Colombia’s murder rate in context

Really interesting article in the Washington Post on U.S. involvement in the Colombian government’s war with the rebel FARC and ELN, and how the Colombian murder rate has declined dramatically over the last 10 years.

But this quote is a little odd: “The combustible mix of the FARC, cartels, paramilitaries and corrupt security forces created a cauldron of violence unprecedented in modern-day Latin America. Nearly a quarter-million people have died during the long war, and many thousands have disappeared.”

“Unprecedented in modern Latin America?” Not really. Here’s the Top 10 Highest Homicide Rates by Country since 1995:

Top 10 Highest Homicide Rates by Country since 1995 [8]
Rank Country Year Rate Count
1  El Salvador 1995 139.1 7,977
2  El Salvador 1996 117.3 6,792
3  El Salvador 1997 112.6 6,573
4  El Salvador 1998 95.0 5,584
5  Honduras 2011 91.6 7,104
6  Honduras 2010 82.1 6,239
7  Colombia 1996 71.8 26,642
8  El Salvador 2009 71.1 4,382
9  Honduras 2009 70.7 5,265
10  Colombia 2002 70.2 28,837
10  El Salvador 2011 70.2 4,371

(Murder Rate is equal to the number of intentional murders per 100,000 population)

El Salvador and Honduras, along with Colombia, have struggled with the highest world murder rates repeatedly over the last 20 years. The reasons are many, the factors complex, but Colombia’s 2002 murder rate of 70.2 (the rate referenced in the article) barely makes the top 10 list.

Of course, Colombia had a high murder rate FOR A VERY LONG TIME. In 1992, the year before Pablo Escobar was killed, Colombia had 27,100 intentional murders, which gave Colombia a murder rate around 70/100,000. It is devastating to reflect on the fact that in 2002 – TEN YEARS LATER – the murder rate was still in the area of 70/100,000.

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