Forty-three of the world's 50 most violent cities in 2014 were in Latin America, and all but three were in the Western Hemisphere among cities not considered war-zones, a new report says.
The murder capital of the world is once again San Pedro Sula, Honduras, where 171 people were killed for every 100,000 residents last year. For the fourth consecutive year, the city ranked highest in murders worldwide, according to a report released Monday by a Mexico-based policy research center.
Caracas and Acapulco switched spots between 2013 and 2014, but the world's three most violent cities remain unchanged since the previous list, which annually counts murders per 100,000 residents in metropolitan regions not deemed war-zones.
Brazil had the most cities on the list published by the Citizen Council on Public Security and Criminal Justice: 19 in total, leading by northeast city João Pessoa, in the fourth spot after Acapulco. The Brazilian cities of Maceió, Fortaleza, and São Luís followed in sixth, eighth, and tenth place overall.
Ten cities in Mexico made the most-violent list, and all of them except for Acapulco and 50th place Cuernavaca are located in the country's north — Culiacán, Ciudad Juarez, Ciudad Obregón, Nuevo Laredo, Ciudad Victoria, Chihuahua, and Tijuana.
Venezuela took four spots in total, while five Colombian cities are named, leading with Cali, in ninth place overall. The public-security council said in a statement that Colombia's Medellin, in 49th place this year, has made the most dramatic drop in homicide rates — in 2010 it held the tenth spot on the list.
San Pedro Sula, subject of a recent VICE News documentary on its epidemic of violence, counted 55 more murders per 100,000 people in 2014 than runner-up Caracas. The second largest city in Honduras, San Pedro Sula has just over 400,000 residents — significantly smaller than Caracas, which has a population of 3.2 million, according to the CIA World Factbook.
Human Rights Watch said in a 2014 report that the most vulnerable populations in Honduras are "journalists, peasant activists, and LGBTI individuals." The violent crime affecting Honduras is also a major factor contributing to human displacement, and specifically last year's record rise of undocumented and unaccompanied underage migrants traveling through Mexico into the US.
"Some people have gotten used to it, but there are also many who live in trauma," a San Pedro Sula crime reporter named Orlin Castro told VICE News in a recent report. "Imagine. At every crime scene there are usually children watching. … By the time they are 13 years old, it no longer affects them. So it seems easier for them to do it as well."
Caracas, where opposition groups last year came out in large numbers to protest the Chavista government over high crime rates and corruption, notched a homicide index of 116 per 100,000 people in 2014.
Acapulco finished 2014 with a murder rate of 104 per 100,000, according to the report. The coastal tourism hub is located in crime-ridden Guerrero, and is known as a cartel-disputed battleground for lucrative drug-trafficking routes and production zones.
Guerrero made global headlines last year for the state-linked violence that led to the disappearance and probable execution of 43 rural teaching students in the city of Iguala. Protests spread across the state and country, several government building were set ablaze, and only one of the student's remains has been identified as of this week.
The list also includes four US cities among the world's most murderous: St. Louis (19th), Detroit (22nd), New Orleans (28th), and Baltimore (40th). The three only cities not in the Americas that made the 2014 list were in South Africa — led by Cape Town, in 14th place.
Follow Andrea Noel on Twitter @MetabolizedJunk.