Economic Survey of Latin America and the Caribbean 2012
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Beginning in the late s and into the new millennium, a small group of Latin American and Caribbean governments, multilateral and bilateral donors and non-governmental organisations and private groups initiated a wave of innovative citizen security initiatives Muggah and Aguirre, Key to their success was sustaining support across different tiers of government, sustaining commitment over multiple electoral cycles and scaling a new culture that combined both qualified repression with primary, secondary and tertiary preventive measures.
It builds on two decades of research and the accumulated experiences of international agencies, federal, state and city governments, and civil society groups across the Americas and Caribbean. The chapter first sets out the underlying theoretical assumptions of citizen security more generally. The second section then inspects the dynamics and underlying drivers of violence in the region. Section three explores the future trajectories of citizen security interventions across the region. It emerged as a counterbalance to the more punitive law and order paradigm that has persisted across the region.
Rather than emphasising hard security measures to shore-up state authority and borders, citizen security emphasises responsive statehood and active citizenship as a means of achieving public safety. It encompasses more than security sector reform, which is typically enacted in post-conflict settings, though there are clearly overlapping areas of concern and activity. It is thus distinct from and broader than national law and order approaches to policing and controlling crime.
Nevertheless, the construct has caught-on in the Americas, with most countries now laying claim to a national or subnational citizen security policy, and virtually all international donors aligning their investments along the same lines Muggah and Szabo de Carvalho, There is growing acknowledgment that successful long-term public safety and security frameworks are also those that guarantee the rights of citizens Basombrio Iglesias, , ; Bobea, , Indeed, there are frequent calls among the more conservative Latin America and Caribbean elites for repressive policing, vigilante actions and tough incarceration measures, including lowering the age of criminal responsibility for adolescents and children.
Today it is crucial to move beyond this dated formulation to understand how state policy limitations and failures can be redressed through citizen security policies. States have the ultimate obligation to protect their citizens and to assure basic guarantees of safety and well-being. And yet in many Latin American and Caribbean cities and outlying slums the state is either unable or unwilling to provide these guarantees. Security entities are either predatory or negligent. As a result, there is frequently a perceived and real absence of the state—represented in its most basic form as the provision of law and order and predictable basic services and infrastructure—from socially and economically disadvantaged areas Arias, , ; Muggah, b; Muggah and Souza, A closer examination usually reveals that this is virtually never the case: public institutions and services are always present to varying degrees.
And in using the term state , it is important to specify police, judicial and penal institutions. In Latin America and the Caribbean, it is not just law and order entities, but also military actors that engage in domestic security provision. Yet the presence of soldiers on the streets can generate contradictory messages and messy outcomes, including basic violations of human rights and civil liberties. While warmly welcomed in some quarters, the historical legacy of soldiers on Latin American streets is a complicated one. On the one hand, citizens hold state officials to account for their failures to adequately deliver on their obligation to provide security.
On the other hand, the success of many public safety policies is predicated on positive engagement between police and the population. Although often confronted with a tradition of negligence and systematic mistreatment, finding ways to build engagement between the police and the population is essential for delivering information and designing and implementing an effective policing policy Ungar and Arias, This does not imply vigilantism or lynching, support for which is alarmingly common in some parts of Latin America and the Caribbean see for example ICG, It is framed and backed by the state but guided and shaped through active public engagement IACHR, n.
Citizen security is consistent with—though does not replace—a wide variety of successful policing practices used across the globe including problem-oriented policing, proximity and community-oriented policing, and intelligence-led policing. These can include, but are not limited to, the redesign, renewal and upgrade of urban spaces, targeted job creation, apprenticeship and employment placement programmes, educational measures and school-based interventions for at-risk youths, early childhood and parent-support activities, and formal and informal mediation to reduce inter-group tensions in highly volatile situations Muggah et al.
Private security personnel across Latin America outnumber police officers by a ratio of at least , and this figure rises even higher in some parts of Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico. By privileging security as a private good, societies are being further segmented into haves and have-nots. Rapidly scaled-up interventions modelled on programmes from North America and Western Europe are unlikely to succeed.
A paradox in Latin America and the Caribbean is that even as improvements in democratic governance and poverty reduction have taken hold over the past three decades, violent crime has stabilised and even increased Muggah and Szabo de Carvalho, ; Muggah, b. There are likely many more cases that have yet to be carefully evaluated Muggah et al.
