Central America Homicide Rate 2014 to 2021

The Central America Homicide Rate per 100,000 people for 2021 is as follows; Guatemala 16.6, Honduras 38.6, El Salvador 18.1, Nicaragua 5.7, Costa Rica 11.5, and Panama 12.8 El Salvador achieved a -9.5% homicide reduction compared to the previous year. Additionally, it was the only Central American country with a murder rate reduction.

Nicaragua attained the most significant percentage increase; it went from 4.4 in 2020 to 5.7 in 2021, for a 29.55% increase. It was followed by Panama, which saw a homicide increment of 10.34%, from 11.6 to 12.8.

Central America Homicide Rate 2014 to 2021
2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Guatemala 31 30 27.3 26.1 22.4 21.5 15.3 16.6
Honduras 66 57 59 42.8 40 41.2 37.6 38.6
El Salvador 61 103 81 60 50 36 20 18.1
Nicaragua 8.7 8 7 7 7.5 4.4 5.7
Costa Rica 9.5 11 11.8 12.1 11.7 11 11.2 11.5
Panama 15 11 9.3 10.2 9.6 11.2 11.6 12.8


This news article about Central America Homicide Rate by Argentina originally appeared on insightcrime..org on February 1, 2022.
Central America Homicide Rate
Central America Homicide Rate

Guatemala: 16.6 per 100,000

As COVID-19 lockdown measures lifted last year, Guatemala suffered growing violence.

The Central American country recorded 2,843 homicides in 2021, giving the country a rate of 16.6 per 100,000 people, according to figures from the government’s Center for National Economic Research (Centro de Investigaciones Económicas Nacionales – CIEN). Guatemala tallied 266 more murders last year than in 2020, the least violent year in a decade.

The first stark divergence in year-over-year figures came in May. That month, the country recorded 253 killings, a major jump from the 177 in 2020, when lockdown measures were at their strictest.

October was the country’s deadliest month with 293 killings, according to government data.

The Mutual Support Group (Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo), a civil society organization that tracks homicide figures via forensic investigations, put the death toll last year even higher, at 3,715 homicide victims through November.

According to GAM’s data, three departments had homicide rates above 50 per 100,000 people: Escuintla, Zacapa and Chiquimula. While all three are part of drug corridors, these regions also suffer from patterns of violence related to social and economic conflicts.

The department of Guatemala, which includes Guatemala City, accounted for nearly a third of all homicides. The city has long been plagued by gangs. Crimes related to urban violence, such as extortion, are common. According to GAM, vendors had the most dangerous profession, with more than 100 killed.

Extreme violence also appeared to be on the rise. GAM recorded 104 murder victims who showed signs of being tortured, nearly double the figure from 2020.

Such hyperviolence included the massacre of 13 members of a Maya community who were ambushed by armed men while they left Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán, a municipality in the western mountains of the Sierra Madre, to collect corn. Victims included women and children, whose bodies were found dismembered and burned.

The specter of drug violence also loomed over towns along the country’s northwestern border with Mexico. In July and August, shootouts occurred in broad daylight on border highways. A video then circulated on social media of alleged members of Mexico’s powerful and violent Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG) threatening to kill a Guatemalan police inspector and three officers, whom they accused of stealing a drug shipment.

Honduras: 38.6 per 100,000

Honduras maintained the ignominious title of Central America’s most deadly country in 2021, with a homicide rate of 38.6 per 100,000 people.

The 3,651 killings recorded last year, according to preliminary government figures, was an uptick from the 3,599 in 2020, but still below the nearly 4,000 homicides in 2019.

Massacres – killings of three or more people – occurred at an alarming rate of about one a week in 2021. The 53 multiple killings were often the product of gang disputes or revenge assassinations. Criminologist Nery Ordóñez pointed to a string of massacres in the wake of large drug seizures in the northern part of the country.

The department of Cortes, which includes the city of San Pedro Sula, recorded the most massacres of any department, with 41 people killed in 14 events. The country’s second-largest city, San Pedro Sula, is a stronghold of the MS13. There, the street gang has come to dominate the sale and trafficking of a potent, lucrative form of marijuana.

The Francisco Morazán department’s central district, which includes the capital and the nearby city of Comayagüela, recorded the most killings of any urban area, with 481.

In 2021, Honduras saw some of its worst political violence in the run-up to November’s presidential elections. According to El Heraldo, 68 candidates in various local and national races were killed last year. Thirty-one belonged to former President Juan Orlando Hernández’s right-wing National Party, which has long been accused of corruption and involvement in drug trafficking. Twenty murdered candidates had been part of the left-wing Libre Party headed by Xiomara Castro, whose win ended more than a decade of National Party rule. Members of the less influential Liberal Party were not spared. In the weeks leading up to the election, three Liberal candidates were assassinated, including a popular mayor seeking his fifth term.

President Castro has promised to demilitarize policing, a break from the iron fist policies of previous administrations. Any increase in violence, however, is likely to test her commitment to that strategy.

El Salvador: 18.1 per 100,000

El Salvador saw another decline in murders last year, albeit a much smaller decrease than that of 2020, when killings were slashed nearly in half.

