I sincerely hope that the readers of this article can walk the streets of their neighborhood in safety and security. I also hope that they can sleep safe in their beds. Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone. We know that the modern world is full of new, and unforeseen dangers, but there is one danger that has been with us since the dawn of time; the darkness of man and the inhumanity of human beings.
This article examines the 20 countries worldwide that have the highest murder rates. This information is provided by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and it is measured by the number of homicides per 100,000 inhabitants per year.
20. Mexico, 21.5/100,000
Bordering the US to the north, and Guatemala to the South, Mexico is the fifth largest country in the Americas by area—it encompasses almost 2 million square kilometers or 760,000 square miles. Additionally, the country’s capital of Mexico City is the second largest in the hemisphere. It is no secret that drug cartels have a powerful grip in Mexico, and as a result disputes can turn lethal with sometimes public and gruesome murders.
19. Saint Lucia, 21.6
Though the physical number of murders is low compared to larger nations, Saint Lucia’s small population means that a shockingly high percentage of the population is murdered each year. In 2007 there were 27 reported murders, a number that has since doubled and when compared to the Caribbean nation’s population of only 175,000 the murders-per-capita rating is very high.
18. Dominican Republic, 22.1
The entire population of the Dominican Republic is only a little higher than that of Mexico City, but many of those people live in fear. The Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean country and, like Mexico, suffers from high numbers of drug trade related murders. The Dominican Republic is said to serve as a waystation or point of transit for many Columbian drugs headed for Europe or the US.
Not surprisingly, Columbia has its own spot a bit further down the list, though they aren’t entirely to blame. The Dominican Republic is frequently criticized as being ‘soft’ on convicted criminals.
17. Rwanda, 23.1
While many of the murders in South and Central America are motivated by the drug trade, Rwanda has been the site of a much darker side of humanity’s capacity to do evil. It was within the country’s borders that some of the most atrocious acts of genocide were carried out to an extent that is rarely matched in history. The depth and breadth of crime doesn’t stop with murders: the country is also home to high rates of rape, robbery, and other violent crimes.
16. Brazil, 25.2
Brazil is the largest country in South America, and it is also the most populous. Over 200 Million people call the country their home, and the city that beat out Mexico City for high population? Sao Paulo Brazil. A high population means that the normal by products of society are amplified in a myriad of ways, and homicide rates are no exception. In the year 2012 alone, 65,000 people were killed with the chief suspected culprits being alcoholism and the latent drug trade.
15. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, 25.6
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is one of many very small Caribbean island nations. In total, the country claims a land mass of 390 square kilometers (150 square miles). Considering the homicide rate per capita, it stands to reason that blood has been spilled on every square mile of those islands, and like some other countries on this list murder isn’t the only thing keeping law enforcement busy. INTERPOL statistics suggest that rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults and burglaries are also quite common.
14. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, 28.3
The Central African nation known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo is known for being rich in natural resources. Many of these resources stay trapped in the ground however, as the Republic of the Congo is heavily destabilized due to constant and devastating civil war. Additionally a lack of national infrastructure and systemic, pervasive corruption have produced nearly limitless opportunities for high levels of criminal activity.
13. Trinidad and Tobago, 28.3
Based on its high income economy and small population, the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago is the third richest country per capita in the Americas. It places after the US and Canada in that race but well ahead of either nation in terms of murders per capita.
12. The Bahamas, 29.8
The Bahamas consists of a collection of more than 700 islands that sit in the Atlantic Ocean. Like many of the nations in the Caribean, the Bahamas have struggled with high rates of murder, and as a result in 2013 120 people were killed. Coupled with the nation’s population, this puts their homicide rate per capita at a whopping 30.
11. Colombia, 30.8
Columbia is a highly stratified and segregated society with deep class divides. The majority of the population is poor, and there is the ever-present drug trade. With drugs and social unrest come violence; not just murders but other violent crimes as well. Columbia is a hot bed of kidnappings, robberies, aggravated assaults, and other crimes.
10. South Africa, 31
The good news for South Africa is that the murder rate is experiencing a decline. The bad news is that it is still hovering around approximately 50 homicides a day. In light of these facts one may be lead to believe that the country’s nick name of ‘The Rainbow Nation’ is a misnomer, considering that 50 of it’s 54 million citizens are dying or killing one another every day.
9. Saint Kitts and Nevis, 33.6
Saint Kitts and Nevis is the smallest sovereign nation in the Americas both in square mileage and in population. Located in the West Indies, only about 50,000 people make their home her. Due in part to the country’s small population, even a moderate murder rate would register highly when estimated on a per capita basis and despite being a truly miniscule nation, Saint Kitts is inside the top ten on this list.
8. Swaziland, 33.8
From smallest in the Americas to one of the smallest in Africa, the trend should be now visible. Surrounded on many sides by South Africa, the population of Swaziland (totaling a mere 1 million) faces frequent homicides and other daily challenges. Swaziland is also home to a host of deadly diseases and many citizens live in conditions of extreme poverty bordering on privation. The result? An average life expectancy of Swaziland’s citizens that is just 50 years.
7. Lesotho, 38
Like Swaziland, Lesotho is small, dangerous, and largely poor. Almost half of the country’s population lives at, or well below the poverty line. This socio economic position tied with other challenges contribute to the astronomical murder rate.
6. Jamaica, 39.3
Back to the Caribbean, Jamaica has garnered a reputation for danger and instability. The small island nation occupies and area of only 11,000 square kilometers (4,250 square miles) but is just outside the top five for our list. Warring factions constantly vie for control of the capital Kingston, and shootouts in the street are a common occurrence.
5. Guatemala, 39.9
The Southeastern neighbor of Mexico sees about 100 murders a month with a population of nearly 16 million. An avenue for the Northward flow of drugs, Guatemala has been sucked into the same pattern of violence and homicide as many of the nation’s Central and South American neighbors.
4. El Salvador, 41.2
While drugs are present in the Central American country of El Salvador, the real cause of turmoil and unrest is a lengthy and devastating civil war that tore the country apart. Though the war has been over for more than two decades, the country still sees a significant amount of local and gang-related crime. Law enforcement estimates that as many 60% of the murders that occur in El Salvador are part of gang disputes over territory.
3. Belize, 44.7
Belize is the least densely populated country in Central America with only about 340,000 people spread out over 22,800 square kilometers (8,800 sq mi). Despite the country’s natural beauty, the dark heart of man is present in an alarmingly high homicide rate. The Belize City district—in 2007—was home to more than half of all murders in the country.
2. Venezuela, 53.7
Venezuela is a unique South American country in the sense that the country is a world player in the oil exportation industry. Changing regimes, political instability, and faction gangs are just some of the many reasons why only 19% of residents said that they felt safe when walking alone at night.
1. Honduras, 90.4
With a population of 8.25 million and a staggering murder rate, statistically speaking nearly one in every one thousand citizens will be murdered. Because Honduras is a high-demand tourist destination, tragically many of the victims of violent crimes are tourists, though citizens are just as at risk in what could reasonably be called one of the world’s most dangerous places to live.