No. 4: Acapulco, Mexico — once renowned for its beaches, high-rise hotels, and a nightclub scene that drew the likes of Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor — has not escaped the drug-related violence that has engulfed the rest of Mexico, and it is now the country's second-most violent city, with 128 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. Fighting for control of the southern state of Guerrero has led to shootouts on what were once the main drags in Acapulco's resort area, while severed heads have been found in prominent locations around the city.
Unsurprisingly, foreign tourism has suffered; the head of Guerrero's travel agency association estimated in November 2010 that U.S. and Canadian tourism had fallen 40 to 50 percent in the span of a year. "We have to defend Acapulco to defend Mexico," said Miguel Angel Hernandez, a police chief, in 2011. "Acapulco is Mexico. It's a brand that sells."
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.