Economic Survey of Latin America and the Caribbean 2012
Another is the tailoring of policy and programme measures to the discrete social, economic, political and related problems faced in each setting Chioda, ; UNDP, , ; Vandereschueren et al. This section considers the wide-ranging contexts of Latin American and Caribbean settings when it comes to organised and disorganised violence. It underlines how differently they clearly experience different forms of insecurity. A schematic framework via which to reflect on the types of citizen security challenges facing specific environments is then presented, followed by a consideration of what sets of strategies can be mobilised to address them.
Meanwhile, Brazilian, Mexican, Colombian, El Salvadorian, Honduran and Venezuelan cities all register high mortality from lethal violence owing to social inequality, lack of employment opportunities, urban segregation, local drug markets, the availability of firearms and the widespread use of alcohol Muggah, ; Soares and Naritomi, ; Briceno-Leon et al.
Across time and space, the social and economic costs of this violence are excessive. Table This is due in large part to rapid and unregulated population growth, higher population density and informal or poorly planned development. As a result, zones of exclusion are quickly established segmenting higher-income communities from lower-income ones Dammert, ; Muggah, b.
These spatially segregated areas can inhibit connectivity with other urban neighbourhoods. They also frequently feature topographic barriers and an uneven supply of and access to social services. This heterogeneity is important to acknowledge when considering the design of citizen security interventions. The extent of violence and its organisation can be visualised as a continuum. For example, in some cities—Medellin, Rio de Janeiro or San Pedro Sula—there is a comparatively high level of violence and that violence is, simultaneously, highly organised.
Meanwhile, in other cities, say Managua or Panama, rates of homicide and crime are comparatively low but there are still organised criminal groups who may play a role in preserving nominal stability Garzon, ; Sullivan, ; Sullivan and Elkus, Although patterns of violence and victimisation can change over time, they nevertheless tend to concentrate in specific locations. In most cities, the largest share of violence occurs on just a few street corners. In Honduras, more than two-thirds of all homicides occur in just three cities.
Some theorists contend that specific areas within cities offer intrinsic opportunities for criminal activity as a result of political neglect and the absence of a state presence together with highly localised economic decay Ackerman and Murray, ; Concha-Eastman et al. Other insights from social disorganisation theory connect higher crime rates with neighbourhoods exhibiting a higher density of offenders, a higher percentage of rental housing, and large social housing projects Vilalta and Muggah, Indeed, the probability of becoming a violence entrepreneur also increases if the individual is brought-up in a highly crime-affected area Vilalta and Muggah, ; Krivo and Peterson, Researchers tend to expect an inverse relationship between improvements in the welfare of the poor and reductions in crime and violence Roger and Pridemore, On the positive side of the ledger, most Latin American and Caribbean countries have experienced dramatic reductions in poverty since It was not always this way.
In spite of civil wars and brutal dictatorships in some Latin American and Caribbean states, homicide rates were closer to the global average during the s and s. Since then, homicide rates steadily increased while murder declined in most other parts of the world UNODC, The precise relationship between poverty and homicide is still a mystery. It is more than just a narrow material measure of dollars per day.
While many people in Latin America and the Caribbean at the bottom end of the social ladder have experienced real income gains, the quality of economic growth has been poor. For most countries, poverty reduction efforts were based on a model advocating consumption.
Poverty reduction, then, was due in large part to direct cash transfers and access to low-wage, part-time work, which resulted in limited social mobility.
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This is because as income grows, the opportunity costs of crime also increase Felson and Clarke, ; Gaviria. There is also likely an increased demand for security and safety as levels of crime rise, forcing more investment in controlling crime. Another insight is that investments in social and economic development alone cannot necessarily reduce criminal violence. It turns out that the size of the middle class and levels of poverty are not on their own statistical determinants of violence trends.
What seems to matter is the speed of development: a 1 per cent increase in the growth rate of GDP correlates with 0. Panel surveys often show that the more unequal a setting, the higher the rates of violence. In spite of demonstrated declines in poverty across Latin America and the Caribbean, inequality reduction is stagnating.
In fact, Latin America exhibits the most unequal distribution of income in the world: including 10 of the top 15 most unequal countries on the planet Deas and Daza, ; Fainzylber et al. There are at least two reasons why more inequality translates into more violence.
