The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

October 11, 2012

The world's 10 deadliest cities

(Continued)

No. 5: Distrito Central, Honduras — made up of the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa and its twin city Comayaguela — has been engulfed by much of the same violent dynamics — drugs, gangs, inequality — as San Pedro Sula in the north. Death has become so commonplace here that the mayor this year began offering a free-of-charge burial service to the poor after he got tired of seeing so many bodies tied up in garbage bags. While gangs, corruption and poverty have long been present in Honduras, it's the country's new role as a major artery in the south-north drug-smuggling ecosystem that has escalated violence to a new level. A coup d'état in 2009 left political chaos in its wake, which has only empowered drug traffickers; that same year, the country's top anti-drug official was shot to death in his car in Tegucigalpa. Distrito Central now has 100 murders for every 100,000 residents.

No. 6: Caracas Venezuela

The so-called malandros — gangs of young men who spar over turf and the right to push drugs — have made the Venezuelan capital a virtual war zone. In 2011, Caracas witnessed 3,164 homicides — a staggering figure just shy of the total number of coalition fatalities in Afghanistan during the entire 10-year conflict in that country. Venezuelan officials have been accused of fudging murder statistics, and the actual number of homicides is likely much higher than the reported figure. To make matters worse, up to 90 percent of murders in Venezuela go unsolved. It's no surprise, then, that the rampant violence proved to be the primary issue in the Venezuelan presidential campaign with Henrique Capriles Radonski blasting President Hugo Chávez for failing to stem the bloodshed. (Since Chávez's election in 1998, the murder rate in Venezuela has doubled.) Experts say that easy access to guns, a culture of violence among young men, and a lack of police and prosecutors have combined to create a perfect storm of lawlessness and a homicide rate of 99 murders per every 100,000 residents.

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