Nearly half a million Brazilians were murdered from 1996 to 2006 but the homicide rate is gradually falling due to better social welfare, more policing and fewer firearms, according to a study published by two aid groups and the federal government on Jan. 29. Gang-related violence routinely shakes Brazil’s major cities, temporarily shutting down neighborhoods and killing innocent bystanders. Experts say corrupt and under-staffed police cannot cope; they cite the vast disparity between rich and poor as one of the main underlying causes of the violence. (Reuters)

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