The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Talkers

October 10, 2012

The world's 10 deadliest cities

(Continued)

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.

No. 7: Torreón, Mexico

A victim of Mexico's vicious drug war, the northern city of Torreón is now the scene of constant cartel-related killings as the country's drug lords battle for control of lucrative trafficking routes to Mexico's northern border. Last year, the city saw 88 homicides per every 100,000 residents.

On a single Sunday afternoon in July, 10 people were killed in the city, five of whom were dismembered and two of whom were decapitated. And as the drug war has intensified, it has become increasingly difficult for normal citizens to escape the conflict.

No. 8: Chihuahua, Mexico

Situated about 150 miles from Mexico's border with Texas, the Mexican city of Chihuahua is a key transit point for cocaine heading toward the United States and, as a result, an important battleground for cartels interested in controlling drug-shipment routes. Violence in Chihuahua has become increasingly unhinged, reaching an average of 83 homicides per 100,000 residents.

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