San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

UNDP: Central America has world's highest non-political murder rate

Central America is the most murderous region in the world when it comes to non-political fatalities, according to a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) security report released on Monday.

Since the year 2000, the murder rate has climbed in all seven countries, from Guatemala to Panama. The killings have shown few signs of decline and the Central American countries have consistently surpassed the global average.

When averaged out among the seven nations, the region reported over 33 homicides per 100,000 citizens per year in 2008. In 2006 – the most recent global tally available – the world averaged nine homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

Costa Rica, which has the lowest rate in the region, saw its homicide numbers almost double in eight years – rising from six per 100,000 inhabitants in 2000 to 11 in 2008.

Honduras, widely considered the poorest country in Central America, reported the most homicides per 100,000 people – 58 in 2008.

The report primarily blames spikes in drug trafficking and organized crime – including a growing number of gangs – as the main culprits for the increased assaults.

While some governments have indicated that they prefer beefed up police forces and strengthened sanctions to prevent deadly aggression, Luiza Carvalho, Costa Rica´s resident representative for UNDP (locally called PNUD), believes that the solution lies elsewhere.

“Solutions to security problems do not come from a hard fist or a soft hand, but from strategy, knowledge and the development of adequate tools and protection of the rule of law,” Carvalho said. “Solutions require civility and social inclusion. … The best solutions to citizen insecurity problems will be found in a democratic system.”

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