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Lecturer critiques ‘most violent region’

| Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Rafael Fernandez de Castro Medina, head of the department of international studies at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México and former foreign policy advisor to former Mexican president Felipe Calderon, examined Latin America as a hotspot of increasing violence and crime in a lecture Tuesday.

In his presentation, entitled “The World’s Most Violent Region: Causes and Possible Solutions for Latin America’s Crisis,” Fernandez outlined the report he created for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which detailed the statistics about the growing violence, crime and fear in Latin American countries.

Latin America, he said, is the “single most violent region in the world, and it has been very costly.”

Fernandez said that this violence has lead to an “insecurity crisis” in Latin America, which has left 11 Latin American countries with epidemic homicide rates — defined as more than 10 homicides per 100,000 — and 1 million citizens killed over ten years.

Though economic stability is usually an indicator of a country’s violent crime rates, Fernandez emphasized that recent economic reforms have not eased Latin America’s homicide troubles.

“In the past 10 years, economic reform has done really well [in Latin America], and then on top of that, we have people coming out of poverty and still violence increases,” he said.

Not only are crime rates still rising in these countries but they are “growing exponentially,” Fernandez said. He said Honduras is the most violent country in Central America with 90.4 homicides per 100,000 people in 2012; that is an increase of 3.9 homicides per 100,000 people in just one year.

This consistent increase in violent crime rates has had a huge negative effect on the morale of the Latin American people, Fernandez said.

“Thirteen percent [of Latin Americans] said that they would like to change their place of residence because of violence,” he said. “Half of Latin Americans don’t want to go out at night because of fear. This is too much.”

Fernandez outlined the key factors he has observed as to why the trends of violence are not improving.

“It is about social fabric and of course it is about social capital,” he said.

Fernandez and his colleagues collected data at various prisons in Latin America, and he found that many prisoners came from broken families. For instance, 28.2 percent of Chilean inmates surveyed never knew their mothers and/or fathers and 56 percent left home by age 15, Fernandez said.

Another issue Fernandez addressed was the problems with states’ capacities for combating crime.

“There is more private police in Latin America [than public police],” he said. “Not only that but regulation is terrible … we have big problems with police, justice systems and prisons.”

Improvements can be made, Fernandez said, as long as there is “sustained commitment from decision-makers.”

“It isn’t a two-year or three-year effort; it’s a ten-year effort,” he said.

Fernandez further outlined more of his ideas for alleviating the violence, including prevention institutions, reducing impunity, aligning federal, local and state actors in politics and strengthening research into accurate crime data for the regions. With this information, Fernandez said Latin American governments can better combat crime and lower the violent crime rates for the future.

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