license up to five firearms, rampant gang violence, and drug trafficking, seem to have focalized in San Pedro in particular.