RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil registered a record 65,602 homicides in 2017, an average of 31.6 murders per 100,000 people, according to figures released on Wednesday in the 2019 Atlas of Violence.
The atlas, prepared using data from a study carried out by the Applied Economic Research Institute (Ipea) and the Brazilian Public Safety Forum, reveals the growing wave of violence the South American giant is experiencing and comes to light amid a brewing controversy surrounding the administration of ultra-rightist Jair Bolsonaro, who is promoting relaxing gun possession laws.
The profile of the person most likely to become a murder victim in Brazil is that of a young, black, single male, with 75 percent of the homicide victims in 2017 being either black or of mixed race.
The number of black murder victims grew by 33.1 percent compared to a 3.3 percent hike in non-black victims and the state of Rio Grande do Norte had the highest murder rate for blacks of any Brazilian state, with 87 deaths per 100,000 black residents.
“There’s an unequal growth (in the murder rate) by race. Blacks are dying more and that difference is growing. Racism has to be faced squarely in society,” said Atlas coordinator Daniel Cerqueira.
In addition, the report warns about the increase in young murder victims, which leads to a relative aging of the population and presents an obstacle to the country’s social development. In 2017, a total of 35,783 young people between the ages of 15-29 died violently, a record number over the past 10 years.
Another of the key points in the report is the increase in femicide, with an average of 13 women dying violently each day. In 2017, Brazil saw the highest number of female murders – 4,936, 66 percent of them black – in the past 10 years.
On that point, Cerqueira said that in recent years there has been a drop in female murders outside of the home, but inside the home the number of murders has skyrocketed, most of those victims dying by gunshot.
Along those lines, he added that “having a firearm in the home, contrary to what people think, increases the possibility of murder, accident or suicide and (does not add to) safety,” thus providing a strong counterargument to Bolsonaro’s decree relaxing gun ownership regulations.
“We’re very concerned because scientific evidence exists on that point. Relaxing weapon (ownership) increases the number of murders, (and) a policy that facilitates the spread of firearms is going to have consequences,” he said.
In addition, the report includes a section on violence against the LGTBI community, where the murder rate jumped by 127 percent, and in the majority of those cases it was men who committed the crimes against victims who were homosexuals or female bisexuals.
On that point, Cerqueira said that the relative lack of data reflects a collective “statistical blackout” that leads to “the invisibility of homophobic violence in Brazil.”
The war against drug trafficking via new routes, the increase in cocaine production in Peru and Bolivia, the use of Brazil as a drug shipment corridor to the European and African markets and conflicts among drug trafficking factions have also notably fostered the rise in lethal violence in Brazil.