Latin America is a peaceful region, but very violent and criminalized.
The “peaceful” dimension refers more to the fact that there are no high-level military tensions that threaten regional stability and that there are no real chances of confrontation, despite certain border skirmishes with weak security dilemmas.
However, the nature of the region is complex, violent and precarious.
Namely, of the 50 most violent and dangerous cities in the world, 42 are Latin American, and while the region accounts for 13% of the world’s population, 40% of the world’s violent homicides occur there.
There is more violence and crime in Latin America than anywhere else on the planet.
Despite this, at the onset of the Covid pandemic, as expected, there was an interesting drop in traditional crime in the region, shifting violence and major crime to homes.
This decline may be due to the fact that traditional crime has been affected by social isolation and altered daily life in most countries.
On the other hand, cybercriminals have taken advantage of the pandemic and cybercrime has increased by over 70% in the region.
The rise of crime and violence in the pandemic
From May 2020, traditional criminal structures and phenomena began to adapt to new emergency and surveillance situations in different countries.
The implementation of population control and social isolation strategies in most Latin American countries by state institutions has highlighted distracted states.
As security forces patrolled rural and urban areas performing unusual health work, criminal groups and organizations were strengthening their governance capacities in various territories.
And in weaker countries with more distracted institutions, criminals quickly began to adopt and emulate the distinctive elements of states.
In Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, for example, armed groups of different natures have supplanted the roles of the state in territorial, social and economic order and control.
The trafficking of minors between Haiti and the Dominican Republic has increased by 60%, the participation of dangerous Mexican drug cartels in the various geographical nodes of Colombia with the Gulf Clan, the Pelusos and others, has increased to the point where this dynamic is understood as criminal diplomacy.
Meanwhile, the Central American MS-13 and Barrio 18 maras have found new methods of money laundering in law firms.
Crime and the construction of legitimacy
These examples do not demonstrate that the pandemic is the cause of crime and violence, but they clearly show that it has accelerated the phenomenon.
The rise in crime may have an interesting explanation: the operations of the security forces in the streets and the health distraction of the states have left the way open for criminals to build a certain legitimacy in certain Latin American territories where the organizations were already established. .
Indeed, both in Central America and South America, some outlawed armed structures have imposed their own isolation measures and took advantage of the precariousness of state public policies to protect the population, administer justice, prevent contagion, build access roads and weave underground passages. relations with the population.
All this at a high social cost.
Thus, the pandemic gave a stronger impetus to criminal governance and exposed the main institutional shortcomings of the region.
In conclusion, as policymakers in different states continue to read their country’s security context in police and military terms, criminals understand that legitimacy is a fundamental resource in their survival strategy.
The militarization of security is not directly proportional to a state of peace, non-crime and non-violence.
We need a better reflection on private security and a better proximity to the “daily security” of ordinary citizens, so that there are better civic-state relations and not civic-criminal.
For all these reasons, Latin America is a very peaceful but dangerous region.
Translation by Maria Isabel Santos Lima
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