According to the Mexico's Citizens' Council for Public Security's annual ranking, about 80% of the most dangerous cities are in the American continent.

Is there a political explanation to this? Are the people there more aggressive? Drugs are a worldwide problem, why are so many of these countries in a drug war (against the government, or among criminal organizations)?

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    your source is not convincing me: colombia is ommited, the figures are not referenced, it defeats studies from UN. Moreover the organization hosting the slide pressentation seems to strongly promote Law&Order policies in disrespect of alternatives not based on the armed force of the states
    – choklo
    Oct 20, 2019 at 11:13
  • ... can you explain/cite the method used to obtain the figures or reference another study?
    – choklo
    Oct 20, 2019 at 11:27
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    @choklo: Colombia will be omitted if it's considered a war zone. Oct 20, 2019 at 12:28
  • @Quora_Feans, i agree on that. Beyond the statitics of the UN report being focused on countries and not on cities like the one from the mexican organization, do you see any possibility to explain the very different results exposed on both reports?
    – choklo
    Oct 23, 2019 at 16:20

3 Answers 3



Coca leaf is native to South America and grows best there, so that's where the cocaine comes from. Not only does this produce a huge amount of profit for organised crime, the drug itself promotes aggression. Almost all the drug wars are primarily concerned with cocaine and secondly with marijuana which also grows well there.

Colonialism, Communism and Coups

Latin America suffered brutality from Cortez onwards. Many of the smaller states had to fight wars of independence; Haiti was made to pay reparations to France for freeing its slaves, for example.

After World War 2, the US made a practice of opposing any government in the south that it considered too left wing. Frequently a democratically elected socialist government would be violently overthrown by CIA-backed forces and replaced with a dictatorship. See e.g. Guatemala from Wikipedia:

In 1954, the democratically elected Guatemalan government of Colonel Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán was toppled by U.S.-backed forces led by Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas who invaded from Honduras. Assigned by the Eisenhower administration, this military opposition was armed, trained and organized by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (see Operation PBSUCCESS). The directors of United Fruit Company (UFCO) had lobbied to convince the Truman and Eisenhower administrations that Colonel Arbenz intended to align Guatemala with the Soviet Bloc.

The resulting weak but brutal governments and ongoing wars with rebel groups have consumed many of the past decades. The war with FARC has been going on since 1964, for example. The Colombian right-wing militia are strong enough to kill a lot of people but not strong enough to actually end the conflict. Perhaps unsurprising in a large country of trackless jungle.

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    How was Latin America’s level of violence before Cortez?
    – blud
    Oct 17, 2019 at 17:07
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    @blud That's a question for History
    – divibisan
    Oct 17, 2019 at 17:37
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    India was a former colony of Britain that is now independent but doesn't suffer from the violence issues like South America. Therefore, the fact that it was a former colony isn't a reason to why it is so violent. Oct 17, 2019 at 17:58
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    @ user3163495 well, apart from Partition, the Kashmir conflict, and an ongoing Maoist insurgency. Colonialism doesn't guarantee violence but it certainly makes it more likely.
    – pjc50
    Oct 17, 2019 at 18:23
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    Another factor is that Latin America, by and large, is not experiencing violence that is classified as a war. In places that have conflicts classified as a war, violent deaths are generally attributed to the war rather than to a criminal case. So, for example, while the illegal opium trade is at the heart of the economy of Afghanistan, drug trade related murders that might be treated as crimes in Latin America are instead classified as civilian war casualties in the ongoing military conflict in that country, mostly between the Taliban and the current U.S. allied and supported regime.
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 17, 2019 at 19:08

Because they're not at war.

Referencing this paper, Wikipedia clarifies the methodology:

The following 50 cities have the highest murder rates in the world of all cities not at war, with a population of at least 300,000 people

If cities within warring nations were including, the rankings would change. For example, in Damascus (population 1.7 million) 1,600 civilians were reportedly killed between February 18 until March 21 2018 -- the death toll from that one month alone would put it at fourth place.

Whether these deaths should be considered murders for this purpose is perhaps unclear -- but for the purposes of deciding which cities are "the most violent in the world" or "the most dangerous cities in the world", it may become more clear.

To be explicitly clear: If Venezuela invaded Mexico tomorrow, they would instantly have zero cities on this list.

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    There are many poverty-stricken countries not at war in Asia and Africa, so this alone is not sufficient reason. It only disqualifies some countries in the Middle East.
    – vsz
    Oct 18, 2019 at 11:29
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    This answer makes no sense, there are many not-at-war poor locations in the world and most of them are not on that list. Oct 18, 2019 at 11:33
  • @vsz Good points -- I'll try to clarify.
    – Roger
    Oct 18, 2019 at 14:02
  • @tomáš-zato Good points -- I'll try to clarify.
    – Roger
    Oct 18, 2019 at 14:02
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    This is a very valid point (+1). when you observe statistical differences, the first question to ask is to what extend they are not merely the product of the way the data is collected.
    – user189035
    Oct 19, 2019 at 11:05

pjc50's answer is good. I would add that proximity to the world's largest gun manufacturer - the United States, makes the flow of guns to the Central Americas much easier.

This opinion piece explains how the Cold War affected and the US affects gun ownership in Central and South America.

During the 1980s, El Salvador was the single largest recipient of U.S. military hardware and weaponry in the Western Hemisphere

A good example [...] can be found in the case of a Salvadoran officer who was sentenced in November for selling about 50 weapons on the black market ..

Mexico [...] has an estimated influx of more than 212,000 illegal firearms from the U.S. each year owing to straw purchases

With Russian support, Venezuela expanded its third-generation AK-47 manufacturing capabilities

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    If this was the answer, then why aren't the cities near the #2 and #3 arms manufacturers, Russia and China also on the list? What does proximity have to do with anything when Germany can export 5000 rifles to Mexico?
    – Chloe
    Oct 18, 2019 at 18:06
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    @Chloe Presumably it's not the manufacturing so much as the ease with which guns can be purchased in the US and then (hypothetically) smuggled to other countries. I would definitely want to see some data supporting that this is actually a real thing that happens
    – divibisan
    Oct 18, 2019 at 18:08
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    The linked article actually cites the US as "the world’s largest arms exporter and importer", which sounds more relevant.
    – divibisan
    Oct 19, 2019 at 0:23
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    @divibisan That would have to be explicated in further detail - exported aircraft carriers would not seem to have influence on the violence in question Oct 19, 2019 at 12:08
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    If ease of purchasing were an issue, there'd be many more US cities in the list.
    – Hobbes
    Oct 20, 2019 at 14:37

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