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42 of the world's 50 deadliest cities are in one region

Here's why Latin American cities are the deadliest in the world.

Back in 2016, 61 people were killed in Los Cabos, a favorite holiday destination for Americans. Last year, 365 people were murdered in the city, a 500% increase over 2016. The Mexican municipality at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula now officially is the deadliest city in the world. 


With an average of one murder per day and a total population of just under 330,000, Los Cabos has a murder rate of 111.33 per 100,000 inhabitants—a fraction more than the 111.19 figure for Caracas, in second place. But the Venezuelan capital is much larger. With a population of just over three million, its (relative) murder rate translates into an (absolute) death toll of 3,387 murders last year, more than any other city on the list (which excludes combat zones like Syria or Yemen).

That list, of the world's 50 most violent cities translates into this map. If it doesn't much look like a world map, it's because no less than 42 of those cities are in Latin America. Most of this are in Brazil—17, in all. Mexico has 12. Third in the country ranking is Venezuela, with five cities. Only eight cities are outside Ibero-America: four in the U.S. (St Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans and Detroit, in that order), three in South Africa (Cape Town, Durban and Nelson Mandela Bay—i.e. the Port Elizabeth area) and one in the Caribbean (Kingston, Jamaica).

The annual ranking of the world's deadliest major cities (with a population of at least 300,000) is the work of the Mexican anti-violence think tank Seguridad, Justicia y Paz, which draws three conclusions from the latest figures:

1 - Honduras is getting better

From 2011 to 2014, San Pedro Sula was the deadliest city in the world. In 2016, it was still ranked third. With the murder rate more than halving between 2016 and last year, it dropped to 26th place. Homicides in the Central District (the municipality that includes the country's capital Tegucigalpa) dropped by almost 44%, leading to a drop from 4th place in 2016 to 35th place last year.

"These extraordinary reductions did not happen by chance," the think tank says. "They are the Honduran government's commendable efforts to systematically eradicate criminal cells, reduce judicial impunity and act against gang crimes other than homicides, as well as restoring order to the prison system."

2 - Mexico is getting worse (again)

Things had gotten better in Mexico. In 2015, only five Mexican cities were included in the ranking. Now the figure is up to 12 again, the same number as in 2011. Things aren't quite as bad as back then, when the homicide rate in Juarez approached 300, but the situation is definitely worsening.

Why? "The opposite has been done from Honduras: no action is undertaken to systematically eradicate the private militias of criminal groups. And judicial impunity has been allowed to reach its worst levels ever recorded."

3 - Chaos in Venezuela leads to undercounting

The situation in Venezuela is so chaotic that it has become difficult to count the dead.

"The official data is scarcer, less periodic and less specific than in previous years. That is why we took two Venezuelan cities (Gran Barcelona and Cumana, Ed.) off the list. Also, with four million Venezuelans having left the country, population estimates no longer reflect reality, and homicide rates based on them should, in fact, be higher."

For all 50 cities combined, the average homicide rate was 59.17 per 100,000 inhabitants, which translates to 41,430 intentional killings for a total of just over 70 million inhabitants.

The 'deadliness' of the rankings is relative. For instance, Los Cabos only ranks 31st in absolute terms. Of the 14 cities with more than 1,000 murders last year, no less than seven are Brazilian; two are in South Africa, and Tijuana is the only one in Mexico.

In the 'relative' ranking, five of the ten deadliest cities are Mexican. The uptick in killings in Mexico can be related to the fragmenting of criminal groups, leading to more intra-gang violence.

According to the think tank, the violence across Latin America has two common, related traits: it is driven by drug trafficking, and by the prevalence in organized crime gangs. Enabling the violent climate is a general backdrop of poverty, instability and corruption.

Strange Maps #890

Map found here at the Daily Mail. Graph by Ruland Kolen.

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

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Is this proof of a dramatic shift?

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  • Map details dramatic shift from CNN to Fox News over 10-year period
  • Does it show the triumph of "fake news" — or, rather, its defeat?
  • A closer look at the map's legend allows for more complex analyses

Dramatic and misleading

Image: Reddit / SICResearch

The situation today: CNN pushed back to the edges of the country.

Over the course of no more than a decade, America has radically switched favorites when it comes to cable news networks. As this sequence of maps showing TMAs (Television Market Areas) suggests, CNN is out, Fox News is in.

The maps are certainly dramatic, but also a bit misleading. They nevertheless provide some insight into the state of journalism and the public's attitudes toward the press in the US.

