For the second straight year, Honduras’ second largest city topped the list of the world’s most dangerous cities, according to a Mexican research center.
Drug violence, gang activity and the targeted killing of women all contributed to San Pedro de Sula’s top ranking in the list compiled by the organization Seguridad, Justicia y Paz.
“San Pedro de Sula authorities have claimed that the placement of the city in the first place in the rankings hurts his image. They have also argued that our figures are wrong,” a statement from the organization noted. “But we rely on official figures regarding the effect on the ranking, which only recognize the reality. This is not damaging the image of the city — the violence and the inability of governments to contain it and reduce it is. Hiding it never resolves problems.”
While Mexico still struggles with high levels of violent crime due to the country’s ongoing drug war, many of the country’s cities known as epicenters of violence have made significant drops on the list.
Ciudad Juárez –which held the top spot in 2008, 2009 and 2010– fell on the list to the 19th place, behind cities like Cali in Colombia (7) and the most dangerous city in the U.S., New Orleans (17). The Mexican government attributed their police and military tactics in the border city to the drop in violent crime, while others claim that the powerful Sinaloa Cartel has finally defeated their rivals in Juárez and wrestled control of the city.
"If you control the city, you control the drugs," a Mexican federal agent told the Associated Press. "And it appears to be [Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán)."
The Mexican resort town of Acapulco came in second on the list and the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, rounded off the top three.
Caracas has seen an escalation in murder rates over the last decade, with 3,400 murders only last year.
In Venezuela, with the state of President Hugo Chávez’s health in limbo, crime rate has taken to the back burner. Caracas, however, experienced a record number of homicides last year and Venezuela ranks 27th in the world rankings of privately held firearms, according to GunPolicy.org.
“When it comes to ownership of a weapon, Venezuela stands out: 10 percent of the population is estimated to own a firearm,” said Elizabeth Dickinson in an article for the United Nations. “Here, criminal activity may be more to blame than drugs.”
Under Chávez, the country has been cracking down on gun sales, with his 2011 disarmament commission that saw 13,000 illegal weapons surrendered and the 2012 resolution that banned the sale of all firearms and ammunition to civilians for one year.
The country’s legislature is now considering a new disarmament bill that would raise the minimum age to purchase a gun to 25 and order marking on guns and ammunition to make tracking easier. The bill, however, is stalled as the country deals with other matters.
The report by Seguridad, Justicia y Paz measured murder rates per capita to compile its list.