Latin American Crime and the Issue of Inequality*

By Holmqvist, Göran | Ibero-americana, July 1, 2000 | Go to article overview

Latin American Crime and the Issue of Inequality*


Holmqvist, Göran, Ibero-americana


I. INTRODUCTION: CRIME AS A STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT ISSUE IN LATIN AMERICA1

Crime is an increasingly worrying social phenomenon in the developing world in general, and in Latin America in particular. As shown in Figure 1[double dagger], the crime rate (measured by homicide/100 000, as reported to the UN crime surveys by national police authorities) has virtually exploded since mid 1980s in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe. Latin America clearly stands out as an exceptional case. Annually in Latin America, approximately 140 000 people are murdered (Londoño & Guerrero 1999:27). Using other sources does not really change this picture. Figure 2 confirms the exceptional position of Latin America, where the source in mortality statistics is collected from national health authorities instead of the police. Indicators of crime other than homicide are less reliable for international comparison, but estimates point in the direction of Latin America being way above the average for any other region of the world (Bourguignon 1999, Table 1). It has been estimated that 28 million Latin American families are victims of theft or robbery every year (Londoño & Guerrero 1999:3).

Crime and violence are now viewed as a development issue of importance, which was probably not the case two decades ago. Development agencies such as the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) have quite recently initiated ambitious research projects on crime and violence. Projects directed to the judicial system or police authorities have increased their share in the project portfolio of multilateral as well as bilateral development cooperation agencies. More importantly, crime is becoming a major concern in the daily life of an increasing number of citizens in the developing world, manifesting itself in national political agendas, in higher crime related expenditures and, not the least, in human suffering.

There are several reasons to regard crime as a social phenomenon with strong and complex ties to the development process in general. In Latin America, crime is a potential threat to what most people would regard as encouraging development trends, especially after "the lost decade" of the 1980s, in terms of demoralization and resumed growth. The following examples may illustrate how continuous progress in these areas are being made more difficult by the increasing crime levels:

Crime and Political Development

In El Salvador, concern over violence and crime is becoming the number one electoral issue as reflected in public opinion polls, replacing economic issues and peace (IUOP 1998:4). Similar trends have been noted in the opinion polls in other countries (Londoño & Guerrero 1999:6). For obvious reasons this is likely to affect the political agenda as well as the choice of candidates, paving the way for populism and "strong men". In the news media one often reads about the resurgence of a phenomenon that resembles the death squads of the 1980s, but only now under the banner of 'social cleansing' (limpieza social) with delinquents as their major target rather than political opponents - Guatemala, El Salvador, Brazil, Colombia are some examples. Public opinion polls indicate that an alarmingly large portion of the population in crime stricken urban areas under some circumstances justify social cleansing and the use of torture by the police (Ibid.:36)2. Reports from offices of the Human Rights Ombudsman reveal that one of the most important categories of abuse stems from charges made by victims of crime, or victims of abuse by the police or the judiciary when dealing with crime. In Honduras, the army on several occasions has been called out to the streets to assist the police in crime prevention, while the process of "demilitarization" of the police forces has been affected by delays. All these examples illustrate how crime is a potential obstacle to good governance, rule of law, less authoritarian rule, respect for human rights and a modernized role of the military forces. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Latin American Crime and the Issue of Inequality*
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.