Danger is everywhere. But in the United States, your odds of encountering a life-threatening situation on any given day is fairly small. That doesn’t change the fact that America is rife with dangerous cities, however. While cities like Baltimore and Chicago have seen their fair share of violence recently, Americans are generally safe. Outside America, though, violence and danger are much more commonplace.
That rings especially true for regions in South and Central America. There are a number of factors that have led to escalating danger in these areas, including the drug war and increases in cartel activity. Many people living in this part of the world also deal with crushing poverty. Economically, these are areas that have been struggling for decades, and as people struggle to get ahead, they often turn to crime and violence to make things work.
For these reasons, almost all of the world’s most dangerous cities are located in Latin America.
Mexican think tank The Citizens’ Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice analyzed data from across the world to develop a ranking system for danger. Using statistics including murder rates, the group looked at cities with populations of more than 300,000 and compiled a list of the 50 most dangerous cities worldwide.
On the following pages, we’ll highlight the top 10. If you plan to travel to or near these areas, remain aware that you may be in jeopardy. Keep a close eye on your belongings, and watch for suspicious behavior. Though you probably won’t run into trouble, trouble does have a way of finding us.
Here are the world’s 10 most dangerous cities.
10. Cali, Colombia
With a population of more than 2.3 million, Cali is a big, albeit largely unknown city in Colombia. Colombia itself, of course, has been undergoing turbulence for quite some time. And this is not the last Colombian city on the list. Much of Cali’s violence and danger are associated with the country’s drug cartels and gangs.
9. Cape Town, South Africa
It’s not just shark attacks that should have you on edge in Cape Town. Crime is a real problem in this South African city, with a lot of the blame being placed at the feet of the South African government. Gang fighting is one of the main reasons Cape Town has become the “most dangerous city in Africa.”
8. Palmira, Colombia
Palmira is a relatively small city, located to the east of the aforementioned Cali. Its population is roughly 300,000, making it significantly smaller than Cali as well. But it’s actually more violent, per capita, than its western neighbor. Also like Cali, its violence issues are tied to gang and cartel activity.
7. Valencia, Venezuela
Located just inland from Venezuela’s northern coast, Valencia is a sizable city of 1.5 million people. The city has become a hotbed of violence, as economic and political strife has gripped the country. People are being murdered at an alarming rate, and as The Economist reports, most murders go unpunished. The evident lack of justice thereby inspires more crimes.
6. Central District, Honduras
Central District refers to Distrito Central, an area in south-central Honduras that includes the capital city of Tegucigalpa. Like many other areas in the region, this part of Honduras has been beset by violence for several reasons, including trafficking and economic strife. The violence has caused many to flee north, often winding up at the U.S. border.
5. Maturin, Venezuela
Another Venezuelan city, Maturin has a population of around 500,000 and sits near the country’s northeastern coast. As you may have guessed, Maturin is experiencing problems with gang violence, economic and political corruption, and a host of other issues.
4. Acapulco, Mexico
Acapulco, Mexico used to be a place rife with tourists flocking to the pristine beaches and blue water, ordering up margaritas. The city is now beset by danger and violence. The Mexican military is actively helping to calm things down, all while the city tries to keep attracting tourism dollars. It’s managed to climb in the rankings of the most dangerous cities in the world.
3. San Salvador, El Salvador
San Salvador is the largest city in the small Central American nation of El Salvador. El Salvador is notorious for spawning one of the most violent and feared gangs in the entire world: MS-13. The city’s gang problem has caused refugees to head north, and to escape the poverty gripping the country. The drug war hasn’t done this country any favors, and the effects of the Contra operations in the 1980s still haunt the region.
2. San Pedro Sula, Honduras
San Pedro Sula, located in the northern part of Honduras, was the most violent and dangerous city on Earth, per the rankings. The city, which has been called the ‘murder capital of the world,’ has been beset by violence stemming from the drug trade, and numerous gangs fighting for power. Political corruption and poverty have also played a large role in the city’s troubles.
1. Caracas, Venezuela
Venezuela has slipped into a deeply troubled economic time, with Hugo Chavez’s government doing more harm than good in trying to get the struggling nation to its feet. As a result, things have deteriorated and Caracas has become rife with gang violence. For some perspective, more than 24,000 people were murdered in Venezuela in 2014.
See the entire report outlining the most dangerous cities in the world from the Citizen’s Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice (Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Pública y la Justicia Penal – CCSPJP).