(SKY NEWS) – Brazil had a record number of murders last year, with more than 60,000 being killed.
The news comes as the country prepares for a presidential election in which violence has become a key issue.
Ever-more violent gangs are make the most of tight police budgets has seen unrest become a central voter concern ahead of the October election.
Murders rose 3.7% from 2016 to 63,880 according to data published by think tank Brazilian Public Security Yearbook 2018.
In 2017, Brazil had a murder rate of 30.8 per 100,000 people, up from 29.9 in 2016.
Far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro, who is proving popular in the presidential polls, wants to loosen gun laws and toughen up policing to tackle the rise in violence.
His popularity is forcing his competitors to make crime-fighting policies priorities.
The data showed many of the murders, which includes police, were concentrated in Brazil’s poorer northeastern states.
The state of Rio Grande do Norte had the highest murder rate in 2017, with 68 murders per 100,000 people, followed by Acre, in the far west of the country bordering Peru, with 63.9 per 100,000 people.
The wealthier state of Sao Paulo had the lowest murder rate of any state, with 10.7 homicides per 100,000 people.
The Brazilian Public Security Yearbook collects official state-level data and is used as a reference by the federal government.