By Narayan Ammachchi
Correction: It has come to the attention of Nearshore Americas that some of the data in this news brief may not be correct. Please see the updated brief: “Revision: Nicaragua’s Safety Numbers – A Second Look.”
With the lowest homicide rate in the region, Chile is the safest country in all of Latin America, closely followed by Nicaragua and Paraguay, according to a recent study by the United Nations’ human development agency, UNDP. The report, which evaluated citizen security in 18 countries in the region, has ranked nations taking into account the rates of homicide and assaults.
Nicaragua’s ranking as the second safest country in the region has surprised analysts because the Central American nation shares a border with Honduras, which has been hit hard by drug-related violence.
According to the report, the homicide rate in Nicaragua has decreased from 12 to 8.7 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. Aside from Nicaragua, almost every country in the declining “Homicide Index” is in South America, including Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia.
José Miguel Insulza, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), who has reviewed the UNDP report in the Chilean capital of Santiago, has urged countries to display their political will to enhance citizen security and warned that “violence takes root more forcefully in places where the state is less present.”
He noted that the perception of insecurity has grown more than crime has over the past decade. “In one third of the countries, the perception of insecurity is more than twice the actual victimization,” Insulza said. “It is a paradox that over the last decade, Latin America has been the setting for both an economic expansion and an expansion in crime.”
In 11 out of the 18 countries included in this report, the homicide rate is higher than 10 per 100,000 inhabitants, considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an epidemic level. One in every three Latin Americans reported being a victim of a violent crime in 2012, according to the report.
The region’s GDP would have been 0.5 % higher had there been no excess mortality due to homicides, the report also found.