Uruguayans march against increased violence

Uruguay registered one homicide per day in the first two weeks of 2013, prompting fears that the rise in violence shows no signs of abating after 2012 saw a record for most murders ever in the country.

Fifteen murders were registered in Uruguay from January 1-15, reported Infobae AmericaAccording to the Proposal Foundation (Fundapro), the majority of the homicides (10) occurred in the capital Montevideo.

In 2012, the city was the site of 63 percent of the 289 killings Fundapro recorded in the country for that year. A number of these murders were the result of fighting between local drug gangs in Montevideo neighborhoods, reported Subrayado.

Congress declared it will call Interior Minister Eduardo Bonomi for questioning over the rising violence.

InSight Crime Analysis

Historically one of Latin America's more peaceful nations, Uruguay has seen escalating levels of violence in recent years. The figure of 289 murders in 2012 represented a 45 percent spike compared to 2011's figures. Based on the CIA World Factbook's July 2012 population estimate for the country, Uruguay had a homicide rate of 8.71 per 100,000 for last year. 

Bonomi has disputed Fundapro's figures, saying that only 267 murders were committed.

The violence has sparked protests in Montevideo with people taking to the streets last month to demand that the government move to increase citizen security, including increasing the number of police on the capital streets.

The violence seems focused on controlling the increasing local consumption market. This is a regional trend. In a 2011 report (pdf), the Organization of American States said that prevalence of cocaine use in six countries -- Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador -- was 1.4 percent of the general population as opposed to the worldwide average of 0.3 or 0.4 percent. Meanwhile, consumption of cocaine amongst high school students in Uruguay went up 50 percent between 2003 - 2009 and topped that of neighboring Argentina, the report stated.

But the violence may also be due in part to the fact that Uruguay is becoming an increasingly important transhipment point for illicit narcotics. The US State Department has stated that Colombian and Mexican drug traffickers use the country to move their product, while Uruguayan officials have admitted their concern that Brazilian gangs may be using the country as a hideout to escape pressure from Brazilian authorities.