Drug Policy vs. Homicide Rates

(Jacob Sullum)   According to a new report from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, Honduras and El Salvador have the highest homicide rates in the world, at 82.1 and 66, respectively, per 100,000 people. Despite the surge in violence that has accompanied Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s anti-drug crackdown, which has killed more than 40,000 people since 2006, Mexico’s homicide rate—18.1 per 100,000—makes it seem placid by comparison, although it is more than three times the U.S. rate (5 per 100,000), which in turn is high compared to those of other liberal democracies. The violence in Central America also is largely driven by the war on drugs:

U.S. officials say crackdowns on drug cartels in Mexico and Colombia have pushed gang activity to Central America, which has long been a lucrative corridor for trafficking.

Caribbean countries, most notably Jamaica, have also been affected by drug-related violence, the report said.

Mexico has seen a 65 percent increase in killings since President Felipe Calderon launched his offensive against drug cartels in late 2006, the report found.

Here are the 10 countries with the highest homicide rates:

  1. Honduras: 82.1
  2. El Salvador: 66
  3. Cote D’Ivoire: 56.9
  4. Jamaica: 52.1
  5. Belize: 41.7
  6. Guatemala: 41.4
  7. U.S. Virgin Islands: 39.2
  8. Saint Kitts and Nevis: 38.2
  9. Uganda: 36.3
  10. Trinidad and Tobago: 35.2

The Netherlands ranks near the bottom, with a homicide rate of 1.7 per 100,000 people, about one-third the U.S. rate. Remember when Bill Clinton’s drug czar, Barry McCaffrey, claimed lax Dutch drug policies helped explain why “the murder rate in Holland is double that in the United States”?


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