Honduras has registered some of the world's highest homicide rates in recent years

Official government statistics claim homicides in Honduras are dropping; raising the possibility the country may lose its ignominious position as murder capital of the world. However there is controversy over the official numbers.

Figures collected by Honduras’ Police Statistic System (SEPOL) report 2,720 homicides occurred in 2015 through July 12: 518 less than the same period in 2014, or a 16 percent decrease, reported La Prensa. Through the first 12 days of July alone, SEPOL tallied 143 homicides throughout the country -- 45 less than in 2014 (See table).

Honduras 2015 Homicide DataHowever, representatives from the Violence Observatory at Honduras’ National Autonomous University (UNAH) raised doubts over these figures, questioning why at least 30 homicide cases documented by the Observatory were not included in SEPOL’s 2015 statistics. According to La Prensa, the Center for Woman’s Rights (CDM) also documented 47 violent deaths not included in SEPOL’s data.

Arabesca Sanchez, a security consultant, also said SEPOL’s figures are surrounded by “great uncertainty,” and called into question the agency’s methodology and lack of coordination with civil society groups to compile homicide data.

InSight Crime Analysis

Honduras has been the murder capital of the world in recent years. In 2011, the homicide rate peaked in the country, with the UNAH’s Violence Observatory recording 86.5 murders per 100,000 people -- the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), however, recorded a homicide rate of 91.6 for Honduras over the same year.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Homicides

Since 2011, however, statistics show Honduras’ homicide rate has been decreasing, falling to 66 per 100,000 at the end of 2014.

While Honduran officials have been suspected of manipulating and lowering homicide statistics in the past to present a more positive picture -- raising suspicions of a similar ploy with current data -- the country’s trend of decreasing homicides may see it replaced as the world’s most violent country.

The most likely contender to replace Honduras at the top is El Salvador, where violence has been growing to levels similar to those of the civil war. From January to June, El Salvador saw 2,965 homicides, a 61 percent increase over the same period in 2014 -- a year the country registered a homicide rate of around 61 per 100,000.

Rising violence levels also puts Venezuela in contention to replace Honduras. Although reliable homicide statistics for Venezuela are notoriously hard to come by, the country finished 2014 with an estimated homicide rate of 54 per 100,000, according to the NGO Venezuela Observatory of Violence (OVV).