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Post Latin America World's Most Violent Region: *WSJ*
Created by John Eipper on 04/14/14 3:38 PM

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Latin America World's Most Violent Region: *WSJ* (Richard Hancock, USA, 04/14/14 3:38 pm)

While most of our recent posts have been about Africa, we should not forget the Spanish colonial impact on present-day Latin America. In the Wall Street Journal of April 11, David Luhnow reports on the UN Office on Drugs and Crime's Global Study on Homicide since 2011. This study show that Latin America is by far the world's most violent region. For 2012, Latin America was the site for 31% of the world's homicides, whereas it population is only 8% of the global population. Latin America and the Caribbean have 13 of the top 20 homicide rates in the world. Honduras is the top, with 90.4 homicides per 100,000 people, and Venezuela is second (53.7). This is compared to a world average of 6/100,000. Belize is no. 3, El Salvador, no. 4, Guatemala, no. 5, and Jamaica, no. 6. Only Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa were ranked in the top 10, the rank held by Colombia (#10). Brazil is ranked 15th with 22 homicides/100,000. Mexico is ranked 18th. The US homicide rate is 4.7/100,000--well above that of any other industrialized country.

Alejandro Hope, a security expert at the Mexican institute for Competitiveness, blames the following: weak law enforcement institutions, a vibrant narcotics trade, a culture of violence, economic inequality and the region's chaotic urbanization of the past three decades which created rings of slums around large cities. I would certainly agree with this evaluation, but would add my own thoughts from years spent in Mexico and Central America. The thing that amazed me about El Salvador, where I spent two years as Peace Corps director, is that Salvadorians have no feeling that they are participants in their government. This is true from the wealthy top down to the lowest peon.

Alexis de Tocoqueville in his book, Democracy in America, cited the US citizen's feeling of participation in government as the main reason that democracy has thrived in the US. I found that in El Salvador, the wealthy few avoided taking public stands on political questions. They felt that politics was a dirty business and that an honorable person should avoid taking part in this process. (Under the table, of course, they are very influential.) I think that one of the greatest attributes of our nation is that our wealthy elite do feel a responsibility to contribute to the welfare of our society. There are of course exceptions but most of our elite, from the Rockefellers to the Fords and on to Bill Gates, all feel that they have a duty to contribute to the commonweal. I think that Bolívar felt this strongly when, at the end of his life, he stated, "I have plowed the seas."

The Latins are very concerned about friends and families, but they exhibit little confidence in government. It is almost a case of "every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost." One of my concerns about the US today is the growing disrespect that people feel toward our government. I think that this is caused in part by the fanaticism both on the political left and on the right. We need to seek the middle ground.

JE comments:  David Luhnow's article can be accessed here:


Note that Mr Luhnow distinguishes between homicide and war-related violence, which is one reason Afghanistan doesn't make the top ten.  Still, Latin America doesn't emerge in a positive light.  One thing that surprises me in this survey is that the United States, despite its violent reputation, is actually below the world average for homicides.

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