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Latin America continues to figure prominently in the Most Violent Cities ranking

The report, that is published every two years by the Mexican entity Citizens’ Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, lists 50 cities. This year, 38 of the 50 cities listed are in Latin America, with Mexico, Brazil and Colombia contributing heavily. Countries like Ecuador, that had never appeared on the list, are now present. 

It’s baffling how these countries with vibrant economies and bustling cities still present major challenges in public security. Drug related crimes may be the explanation to this problem common to most countries of the region.

Central America, that figured heavily in previous years, has now almost disappeared from the list. Violent crime seems to have stabilized in Guatemala and El Salvador. Nevertheless, the Honduran cities of San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa still figure in the list as they have in recent years. Gang disputes fueled by illegal drugs passing from the south of the continent through the territory to the US market are the main cause of assassinations.

It’s important to note that not all of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia are affected by violent crime and assassinations. The violence is localized in certain clusters and the results of this year may obey to punctual political incidents and not to a generalized tendency.

For instance, in the western department of Colombia, Valle del Cauca, protests over tax reform that began peacefully, were infiltrated by elements from ELN and the FARC dissidences in Cali and Palmira, turning these cities into war zones. The other city of this area in the list is the port of Buenaventura, a strategic port for illegal drug and weapons trafficking with influence of the major Mexican drug cartels.

In Brazil, violent crime concentrates in the border areas with Bolivia and Paraguay, where drug commerce and contraband of all kinds of goods, from electronic appliances to fragrances, are the main activities.

The territorial disputes between the different criminal organizations continue to be the main factor of violence, which has extended to tourist areas that had previously been considered safe, like Cancún and Playa del Carmen

The Ecuadoran port of Guayaquil, which figured in the list for the first time, claims to be a victim if illegal drug trade. The gang disputes that are fired by illicit activities are the main cause of violent crimes in the city.