Mexico’s Ciudad Juárez Is No Longer the Most Violent City in the World

The Mexican murder capital has lost the dubious honor to another Latin American city.

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Policemen stand guard while conducting an operation during a riot at a prison in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on May 16, 2012

Mexico’s notoriously dangerous Ciudad Juárez may be a household name — for all the wrong reasons — but Honduras’ San Pedro Sula has ousted the Mexican metropolis as the world’s most violent city. Statistics from 2011 reveal that the city in northwest Honduras has beat out Ciudad Juárez as the murder capital of the world, the New York Daily News reports.

Referring to a study by the Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice, a private think tank within the Mexican Employers’ Association, the New York Daily News reports that 1,143 of San Pedro Sula’s 719,447 residents were killed in 2011 — a murder rate of 159 for every 100,000 people. Although Ciudad Juárez — which the study says has a murder rate of 148 people per 100,000 — has been ranked the most violent city for the past three years, San Pedro Sula has now surpassed it in a very bloody way.

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The study named the Honduran district of Cortés, where San Pedro Sula is located, as the most violent district in the world, with 122 murders per every 100,000 people overall. In 2010, the Citizen Council found that Mexico’s Chihuahua state was the most violent jurisdiction, but it has since reduced its murder rate from 200 killings per 100,000 citizens to 94, the New York Daily News notes.

Of the world’s 50 most violent cities, 40 are in Latin America; 14 are in Brazil, 12 are in Mexico and five are in Colombia. Mexico lays claim to five of the top 10 urban areas listed in the study.

According to the report, the U.S.’ most violent city is New Orleans, which was ranked 21st on the list. New Orleans has a rate of 58 murders per 100,000 residents. Detroit, St. Louis and Baltimore also made the top 50.

Researchers behind the study warn that the rankings may not be flawless, as governments can skew figures in their favor, the New York Daily News reports. In the study, the authors specifically mention that even though evidence suggests Ciudad Juárez killings have dropped, officials could have adjusted numbers to hide hundreds of deaths.

2011 U.N. global study on homicide offers another grim assessment of Honduras’ violence, stating that the country’s murder rate more than doubled from 2005 to 2010. The Associated Press notes that the Honduran homicide rate is more than 20 times that of the U.S.

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The New York Daily News suggests that San Pedro Sula earned the undesirable first-place ranking because of a spike in drug-related violence. An Associated Press story from April tells of the city’s problems with gangs, drug cartels and extortion operations. Cash-strapped law-enforcement forces and corrupt officials only compound the problem, according to the AP report.

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