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UN warns of epidemic of gun deaths in Latin America

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Some 740,000 people are killed by firearms in Latin America each year, most of them outside combat zones, according to UN figures announced at a conference in Lima.

Camilo Duplat, a representative of the United Nations Regional Center for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC), said that 500,000 of these gun deaths are killings carried out by organized crime or common crime.

According to the official, violence is reaching "epidemic levels" in Latin America due to the availability of firearms, of which there are 80 million in the region.

Duplat said that Honduras and El Salvador had the highest rate of death by firearms in the world, at 77 and 62 per 100,000 inhabitants, while Colombia and Venezuela had rates of 37 deaths by firearm per 100,000 people, and Mexico had 25.

It was not clear what year these figures applied to, but they seem to closely correspond to recent data about homicide statistics in some of these countries. In 2010, Honduras had a homicide rate of 77, while El Salvador's stood at 64, and Colombia had a rate of 38, according to official statistics. Mexico, however, had a rate of only 18 per 100,000.

If the UN statistics are correct, this could suggest that the rate of firearm deaths closely tracks that of murders, with only a small amount of non-overlap. However, Duplat also stated that 60 percent of killings in the region were carried out with firearms.

--- Hannah Stone is a writer for Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas, which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region. Find all of her research here.


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