Violence in Latin America: an unresolved reality?

* Pierre Salama ** Professor Emeritus at ParisNord University (Paris XIII), at the Center for Economics at Paris Nord University (CEPN), at Research Unit 711, Researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) , in Paris, FranceAbstract ∗In most countries in Latin America, homicide rates are much higher than in developed countries.

They grow in some countries, decrease in others, or stabilize. They have risen sharply in some, but have significantly decreased in others, since the early 2000s. Drug traffickers and the evolution of criminal organizations play a special role. The causes of increased and reduced violence are many and complex. Reducing violence, when it reaches the level known in many Latin American countries, is trying to make the circle square. This is a difficulty.

There are a number of prerequisites

for making society more cohesive and reducing violence: substantially reducing socioeconomic inequalities; promote a more equal distribution of income; develop quality primary, secondary and vocational education; invent city-oriented policies; improving the quality of institutions, including, in particular, Justice and the Police; develop a polytic for cities, as was done in

  • Bogotá and begins to be done in the “pacified favelas” in Brazil, in contrast to what is observed in Mexico, where repression is
  • privileged and where corruption is very high. * Article received in Sep. 2012 and accepted for publication in oct. 2013. ** E-mail:
  • [email protected] Translation by Sandra Dias Loguercio, PhD in Language Sciences from Sorbonne-Nouvelle

University (Paris III) and Professor at the Institute of Letters at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) . Pierre SalamaEnsays FEE, Porto Alegre, v. 35, n. 1, p. 55-74, Jun. 201456KeywordsViolence; Latin America; In most Latin American countries homicide rates are much higher than indeveloped countries. It increases in some countries, decreases in others orstabilizes. It growths strongly in a few cities but decreases significantly inothers since the beginning of the 2000s.

The drug traffickers and theevolution or criminal organizations play a special role. The causes of theincrease and the reduction of violence are many and complexes. To reduceviolence when it reaches the level that we know in many Latin Americancountries is a bit like trying to do the squaring of the circle. That is thedifficulty.

 There is a set of prerequisites

to make a more cohesive societyand to reduce violence: substantially reduce socio-economic inequalities, topromote a more egalitarian income distribution, to develop a primary, secondary, and vocational quality education, to invent the city policies, toimprove the quality of institutions, including and especially that of justice and policy, to develop a policy of the city as it was done in Bogotá and as it startsto be done in the “pacified favellas” in

Brazil in contrast to what is observedin Mexico where repression is privileged and corruption is very high.Key wordsViolence; Latin America; poverty.Classification JEL: I3, O2.In most countries in Latin America, the intensity of violence is much greater than in advanced countries. Situations of frequent failure in the fight against violence, few successful situations, very strong corruption, even in positions of great responsibility, generate distrust, however small, in relation to the institutions of most Latin American countries.

According to the Latinobarometer survey, in 2007, 76% of the population considered civil and political rights to be guaranteed. However, only 22% of Latin Americans believe that access to justice is the same for all, this number dropping to 10% in Violence in Latin America: a reality without a solution? Essays FEE, Porto Alegre, v. 35, n. 1, p. 55-74, Jun. 201457Argentina and Brazil.

In 2005, a survey carried out by the research institute showed that 33.1% of the population do not trust Justice in any way and that 33% trust little; on the other hand, only 23% of the population considers themselves protected from crimes, this number being 9% in Argentina and 12% in Brazil. The 2007 survey also reveals that confidence in the policeit is decreasing: 31% of the population do not trust the Police at all, 29.8% trust medium, and 24.9% trust little.

As for the question that asked if life is “every day” safer,

only 9% answered in the affirmative – 2% and 6%, respectively, in Argentina and Brazil, that is, a percentage lower than 18% in Colombia -, and 63%, in a negative way. Is it possible to make an association between the torrent of violence in all forms present in some Latin American countries and: (a) the inequalities of income and wealth, which are particularly considerable ?; (b) the extent of poverty ?; (c) the social expenses that are advancing,

  • but still insufficient, especially with regard to education? (d) institutions weakened by the administrative burden, by little transparency, by corruption ?; (e) the increase in drug trafficking
  • ?; (f) an uncontrolled urbanization ?; (g) insufficient repression, an extremely small police force and a completely inefficient or even lax
  • justice system ?; (h) the recent civil wars, the dictatorships that left significant marks on the behavior of both the forces of order and the citizens?

In fact, all these factors intervene to a greater or lesser extent, but if there are considerations about violence that require precaution, they are those that , restricting themselves to the surface of the problems, they establish simple, apparently evident relationships, such as, for example, that which could exist between the level of poverty and the degree of violence.

As Brazilian anthropologist Alba Zaluar, a specialist in urban violence, observes in an interview published in 2001 by Revista Brasileira de CiênciasSociais: […] it is clear that there is a concentration of certain types of crimes in the poor population, but this is due to a set of factors: […] it is precisely in the neighborhoods where drug trafficking is more present and stronger, where police presence is rare, where social policies are even rarer, that crime is greater (Zaluar ; Leal, 2001, emphasis added) .The causal relationships are, therefore, multiple. The poor are not naturally dangerous. If one considers the same extent of poverty here or there, there is an increase or decrease in violence.

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