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El Salvador, Venezuela with Latin America’s Worst Homicide Rate
Mexico, despite living through its most violent year of the past four in 2010, ranked behind seven other countries, the majority of them in Latin America, with 18.4 homicides per 100,000 people registered last year. Brazil (25.3 per 100,000 inhabitants), Jamaica (32.4), Belize (32.7), Colombia (37.3), Venezuela (48), South Africa (49.6), and El Salvador (61), were all above Mexico

MEXICO CITY – Mexico lived through its most violent year of the past four in 2010, but the 18.4 homicides per 100,000 people registered last year ranked behind seven other countries, the majority of them in Latin America, the Public Safety Secretariat said in a report.

Brazil, with a homicide rate of 25.3 per 100,000 inhabitants, Jamaica, with 32.4, Belize, with 32.7, Colombia, with 37.3, Venezuela, with 48, South Africa, with 49.6, and El Salvador, with 61, all ranked above Mexico, Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna said during the report’s presentation on Monday.

The number of killings carried out by organized crime groups in Mexico’s most violent city, Ciudad Juarez, has been trending lower for the past three months, the report said.

A total of 299 people were murdered in the border city in October, with the number of homicides falling to 161 in November, 166 in December and 98 in January.

Drug-related violence claimed the lives of 2,662 people in Ciudad Juarez, located across the border from El Paso, Texas, last year.

From December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon took office, to Jan. 20, 101 tons of cocaine and 8,375 tons of marijuana were seized, while 480 labs used to produce synthetic drugs were dismantled.

The security forces, moreover, confiscated 97,773 firearms, of which about 58 percent were rifles, and 7,776 grenades.

Cash seizures from suspected drug traffickers totaled 383 million pesos (about $32 million) and $425 million.

A total of 131,091 members of organized crime groups have been arrested since 2006.

Consumption of illegal drugs, meanwhile, has been rising in Mexico, the report said.

About 2.4 percent of Mexicans between the ages of 12 and 64, according to figures from 2008, use cocaine, while 4.2 percent smoke marijuana and 0.50 percent use amphetamines, the report said.

Mexico has more than 1.7 million cocaine users, over 3 million people who smoke marijuana and more than 367,000 amphetamine users.

The report reviewed several other categories of crimes, including kidnappings.

Authorities arrested 1,405 people on kidnapping charges, dismantled 173 gangs and rescued 910 captives between 2006 and Jan. 26, the report said.

The report also provided information about the country’s prison population.

Mexico’s prisons held 222,772 inmates as of November 2010, with 57.88 percent serving sentences and 42.12 percent awaiting final resolution of their cases.

Some 80 percent of inmates are doing time for common crimes and 20 percent are imprisoned for federal offenses.

Prisons in several states are overcrowded, the report said.

The Federal District’s prisons, which have a capacity of 21,643, are currently holding 40,713 prisoners, or 88.11 percent more than they were designed to house. EFE

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