Honduras and El Salvador have the highest homicide rates in the world as killings reach a crisis point in Central America, a United Nations report said Thursday.
The study on homicides by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime blamed organized crime for the region's surge in violence.
Honduras had 6,200 killings in 2010 out of a population of 7.7 million people, while El Salvador with 6.1 million people had 4,000 homicides.
The 2011 Global Study on Homicide calculated a rate of 82.1 homicides per 100,000 people for Honduras and 66 per 100,000 people for El Salvador. Cote D'Ivoire in West Africa followed with 56.9 and the Caribbean nation of Jamaica with 52.1. The United States had a homicide rate of 5 per 100,000 people in 2009, the report said.
Honduras Human Rights Commissioner Ramon Custodio said Thursday that he was worried about rising crime and feared worse figures are yet to come.
"We, Hondurans, have lost the right to live without fear," Custodio said in a news statement.
He said the enemy in the 1980s was the army, police and secret corps, but now the threat is organized crime.
U.S. officials say crackdowns on drug cartels in Mexico and Colombia have pushed gang activity to Central America, which has long been a lucrative corridor for trafficking.
Caribbean countries, most notably Jamaica, have also been affected by drug-related violence, the report said.
Mexico has seen a 65 percent increase in killings since President Felipe Calderon launched his offensive against drug cartels in late 2006, the report found. The country is considered part of Central America in the report.
Mexico had a homicide rate of 18.1 per 100,000 people last year, among the lowest in the region, although the 112 million-person nation dominates headlines for its brutal killings and bloody drug gang turf battles.
The U.N. said Mexico's violence is concentrated in the three northern states of Chihuahua, Baja California and Sinaloa and in the Pacific resort state of Guerrero. The report added that increasing violence not only affects drug gang members but security forces and innocent bystanders.
Over the past 15 years, the study said, homicides have gone down in Asia, Europe and North America while increasing in Central America and the Caribbean. It said bloodshed in the latter two regions "can be seen to be nearing crisis point."
The U.N. blamed firearms and widening income disparities for the violence. It said guns were used in three-quarters of all homicides in Central America and the Caribbean.