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The Two Faces of Latin America

Author: Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies
June 10, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 37
Weekly Standard


If you want to see both the potential and the peril in Latin America, you could not do better than to visit Honduras and Colombia, as I did in mid-May: The former is Exhibit A for all that is wrong with the region, from drug trafficking and violence to governmental corruption; the latter a showcase of what can be done to bring even the most embattled country back from the brink.

First, the bad news. Honduras owns a dubious distinction, of the highest murder rate in the world. In 2012, according to the United Nations, it suffered 85.5 homicides per 100,000 residents compared with a global median of 8.8. The rate in the United States is under 5 homicides per 100,000; in Canada it is under 2. Mexico is far more violent but even its homicide rate is less than a third of Honduras's—24 per 100,000. San Pedro Sula, a city in northern Honduras, is ground zero for this epidemic of violence—its murder rate is 169 per 100,000, making it the most violent city on the planet. More than 7,100 people were murdered in the entire country (population 7.7 million) in 2012, and there has been no abatement of that trend this year. Even in the capital, Tegucigalpa, visitors are warned not to walk outside their hotel.

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