Brazil's homicide tally hits new record at nearly 64,000 deaths

The surge in violence in the nation is likely to become central issue for candidates in October's presidential election

Brazil broke its own record for homicides last year, according to new figures which showed that 63,880 people were killed in 2017 – an almost 3% increase from 2016, making it the deadliest year in the country's history. Data from the independent Brazilian Forum for Public Security released Thursday said that the average national homicide rate of 30.8 killings for every 100,000 inhabitants shot up to 68 per 100,000 in the state of Rio Grande do Norte. In comparison, drug-scarred Mexico, which also suffered a record number of murders in 2017, had a homicide rate of around 20 per 100,000 people.

Although nearly all the victims in Latin America's largest nation were men, the yearbook also found  a ^% increase in murders of women. These included 1,133 deaths as a result of femicide, or victims being deliberately targeted because of their gender. Rapes in also rose 8% to 60,018, while murders of women increased 6.1% to 4,539.

“It is a devastating scenario,” said Renato Sérgio de Lima, director of the forum, who said the grim milestone in homicide figures had been exacerbated by antiquated laws and police procedures and the growth in organised crime. Most victims were young, black men from poor urban areas, he said. “The numbers show we have a serious problem with lethal violence.”

 Meanwhile, Rio’s Igarape Institute, a thinktank specialising in security issues, states that just 10% of homicides lead to arrest and only 4% in charges.

“Brazilians have yet to wake up to the problem,” said Rob Muggah, its co-founder and research director. “Brazil’s national, state and city authorities urgently need to prioritise homicide reduction.”

The chilling statistics of growing violence, triggered by ever-more violent gangs capitalising on tighter law enforcement budgets and a political void, are likely to play into October’s elections where crime is a key issue for many voters. Rightwing presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro leads some polls on a platform that includes loosening gun controls and giving police more licence to kill. His popularity has even forced opponents including centrist former governor Geraldo Alckmin to join forces with law-and-order conservatives to bolster their crime-fighting credentials.

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