El Salvador’s National Police recorded 1,140 homicides in 2021, a drop of about 200 killings from 2020. A murder rate of just 17.6 per 100,000 people – while still high – was unimaginable in the Central American nation just several years ago, when the rate topped more than 100.

President Nayib Bukele has taken full credit for the plunge in killings, which he attributes to a security policy of sending police and troops into gang-controlled neighborhoods. But his claim was undercut when the US Treasury Department sanctioned administration officials late last year, alleging they had negotiated with incarcerated gang leaders to reduce homicides in exchange for access to cell phones and sex workers.

While the number of killings dropped, sudden spikes in homicides occurred last year. During three days in November, El Salvador recorded 46 homicides, including 22 on a single day, the worst daily death toll in 2021. Street gang bosses allegedly unleashed the killings.

Sudden waves of violence were the norm. At the start of 2021, nearly two dozen people were killed across three days. A single week in November tallied 21 murders.

Media attention on the killings appeared to rankle the Bukele administration, which limited information on homicide figures and altered data to exclude bodies discovered in mass graves.

Unresolved disappearances also jumped last year, leading to questions of whether the gangs were attempting to hide body counts.

Nicaragua: 5.7 per 100,000

During a year in which President Daniel Ortega jailed top officials and criminalized dissent ahead of elections, violence in Nicaragua picked up.

According to security expert Elvira Cuadra, who tracks murders in the country through media reports and other independent sources, 189 people were killed during the first six months of last year, putting the country on pace for a homicide rate of 5.7 per 100,00 in 2021, according to InSight Crime’s calculations.

Between January and June, Cuadra recorded 153 murder cases, a jump from 104 during the same period in 2020.

In a September presentation of her findings, Cuadra said that violence in the country was not only “sustained and growing over time” but extreme, noting that nearly 40 percent of shooting victims were struck multiple times, and nearly half of stabbing victims suffered multiple wounds. In two cases, she said, police were alleged to be the perpetrators.

Cuadra added that the election year provided a “favorable context for this violence.”

Outright violence where citizens were harmed did not appear to occur ahead of Ortega securing his fourth consecutive term. However, Urnas Abiertas, an election observation group, recorded more than 1,600 instances of political violence. This included police and paramilitary groups holding people hostage in targeted areas for hours or even days, during which they were harassed and threatened.

Ortega also harnessed the justice system to crack down on opponents. According to Human Rights Watch, authorities detained seven presidential candidates and at least 32 government critics, some of whom were subjected to abuse that included “daily interrogations, prolonged solitary confinement, and insufficient food.”

(InSight Crime used Cuadra’s data to calculate yearly homicide figures due to official data being unreliable or nonexistent)

Costa Rica: 11.5 per 100,000

Costa Rica tallied only 19 additional killings last year compared to the year before, but drug gang feuds sent murders spiraling in some corners of the Central American country.

Costa Rica’s 588 homicides in 2021 gave the country a murder rate of 11.5 per 100,000, just a tick above last year’s rate of 11.2, according to data from the country’s Judicial Investigation Agency (Organismo de Investigación Judicial – OIJ).

Still, authorities saw a reason for alarm after homicides jumped in two coastal provinces: Limón and Puntarenas.

Limón – home to 125 miles of Atlantic coastline and a massive port – led all other provinces last year in homicides, with 151.

Traffickers draw on Limón’s local gangs to receive, store and smuggle cocaine onto shipping containers headed for Europe. Control over this slice of the drug trade often drives violence in Limón.

Similarly, gang violence was blamed for record homicides in Costa Rica’s largest province, Puntarenas, whose Pacific coastline provides ample space for unloading cocaine-laden vessels launched from Colombia. Murders in Puntarenas topped 100 for the first time last year, with about half the killings occurring in the province’s central district. Most, according to authorities, came as a result of gang conflicts to control street drug sales.

Both Limón and Puntarenas have high rates of poverty and unemployment, providing a ready supply of recruits for gang wars.

Panama: 12.8 per 100,000

Long among Latin America’s safest countries, Panama’s extended trajectory of steadily increasing violence continued in 2021, with 554 homicides and a homicide rate of 12.8 per 100,000 citizens, according to official data from the Attorney General’s Office. There were 57 additional killings last year, an increase of about 11 percent from 2020.

In a statement to EFE, Police Commissioner John Dornheim said that “more than 70 percent of the homicides are related to national and transnational organized crime,” a claim supported by a string of violent killings in the Central American nation.

Most notably, three members of the Los Galácticos gang were gunned down in late October in a nightclub in San Felipe, the historic old town of Panama’s capital. The shooting allegedly stemmed from a cocaine shipment that the gang had stolen.

Panama’s gangs have grown bolder in recent years. To be sure, alleged hitmen killed Public Registry Deputy Director Agustín Lara while he was participating in registration day for his party, the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Democrático – PRD), in the crime-ridden San Miguelito area of Panama City, La Prensa reported.

With many of the country’s killings occurring near drug-trafficking hotspots, the increasing flow of cocaine through the shipping hub to destinations in Europe and elsewhere is likely to blame for the growing reach of organized crime in the Central American nation.

This news article about Central America Homicide Rate by Argentina originally appeared on insightcrime..org on February 1, 2022.