Brazil is the sixth most murderous country in a list of 100 nations around the world, according to a new study sponsored by the government and released Thursday.
Brazil, which will host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games trails only El Salvador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala and the Virgin Islands for the number of homicides proportional to its population, said the report carried out by the Sangari Institute.
More than half a million Brazilians were murdered between 1998 and 2008, the year of the last census.
Most of the victims were young people aged 15 to 24, and two-thirds were of African descent and one-third of white European descent.
The proportion of slain youths went from 30 per 100,000 residents in 1998 to 52.9 in 2008, the study said, calling the preponderance of young murder victims an epidemic.
Brazil's justice minister, Jose Eduardo Cardozo, said his country's high murder rate, which was just ahead of Russia's, could be cut by stepping up campaigns to reduce the large number of firearms in circulation.
The numbers show that when guns are given up, the murder index drops, he said.