Chile Murders Fall as President Boric Works to Get Upper Hand on Crime

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(Bloomberg) -- Chile recorded a 6% reduction in homicides in 2023 following a surge the year prior, giving President Gabriel Boric’s administration much-needed respite in its struggle against crime.

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A total of 1,248 murders were committed last year, down from 1,330 in 2022, according to data published by the Interior Ministry on Monday. Homicides fell in 11 of the nation’s 16 regions including in the northernmost Arica y Parinacota and Tarapaca, areas with the nation’s highest rates.

“What we are seeing today, in this data, is the capacity to confront this trend and to begin to reverse it,” Interior Minister Carolina Toha said while presenting the police data. “It is an inflection, and it is an inflection that has not happened by chance.”

Rising crime rates are dogging Boric’s administration, undercutting its approval rating and looming over the nation’s economic recovery. Chile had recorded a nearly 50% surge in murders in 2022 as the situation worsened, prompting the government to respond with the biggest security spending hike in eight years. Still, polls consistently show public safety remains voters’ top concern.

Read more: Chile Homicides Soar as Boric Faces Growing Demands on Crime

Chile’s national murder rate fell to 6.3 per 100,000 in 2023 from 6.7 the year prior, according to the data. Santiago, the country’s capital and largest city, recorded 557 homicides last year, for a rate of 6.7 per 100,000.

This year’s murder of Venezuelan refugee Ronald Ojeda accentuated concerns of a growing prevalence of transnational crime in Chile. There are also fears the country is becoming a more important transit point for drug shipments.

Government agencies will strive for stronger collaboration to reduce crime this year, Toha said, adding that there will be a particular focus on monitoring the Santiago metropolitan region.

“Numbers in themselves do not build justice,” Toha said. “It is built through the daily work that is done on the ground. And, in that, there is still much to do.”

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