Central America murder rate near crisis point, U.N.

VIENNA, (Reuters) – The spread of drug wars means  young men in Central America can face a 1 in 50 chance of being  murdered before reaching their 31st birthday, a U.N. report  showed, describing the trend as close to “crisis point”.

Worldwide, 468,000 people were victims of homicide in 2010,  with around a third of cases in Africa and a further third in  the Americas, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime  (UNODC) said in its first global report on homicide yesterday.

“In countries with high murder rates especially involving  firearms, such as in Central America, 1 in 50 males aged 20 will  be killed before they reach the age of 31 — several hundred  times higher than in some parts of Asia,” it said.

Increased competition between drug trafficking groups has  helped to push up homicide rates in most Central American  countries during the past five years.
“To assert their authority, mark their territory or  challenge the authorities, organised criminal groups also use  indiscriminate lethal violence,” the Vienna-based agency said,  describing a vicious circle of murder upon murder.

“Increased violence redraws the boundaries of its own  acceptability and in doing so fuels homicide yet further.”

The murder rate in Central America has increased sharply  since 2007 after a steady decline between 1995 to 2005, the  report said.

In some countries in the region, the financial crisis may  have played a role in the sudden rise. U.N. researchers are  examining the possible link and hope to present their findings  soon.

“In selected countries, more murders occurred during the  financial crisis of 2008/09, coinciding with declining gross  domestic product, a higher consumer price index and more  unemployment,” the UNODC said.

Globally, men account for around 80 percent of perpetrators  and victims and are most likely to be killed on the street.  Women are most likely to be murdered in the home by a partner or  family member, the report said.

There were some exceptions to the rule — in Italy, intimate  partner and family-related homicides account for more than  slayings by mafia groups, while in Asia, “dowry-related deaths  still cost many thousands of women’s lives every year.”

Around the Web