Homicides in Uruguay increased by 45.8 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year, soaring to record levels.
The Interior Ministry revealed Monday that there were 414 homicides in Argentina's neighbouring country in 2018, a sharp rise from 2017's tally of 284.
The figure confirms the worst fears of the authorities, which had seen private NGOs report significant increases in the homicide rate.
The news will come as something of a shock to much of Latin America, with Uruguay generally considered to be a peaceful and placid nation by most of its neighbours. Uruguay's population is just 3.4 million inhabitants.
"This increase raises the homicide rate to 11.8 per 100,000 inhabitants," the government said. One year previous, the rate stoof at 7.8 per 100,000 people.
The Internior Ministry's official report said that the final tally "includes deaths inflicted intentionally and illegally, excluding those caused by negligence, suicide or accident, as well as those that occurred in acts of police officers in compliance with the law or actions taken by civilians in self-defence."
Of the 414 homicides the report registered, 223 occurred in the nation's capital, Montevideo.
Security has become a central theme of late in the electoral campaign in Uruguay, which will elect a new president and renew much of Congress in October. Two of the leading opposition candidates for the residency, Edgardo Novick, of the right-wing People's Party, and Jorge Larrañaga, of the centre-right National Party, are pushing crime and security as their main campaign theme.
Facing strong criticism, the government argues that "violence between criminals is the main reason for the increase" in the homicide rate.