Colombia records lowest murder rate in four decades

Bogota (AFP) –


Colombia recorded its lowest murder rate in four decades this year in the wake of a peace deal with the leftwing FARC rebel group, the government said Tuesday.

There were "a little over 11,000 homicides" in 2017, Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said, equating to a rate of 23 murders per 100,000 inhabitants.

That signified 320 fewer violent deaths this year than in 2016, he said, stating: "This year will go down in history as the safest in four decades."

The government's Forensic Medicine Institute has not yet released its data on recorded deaths for 2017. It said that in 2016 there were 11,532 homicides.

By way of comparison, the United States has a murder rate of 4.9 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to recent FBI data.

Much of Latin America suffers homicide rates higher than the world average of 5.3 per 100,000 inhabitants given by the World Bank.

In 2015, Colombia was classed as the third most deadly country in the region, after Venezuela and Brazil.

But, while Colombia still struggles with violence related to cocaine production and smuggling, it has seen a drop-off in the murder rate in the past few years.

Much of that is attributed to the end of hostilities between government and FARC forces following a historic November 2016 peace deal that put an end to half a century of conflict which claimed up to 25,000 lives each year.

The FARC has demobilized its fighters, disarmed and transformed itself into a political party under the same acronym.

The government is also engaged in negotiations to seal a similar peace deal with the smaller ELN rebel group, with whom a ceasefire is already in place.