Central America is the world’s most violent region in which there is no war, even an increased police presence in the last decade has been unable to prevent an increase in the overall number of murders.

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Although the ratio of police officers per 100,000 population rose from 218 to 267 between 2000 and 2011, the number of murders in these seven Central American countries almost doubled,

Honduras leads the homicide rate (86.5 per 100,000 population), followed by El Salvador (68.5) and Belize (41.7), according to the State of the Region Report, which presented this week in Costa Rica.

From 2000 to 2011 there were approximately 168,000 homicides in Central America, 87% of which occurred in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

The State of the Region Report, funded by the Central American Integration System, also highlights the large gaps between the number of police per country. While Panama has 352 police persons per 100,000 inhabitants in 2011, in Guatemala the figure was 167.6.

According to he report: “The prison population in Central America increased 85% over the last decade,” and the overcrowding in these facilities is alarming. In 2011, the number of detainees was close to double the prison capacity, although in El Salvador it is triple.

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Thus, prisons have high risk of disasters, fire like the fire which happened in Comayagua, Honduras in February 2012 which killed 382 inmates.

Analysts agreed that putting more cops on the streets is clearly not the answer to immediately reducing violent deaths.

With poverty affecting half of the population, and a slow, erratic reduction of illiteracy, Central America is now one of the most unequal regions in the world, even though El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama advanced in that area during the last decade.

“It has been clearly demonstrated that the more unequal a society, there is more violence,” said Douglas Duran, a Professor of Justice Administration at the National University.

For Duran, unequal societies are due to the deterioration of health services, poor access to education and no employment opportunities for young people where half of homicides in the region have been committed by men between 15 and 29 years.

In Nicaragua, the poverty rate is almost twice as high as Costa Rica, but homicide rates in both countries are the lowest in the region with Costa Rica at 9.7 per 100,000 inhabitants and the murder rate in Nicaragua is 12.

According to Carlos Sojo, the Director of Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (la Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (Flacso) poverty in the region is very much determined by economic dynamism and insufficient social investment.

Sojo adds that low growth is unable to generate employment and to make matters worse these are also countries with very low levels of social investment, as an example in Nicaragua, US$120 is invested per person, while in Costa Rica the figure is $1,200 – ten times higher than Nicaragua.

The Key To Staying Safe Living in Costa Rica or Anywhere Else

  • Do not get involved in the sale or transportation of illegal drugs anywhere in Costa Rica because that makes up a huge percentage of the murders and…
  • Stay away from the most dangerous areas wherever you go in the world! Even though the “most dangerous” places in Costa Rica are way safer than places like the capital of the United States of America – Washington D.C., or St. Louis, Baltimore and Detroit, Newark or Kansas City, Buffalo and Cincinnati!

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Our thanks to our friends at La Nación – Costa Rica’s largest and most influential Spanish circulation newspaper for their permission to summarize their articles and use their graphics.

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