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Guatemala: It is NOT a “safe third country”

Por Carlos Mendoza

It is true that Guatemala has managed to reduce its homicide rate in the last ten years by more than 50 percent. However, the country is still among the most violent places on Earth.

Recently, the agency of the United Nations Organization specialized on drugs and crime (UNODC), has published its compilation of homicide figures worldwide, being the most recent data from 2017.

Out of 204 countries for which UNODC has annual data, the average of homicide rates per 100 thousand inhabitants places Guatemala as the NINTH most violent country in the world, in the 21st century, so far.

TOP 10 of the most violent countries in the World, 2000-2017 (UNODC, 2019)

Source: Homicide Data Set 2019 at https://dataunodc.un.org/GSH_app

The TOP10 of the most violent countries in the world is the following: First El Salvador (average annual rate of 63) and second Honduras (59), both neighboring countries. Jamaica ranks third (47) and is followed by two South American countries: Venezuela (45) and Colombia (41). The sixth place corresponds to the Virgin Islands, territory under the jurisdiction of the United States of America in the Caribbean (38). There is a tie in seventh place between two African nations: South Africa and Lesotho (37). Then, Guatemala appears in the ninth place with an average annual rate of 35 homicides per 100 thousand inhabitants in the last 18 years of available data for international comparison, that is, from 2000 to 2017. In tenth position is Belize (32).

Guatemala, in fact, has moved positively in the world rankings. After an 85% increase in violence between 2000-2009, this negative trend not only did stop in 2010, but an uninterrupted decline began. It has also continued during the last two years 2018-2019, which were not accounted for in the UNODC’s report (2019).


Monthly data on homicides from the National Police (PNC)

Source: monthly data on homicides from the National Police (PNC).

Despite such an impressive decline in violence, which has also occurred in Honduras and El Salvador (with some disturbing ups and downs), Guatemala is still among the most violent countries in the world, in the middle of the most violent region, as reflected very well in the map prepared by UNODC.


Map of homicide in countries worldwide

Source: https://dataunodc.un.org/GSH_app


Guatemala can NOT be considered a “safe third country” for those who escape violence from their own countries, awaiting asylum in the United States of America. Additionally, it is not a safe country under other socioeconomic, demographic or political criteria.

Carlos Mendoza

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