Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Homicides: Declining, But Still Way Too High!

Murder numbers drop (Graph from El Tiempo)
Colombian authorities congratulated themselves recently that a historic drop in homicides - a decline to nearly half since 2002, even though Colombia's population has increased.  

Nevertheless, the murder rate of about 33 per 100,000 people is still horrible. The United States murder rate is only 5 per 100,000 , Brazil's is 22 per 100,000 and even Mexico, in the throes of a drug-fueled wave of violence, has a murder rate of only about 14 per 100,000. Venezuel is in a different class, with 49 murders per 100,000 people. 

(Then, there are sane nations, such as Chile, Canada, Australia, Japan and most of Europe, where the murder rate is just a few per 100,000 . Most of those countries, incidentally, restrict gun possession.)

In recent weeks, murders have generated headlines because of the murder of two vacationing Universidad de los Andes students, who because of their cameras may have been mistaken for spies by an illegal armed group. And the killing of two Catholic priests in Bogotá. Ordinarily, most murder vicitms are poor and anonymous.

Why Colombia's murder rate is so astronomically high is a mystery to me. The nation's armed conflict might contribute a few thousand killings. Is there a streak of violence in Colombian culture? Anyway, let's hope it continues declining.

For the record, the great majority of murders in Colombia and elsewhere are committed during drug disputes, domestic conflicts, etc, rather than crimes against people not looking for trouble.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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