Let's zoom in:

  • It's 2008, on the eve of the Obama Era. CNN (blue) dominates the cable news landscape across America. Fox News (red) is an upstart (°1996) with a few regional bastions in the South.
  • By 2010, Fox News has broken out of its southern heartland, colonizing markets in the Midwest and the Northwest — and even northern Maine and southern Alaska.
  • Two years later, Fox News has lost those two outliers, but has filled up in the middle: it now boasts two large, contiguous blocks in the southeast and northwest, almost touching.
  • In 2014, Fox News seems past its prime. The northwestern block has shrunk, the southeastern one has fragmented.
  • Energised by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News is back with a vengeance. Not only have Maine and Alaska gone from entirely blue to entirely red, so has most of the rest of the U.S. Fox News has plugged the Nebraska Gap: it's no longer possible to walk from coast to coast across CNN territory.
  • By 2018, the fortunes from a decade earlier have almost reversed. Fox News rules the roost. CNN clings on to the Pacific Coast, New Mexico, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast — plus a smattering of metropolitan areas in the South and Midwest.

"Frightening map"

Image source: Reddit / SICResearch

This sequence of maps, showing America turning from blue to red, elicited strong reactions on the Reddit forum where it was published last week. For some, the takeover by Fox News illustrates the demise of all that's good and fair about news journalism. Among the comments?

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  • "The idiocracy grows."
  • "(It's) like a spreading disease."
  • "One of the more frightening maps I've seen."
For others, the maps are less about the rise of Fox News, and more about CNN's self-inflicted downward spiral:
  • "LOL that's what happens when you're fake news!"
  • "CNN went down the toilet on quality."
  • "A Minecraft YouTuber could beat CNN's numbers."
  • "CNN has become more like a high-school production of a news show."

Not a few find fault with both channels, even if not always to the same degree:

  • "That anybody considers either of those networks good news sources is troubling."
  • "Both leave you understanding less rather than more."
  • "This is what happens when you spout bullsh-- for two years straight. People find an alternative — even if it's just different bullsh--."
  • "CNN is sh-- but it's nowhere close to the outright bullsh-- and baseless propaganda Fox News spews."

"Old people learning to Google"

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox News search terms (200!-2018)

But what do the maps actually show? Created by SICResearch, they do show a huge evolution, but not of both cable news networks' audience size (i.e. Nielsen ratings). The dramatic shift is one in Google search trends. In other words, it shows how often people type in "CNN" or "Fox News" when surfing the web. And that does not necessarily reflect the relative popularity of both networks. As some commenters suggest:

  • "I can't remember the last time that I've searched for a news channel on Google. Is it really that difficult for people to type 'cnn.com'?"
  • "More than anything else, these maps show smart phone proliferation (among older people) more than anything else."
  • "This is a map of how old people and rural areas have learned to use Google in the last decade."
  • "This is basically a map of people who don't understand how the internet works, and it's no surprise that it leans conservative."

A visual image as strong as this map sequence looks designed to elicit a vehement response — and its lack of context offers viewers little new information to challenge their preconceptions. Like the news itself, cartography pretends to be objective, but always has an agenda of its own, even if just by the selection of its topics.

The trick is not to despair of maps (or news) but to get a good sense of the parameters that are in play. And, as is often the case (with both maps and news), what's left out is at least as significant as what's actually shown.

One important point: while Fox News is the sole major purveyor of news and opinion with a conservative/right-wing slant, CNN has more competition in the center/left part of the spectrum, notably from MSNBC.

Another: the average age of cable news viewers — whether they watch CNN or Fox News — is in the mid-60s. As a result of a shift in generational habits, TV viewing is down across the board. Younger people are more comfortable with a "cafeteria" approach to their news menu, selecting alternative and online sources for their information.

It should also be noted, however, that Fox News, according to Harvard's Nieman Lab, dominates Facebook when it comes to engagement among news outlets.

CNN, Fox and MSNBC

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox (without the 'News'; may include searches for actual foxes). See MSNBC (in yellow) for comparison

For the record, here are the Nielsen ratings for average daily viewer total for the three main cable news networks, for 2018 (compared to 2017):

  • Fox News: 1,425,000 (-5%)
  • MSNBC: 994,000 (+12%)
  • CNN: 706,000 (-9%)

And according to this recent overview, the top 50 of the most popular websites in the U.S. includes cnn.com in 28th place, and foxnews.com in... 27th place.

The top 5, in descending order, consists of google.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, amazon.com and yahoo.com — the latter being the highest-placed website in the News and Media category.
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