To leave for a vacation in search of adventures in exotic and unknown places is definitely something each one of us dreams of. And, as soon as we can, we organize a trip. Yet, some of the most fascinating destinations are currently off-limits, since they are attacked by fundamentalism. The risk of being kidnapped by jihadists merely because one is a Westerner is too high; thus, we exclude some destinations and go to other parts of the world, which seem less dangerous. But can we be really sure that… they are safe?
Unfortunately, there are places where violence is part of the routine and where being tourists sometimes requires extra precautions. The capital of Venezuela, Caracas – for example – is the most dangerous city in the world, according to the Mexican NGO Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Pública y Justicia Penal. It is the first time when Caracas – which, according to the NGO, has a rate of 119.87 murders each 100,000 inhabitants – is at the top of the rank list of the most dangerous cities in the world. Before Caracas, it was San Pedro Sula, Honduras city, which had held the record for four years, with a murder rate of 171.20 per thousand in 2014, which decreased to 111.03 in 2016, thus moving Honduras city to the second place on the list.
Whereas in Caracas, murder rate has increased from 115.98 recorded in 2014, as already mentioned, to 119.87. For the compilation of these statistics, the Mexican NGO uses official and independent sources, which depend on the city, and uses willful murder, i.e., intentional death, as its main criterion. The kind of crime is not analyzed, however, and we do not know the number of murdered women, journalists, or activists, nor that of the assassinations that result from feuds between clans of drug traffickers. These statistics refer to a metropolis with over 300,000 inhabitants and conflict and war zones are left out of them.
According to this rank list, 41 cities out of the 50 are in Latin America: 21 in Brazil, 8 in Venezuela, 5 in Mexico, three in Colombia, two in Honduras, one in Guatemala and one in El Salvador. It is worth pointing out that unfortunately, eight cities have moved up in the ranking: one in Brazil, two in Colombia, and five in Mexico.
The cases of Juárez in Mexico and Medellin in Colombia stand out among the above mentioned cities. These are two centers that had been at the top of the rankings for five years and are no longer there at present. In Venezuela, on the contrary, four cities ended up on the list plus Caracas, which is at the top of the ranking.
“The reason why South American cities are the majority in the ranking – according to Radio Bullets, a site that analyzes what is happening in the world – is not easy to explain. According to several studies, Latin America is going through rapid and disorganized growth, and is affected by the displacement of large numbers of people from rural areas to cities. And there are no urban plans designed to cope with the phenomenon. In 1950 less than half of the population lived in urban areas, whereas in 2000 three quarters of the population lived in cities. In 2050, according to UN estimates, population living in urban areas is expected to reach around 87%.
Another decisive factor is inequality, whose rates in Latin America are second only to those in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the World Bank and the Centro de Estudios Distributivos, Laborales y Sociales, the Gini coefficient in sub-Saharan Africa is of 56.5, in Latin America it is of 52.9, in Asia – 44.7, and in Eastern Europe and Central Asia it is of 34.7″.
These two factors contributed to augment segregation, resulting in the creation of ghettos that oppose the ‘‘fortresses’’ of the bourgeois class. In addition, despite the fact that South American governments are trying to create wellness policies for the benefit of the majority of the population, these policies are more and more often based on a Western model of competitiveness and consumerism. The latter causes inevitably fractures in the centuries-old indigenous cultures and someone always lags behind. An insult to social equality.
Also the collusion between organized crime and politics is not to be underestimated. It inevitably generates distrust towards the governments and authorities. If Latin American cities want to get out of the ranking of the most dangerous cities in the world, it seems clear that the governments need to promote integration and reduce inequality.