Central America Homicide Rate: El Salvador Had the Lowest and Honduras the Highest Murder Rate in 2023

By Eddie Galdamez  |  Feb 25th, 2024
Central America Homicide RateSalvadoran Police. Image by PNCSV

Violence in Central America has long been a prevailing issue, profoundly impacting the region’s social fabric and development. The violence is rooted in complex historical, economic, and social factors, and it poses significant challenges to the stability and prosperity of its inhabitants.

In the 2023 Central America Homicide Rate rankings, El Salvador secured the top position with a rate of 2.4, followed by Nicaragua at 6.2, Panama at 11.5, Guatemala at 16.7, Costa Rica at 17.2, and Honduras at 31.1.

El Salvador achieved the most notable reduction in 2023 compared to the preceding year, experiencing a 69.2% decrease. Remarkably, this marks the second consecutive year in which El Salvador has successfully lowered its homicide rate by over 50%.

On the other hand, Costa Rica experienced the most notable percentage increase, with its rate rising from 12.8 in 2022 to 17.2 in 2023, reflecting a 34.4% surge. Notably, Costa Rica was the sole Central American country to report a rate increase in 2023.

Central America Homicide Rate
Country 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 % Change
1 El Salvador 35.8 21.2 18.1 7.8 2.4 -69.2% ▼
2 Nicaragua 7.5 4.4 5.7 6.7 6.2 -7.5% ▼
3 Panama 11.2 11.6 12.8 11.5 11.5 0%
4 Guatemala 21.5 15.3 16.6 17.3 16.7 -3.5% ▼
5 Costa Rica 11.0 11.2 11.5 12.8 17.2 34.4% ▲
6 Honduras 41.2 37.6 38.6 35.8 31.1 -13.1% ▼

El Salvador: The Lowest Homicide Rate in Central America

With a rate of 2.4 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, El Salvador jumps to first position as the lowest homicide rate in Central America in 2023. This marks the first instance in over 40 years that the country has secured the leading position.

Not only does the 2023 homicide rate in El Salvador stand as the lowest in Central America, but it also holds the distinction of being the lowest homicide rate across all of Latin America.

Salvadoran authorities credit their direct attack on gangs, using the State of Exception, as the reason why the homicide rate has had this abrupt decline.

However, there are concerns about the accuracy of the reported 2023 homicide data. Critics argue that the murder figures are significantly underreported, as they exclude deaths of gang members and fatalities resulting from encounters with authorities.

Nevertheless, even when incorporating the 38 deaths not accounted for by authorities, El Salvador’s total rises to 192 homicides, resulting in a rate of 3.0 homicides per 100,000 people. Despite this adjustment, it would still stand as the lowest rate in both Central America and Latin America.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador Homicide Rate


Nicaragua continues with its trend of being one of the countries with a low homicide rate in Central America; however, experts remark that it is difficult to analyze the murder trends in Nicaraguan organized crime due to the scarcity of information.

According to InSight Crime’s 2023 Homicide Round-Up, the Nicaraguan National Police declared in a press conference that the country concluded the year with a homicide rate of 6.2, a slight decrease from the previous year’s 6.7.


Despite being a major route for the substantial flow of cocaine from South America, Panama did not experience a rise in overall violence in 2023. The homicide rate in Panama remained stable at 11.5 in 2023, identical to the rate recorded the previous year.

InSight Crime’s 2023 Homicide Round-Up, notes that “while there have been spurts of trafficking-related violence in the past, the leveling-off of homicides in Panama may signal that trafficking groups have established an equilibrium. However, As groups look to expand to new territory and establish alternatives, violence may surge.”


The following content on Guatemala’s 2023 homicide rate is from InSight Crime’s 2023 Homicide Round-Up.

Costa Rica: The Highest Homicide Rate Increase in 2023 in Central America

The year 2023 marked the highest recorded number of murders in Costa Rica, reaching 903. The country experienced a 34.4% surge in its homicide rate, escalating from 12.8 in 2022 to 17.2 in 2023.

Most of the country’s violence is related to drug gangs fighting for control of critical ports and drug routes. The San Jose and Limon provinces reported the highest number of homicides in 2023.

Costa Rica was the only Central American country that experienced a surge in homicides compared to the preceding year; all other countries maintained the same rate or decreased.

SEE ALSO: Costa Rica Homicide Rate

Honduras: The Highest Homicide Rate in Central America

Honduras continues its trend as the Central American country with the highest homicide rate; Honduras has maintained this position since 2019.

Even though Honduras achieved a 13.1% decrease in its homicide rate in 2023, the country retained its high level of violence, registering a rate of 31.1 compared to the Central American median of 14.1.

The President Xiomara Castro administration implemented a State of Exception in 2023, intending to reduce violence similar to El Salvador. However, the security measure didn’t work as the homicide rate remained over 30.