First, large disparities in wealth create greater competition in and between populations experiencing high unemployment and limited upward mobility. Second, income inequality generates competition for public goods between the rich and poor. Yet inequality does not tell the whole story. When measures of poverty are included in models used to examine homicide effects, the inequality—homicide effect diminishes substantially. According to some researchers, non-income measures of poverty—including infant mortality rates and the availability of only limited social protection services—also seem to play a statistically significant role in shaping the trajectory of homicidal violence Pridemore, Over half of those who actually do work are tied to the informal economy.
Taken together, more than 20 million young people are not receiving education, training or employment.
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Panel surveys have shown that a 1 per cent increase in youth unemployment leads to an additional 0. The supposed reason for this is that youth are especially susceptible to predation and criminal behaviour, and the benefits of engagement in the criminal market are higher than the formal market.
It is important to stress, however, that employment alone may be insufficient to deter involvement in crime. The perpetrators and the victims alike are typically young people who are out of work, out of school and out of options. As observed by economist Gary Becker in , criminals may determine that the benefits of their crimes outweigh the potential costs. As such, limited employment horizons are associated with a reduction of the opportunity costs of crime.
Unemployment is also connected to a surge in gang recruitment and membership. Relatedly, low rates of education achievement are also frequently correlated with higher exposure to criminal violence. Latin America has expanded access to schools and improved literacy rates, but drop-out rates are still high and school quality is low. The non-completion of school — especially secondary education — is strongly correlated with delinquency. Studies from Bogota indicate that age and educational attainment are key factors shaping violent crime exposure, and that targeted support for permanent income can play an important deterrent role in criminal involvement.
Weaknesses include low institutional legitimacy and uneven capacity. For example, abusive, corrupt and illegitimate institutions may fuel crime. Meanwhile, low institutional capacity ensures law and order is associated with patronage and impunity. In Latin America, just 20 in every murders results in a conviction: the global rate is 43 in There are several explanations for institutional weakness.
One of the most obvious is the legacy of conflict and military rule in countries like Argentina, Colombia, El Salvador or Haiti. Military and police institutions continue operating with a war mentality. Some of them harbour clandestine structures, in the armed forces, intelligence and judicial sectors.
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In Guatemala, for example, right-wing paramilitary groups are still active and are cultivated by powerful elites ICG, All Latin American and Caribbean countries are affected, to varying degrees, by criminal organisations, especially drug cartels, which generate an estimated USD billion in revenues each year UNODC, b.
In many countries, such groups have already penetrated all branches of government, not unlike the mafia during the twentieth century in Italy Bloc, ; Gambetta, ; Godson, ; Varese, After all, a weak state is a boon for organised crime. Buying off public institutions is much more efficient than fighting them. For example, unregulated urbanisation partly explains a surge in homicide rates in large- and intermediate-sized cities and slums Muggah, a.
Moreover, social norms that condone machismo and unequal gender relations are credited with shaping high intimate partner and domestic violence rates Morrison et al. Naturally, distinct settings confront one with distinct types of citizen security challenges, necessitating diverse solutions. For example, there are some settings with several independent criminal organisations in routine violent contact with state actors, as is the case in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador and Mexico.
There are others where criminal groups are highly active but there is less violence, as in Guyana, Peru or Panama. There are still more situations in which levels of criminal organisation are comparatively low but police and military corruption is high, as in Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela. It is of course the case that conventional citizen security approaches are germane to many situations of criminality. That said, in extreme scenarios, particularly in situations of intense state complicity with armed groups, more fundamental state reform, anti-corruption measures, and mediation actions may be more appropriate.
At the centre of Figure These can include improvements in data gathering and use and changes in police practices and behaviour that often serve as a central locus of a variety of policy changes but that do not target particular types of crime Olavarria and Pantoja, Figure For example, in the lower left-hand corner of the central box in Figure New kinds of policing technologies are also increasingly being mobilised in Latin America to address low-level crime, and include geo-referenced crime data, intelligence-led patrol practices, neighbourhood watch groups and open street planning Arias and Ungar, ; Beato Filho, ; Weitekamp and Kerner, ; Weisburd et al.
Experiences from Mexico show that conventional policing strategies—together with prevention measures—can effectively deal with diffuse and uncoordinated criminal activity Calderon, ; Harriott, For example, focused deterrence—identifying the individuals most prone to using violence and engaging them in repeated communication with law enforcement officers, social services and community leaders—seems to have a strong positive effect in lowering violence rates.