However, a few underlying factors that contribute to this violence can be observed in most Latin American nations.
Latin America is known in the world as a region with high rates of violence, more concentrated in Mexico, Central America, Colombia and Venezuela than in the rest of the Hemisphere, including the Caribbean countries. Common crime, gangs, drug trafficking and organized crime are responsible for these high crime indicators, say experts.
Speaking to the Financial Express Online, Guatemala based Pedro Trujillo Alvarez, Director of ConCriterio says, “However, another form of violence has emerged more recently: political violence. Countries such as Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Chile, Bolivia, Dominica and more recently Colombia has been mired in demonstrations and protests that, in addition to claiming certain legal modifications or questioning political decisions, have ended up destroying facilities, burning bus or subway stations and caused incidents with numerous injured or dead.”
What is behind this increase in violence?
“One thing is certain: the high social unrest due to political systems that do not meet the needs of the citizens of the 21st century. In addition, some see in these manifestations a possible Forum of Sao Paulo 2; promoted by countries such as Cuba and Venezuela and that somewhat unsuccessful the idea of socialism of the 21st century,” Pedro Trujillo Alvarez adds.
According to him, “In any case, the reality is that Latin American political systems seem to be in crisis and invite us to an updated reflection but also to reread the sociologist Juan Linz and his work on the presidential system and its weaknesses. Most institutional indicators point to inequality, poverty, authoritarianism, but especially to the lack of justice, high corruption and the absence of an adequate rule of law, as causes that prevent the legal certainty necessary for citizens –you can carry out your activities and develop successfully.”
A report from the Igarape Institute, a Brazil-based think tank in 2018, claimed that since the turn of the twentieth century, the Latin American region has lost two and half million people to murders; they further went on to comment saying “the sheer scale of violence is breathtaking “. The use of an unusual adjective to describe murder aside, it is a largely known and accepted fact that Latin America aside from active war zones is a fairly unsafe region of the world.
“While the above is true it would be unfair to paint the entire region with a single stroke of the murderous hue. Each country has its own tryst with crime; rates of murder and organized and petty crime vary vastly from one state to the other,” opines Prof Aparaajita Pandey, Institute of Public Policy, Amity University.
However, a few underlying factors that contribute to this violence can be observed in most Latin American nations. According to Ms Pandey, “Acute inequality of income, strongly delineated race and class lines and an overall economic slowdown in the region have largely been identified as factors that eventually lead to social unrest which manifests itself in violence.”
In her view, “The Central America countries like Honduras and El Salvador have been associated with homicidal violence for some time now. However, with the economic slowdown and extreme recession in countries like Brazil and Venezuela; the rates of crime have increased exponentially in these countries as well.”
The recent spate of unrest across the continent has also been an added factor in the rising rates of homicide. “While most countries have descended into political violence, countries like Colombia are witnessing a new wave of political protests amid rumours of economic reforms that have coupled with the ongoing discontent with the Duque regime about its inability to curb corruption and murders of Human Rights Activists. The Colombian police have attacked the protesters with teargas grenades and a curfew has been put on most parts of Bogota, Medellin and Cali; the cities that have emerged as the hub of protests,” says Prof Pandey.
The Dominican Republic has been engulfed in controversy over the deaths of American tourists since the beginning of 2019. While the FBI has not mentioned any foul play in these murders; the Trump administration has still issued a travel advisory to its citizens travelling to the Dominican Republic.
“Latin America undoubtedly needs a political, social and economic catharsis without which the unsuccessful model of its governments can end up causing it to convulse as it happened in many countries of the region during the Cold War years,” Pedro Trujillo Alvarez observes.