Geopolitics

Ojo! The World's 20 Most Dangerous Cities Are All In Latin America

Drug wars, poverty and organized crime combine to help Latin America dominate the list of most deadly cities on earth. Add in the U.S., and the Americas count for almost all of the top 50.

Gun play in Nicaragua (Eric Molina)
Gun play in Nicaragua (Eric Molina)


*NEWSBITES

As bloody drug wars rain down unprecedented levels of violence, Mexico's major cities are becoming more murderous than ever. But the urban violence epidemic is by no means just a Mexican phenomenon. Murders are rampant in cities throughout the Americas – from Baltimore to Barranquilla to Belo Horizonte – where homicide rates are well above the world average.

Of the world's 50 most violent cities, 45 are in the Americas, according to research done by a Mexican organization called Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Pública y Justicia Penal (CCSPJP). A dozen of those cities are in Mexico, including Ciudad Juárez, the world's second deadliest city. Ciudad Juarez has an annual homicide rate of nearly 148 per 100,000 residents. By way of comparison, the murder rate in El Paso, Texas, located just across the border on the U.S. side, was 0.8 per 100,000 in 2010.

That's not so say the United States doesn't have its own share of urban violence. Four U.S. cities made CCSPJP's top 50 list: New Orleans (21st), Detroit (30th), Saint Louis (43rd) and Baltimore (48th).

South America has its fare share of deadly cities as well. Fourteen Brazilian cities made the list, including Maceió and Belém, ranked 3rd and 10th respectively. The Venezuelan capital of Caracas ranked 6th on the list, with an annual homicide rate of nearly 99 per 100,000. Colombia's Cali came in 11th.

The world's single most dangerous city is in neither North nor South America, but rather on the isthmus in between, according to the CCSPJP. That dubious distinction goes to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, which has a ghastly homicide rate of 158.87 per 100,000. Other Central America cities featured high on the ranking include Guatemala City (12th) in Guatemala and San Salvador (20th) in El Salvador.

The only country outside of the Americas to pop up multiple times on the CCSPJP was South Africa. Cape Town, with a murder rate of 46 per 100,000, ranked 30th. Three other South African cities, including Johannesburg (50th), also made the list, as did Mosul, Iraq (44th).

Read more from AméricaEconomía in Spanish

Photo - Eric Molina

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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Economy

Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money but the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.


Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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