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Organized crime sets its sights on peaceful Uruguay

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A May 2011 survey by polling firm Interconsult found that 62 percent of Uruguayans believe that their country is becoming more insecure. Seventeen people were murdered there in the first week of 2012 alone. Although as many people were killed daily in Guatemala in 2011, the violence shocked the country, and prompted the government to issue a statement assuring Uruguayans that their country still has the lowest homicide rate in Latin America, at 6.1 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

However, officials have also expressed concern over rising violence in the country. On Jan. 8 criminal Judge Nestor Valetti told El Pais that he had never seen so much violence in his 16 years on the job, saying that the country had become more like those in the Andean region. “In Uruguay there are power struggles between narco groups. It involves not only the murders of those who show up dead in a gutter, but also those who are killed in prisons.” The remarks were backed by Raul Perdomo, deputy director of the National Police, who said the country had been affected by the uptick in violence in the region. Indeed, Uruguayan President Jose Mujica has acknowledged that dealing with the public’s perception of rising insecurity will be a major hurdle this year.

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