Homicides in Argentina are at a 10-year high

Violent deaths among youth in Argentina are at a ten-year high in a pattern that may point to the rise in organized crime in the country. 

In 2011, the most recent full year statistics are available, 794 people aged 15 to 29 were murdered, reported La Nacion; the total figure of 4,935 violent deaths in that age range is the highest since 2003.

The number of intentional homicides could be much higher. As reported by La Nacion, another 1,074 youth deaths were recorded as "deaths from outside aggression, of unknown intent," but not as intentional homicides.

According to La Nacion, a third of the total 2011 deaths in this category were the result of gunfire. Strangely, gun suicides and accidental deaths are tallied separately.

InSight Crime Analysis

Youth violence has been high on the public agenda in Argentina recently, following the murders of 16-year-old Angeles Rawson and 19-year-old Araceli Ramos. While those deaths appear to be the result of individual attacks, an examination of the statistics paints a picture which could point to rising organized criminal activity in the country, a phenomenon which has been noted throughout the year. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina

In northern Argentina, a turf war between drug gangs has caused a spike in homicides recently. The area had already seen rising homicide rates in recent years.

It is most often young people -- particularly males -- who act as the foot soldiers and bear the brunt of gang violence, with a report earlier this year highlighting the role of teen assassins in western Argentina. As the statistics show, the number of males who died at the hands of "aggression" is eight times higher than that of females, while the number of "undetermined" young male deaths is almost seven times higher. 

The breakdown of official statistics also raises the critical question of whether the extent of youth homicides is being obscured. With gun suicides and accidental deaths separately categorized, many of the violent deaths involving a firearm that La Nacion reports are currently listed as "unknown intent" could be homicides.