Every country has gang problems, but some are worse than others.
The World Economic Forum publishes an annual Global Competitiveness Report. As part of this report, they rank countries in the world according to the level of criminal gang activities. The top gangs in the world are heavily involved in the drug trade in Central America that brings the illegal drugs to the customers in America, Europe, and other parts of the world.
To the surprise of many, Columbia is no longer on the top-ten list of the countries with the fiercest gangs. Since the demise of Pablo Escobar, the most notorious Columbian drug dealer of all time, the rank of Columbia has fallen to sixth place while Peru is ninth. Those two countries are the largest producers of cocaine in the world. Now, it seems that they are doing it a bit more peacefully.
Another surprise, reported by Business Insider, is what happened to Italy. Italians used to be the global leaders of the Mafia, with its Cosa Nostra from Sicily that invaded the USA. The gang violence in Italy is less now. Its position on the list of the world’s worst countries for gangs has fallen to 15th place. The days of the “Godfather” being the most-feared gang leader are now long gone.
Here are the world’s top five worst countries in terms of violent gang activities.
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Guatemala is now part of the “drug triangle” that includes El Salvador and Honduras. It is estimated by the International Crisis Group that approximately 54,000 gang members freely move about through those three countries causing mayhem and deaths wherever they go. Guatemala has the tenth highest rate of murders globally.
The largest gangs in Guatemala are the 18th Street Gang and the Mara Salvatrucha. Pedro Benjamin Rivas Zelaya, a major Mara Salvatrucha gang leader who was arrested in April 2017. In spite of his arrest, this criminal group is still thriving.
Mexico has risen over the past decade to be in the top five. The biggest gangs in Mexico are the Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel. In January 2017, the leader of the Sinaloa gang, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, was extradited to the United States where he is now in prison. El Chapo was notorious for escaping prison confinement in Mexico’s top-security prisons by digging tunnels to get out.
The violence in Mexico is found mostly in the area of the headquarters of the drug cartels and in the cities near the border with the United State such as Tijuana and Juarez. This is because the gangs fight for control of the illegal drug trafficking routes used to bring drugs to America. Americans are the largest consumers of illegal drugs in the world.
The capital of Venezuela is Caracas, it has the highest rate of murders for any city in the world. Most murders are done by gangs attacking each other. There is also a civil war going on and major protests against the government crackdowns. This is causing additional murders from the political conflicts.
In Caracas alone, there are over 2,600 murders each year, which is about five people killed per day on average. Venezuela is now extremely vulnerable to invasion by the global transnational drug cartels. As this happens, the expectations that the murder rate will increase even more in Caracas.
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As part of the drug triangle with El Salvador and Guatemala, Honduras is ripe with violence that it gang-related. When the United Nations conducted a study of the murders in this country, it found that there was a clear connection between the fight over drug trafficking routes and the gang murders. The most violent areas are those along the border with Guatemala.
Cocaine from Peru and Columbia passes through Guatemala and Honduras on its way north to the United States. The increase in cocaine trafficking caused an explosion of gang-related death recently in Honduras.
El Salvador has a long history of conflict. Civil war combined with massive poverty created a fertile environment for the rising of drug-trafficking gangs. The government is completely corrupt. Government police squads, which are as bad as the criminal gangs, captured and disappeared thousands without due process. They are assumed dead.
While Caracas, Venezuela has the highest murder rate for any city in the world, El Salvador has the distinction of having the highest murder rate of any country in the world. Thousands die each year, including many that are completely innocent who are caught in the cross-fire between the gangs or those arrested by the police, tortured, and then killed.
The extremely violent MS-13 gang started in El Salvador. It now has spread like a contagious epidemic to many other countries including the USA. It is estimated that this gang has over 100,000 members worldwide. This gang did not start out as a sophisticated drug cartel. A report in the New York Times said that it was birthed out of the desperation of the oppressed people as a “mafia of the poor.”