The 2013 list of the world’s 50 most dangerous cities, compiled by an NGO from Mexico, shows how shifting criminal dynamics through the year have affected violence in places like Cali, San Salvador, Ciudad Juarez and Medellin.
San Pedro Sula, Honduras, is the most dangerous city in the world for the third year in a row, according to the Citizen Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice. The city posted a homicide rate of 187 per 100,000, up from 169 in 2012.
Caracas, Venezuela has moved from third place to second, displacing Acapulco, Mexico. Cali, Colombia has taken the fourth spot on the list, up from seventh in 2012, while El Salvador’s capital San Salvador climbed from 44th on the list to 27th, with a 12-point growth in the homicide rate.
It is also noteworthy that seven provincial Brazilian cities were among the top 15 most dangerous cities in the world, while the traditional epicenters of Brazilian violence, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, were absent.
Meanwhile, major drops occurred in Medellin, Colombia — which has moved down from 24th on the list to 35th — and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, which is down from 19th to 37th. The nearby city of Chihuahua, on the other hand, rose from 32nd place to 21st place, with a seven point increase in the murder rate.
InSight Crime Analysis
It is unsurprising that San Pedro Sula and Caracas are at the top of the list, as they are located in what have become the region’s most dangerous countries. Some of the biggest changes in the list, though, can be seen in the context of a shifting organized crime landscape that has included tenuous peace agreements, criminal migration and turf wars.
In Medellin, homicides dropped dramatically following a criminal pact between the Urabeños and the Oficina de Envigado. Cali, on the other hand, found itself caught in out of control violence as the implosion of the Rastrojos organization sparked a chaotic battle for control of the city and the region’s drug trafficking territories.
El Salvador saw a spike in violence beginning in mid-2013, as gang murders in the country rose following an initially drastic fall in 2012 at the outset of the truce between the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18 gangs.
Violence in Ciudad Juarez has been dropping since the Sinaloa Cartel seized tenuous control of the city from the Juarez Cartel, ending the war that saw the city top the most dangerous cities list for two years running. Murders hit a five-year low in January last year. However, there are signs violence may be returning to both the city and the state, and the rising violence in the city of Chihuahua may be a result of this.
Finally, the large number of Brazilian cities high on the list is indicative of the dispersal of violence in the country — as homicides have dropped in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo they have increased elsewhere amid signs criminal groups have migrated to other areas.