Central America The Most Violent Region

By Dialogo
October 23, 2009

A United Nations report recommends applying “smart authority” to curb insecurity in the region, where the levels of routine violence are the highest in the world. Central America – the region with the highest levels of routine violence in the world – should open spaces for citizen security and human development using a “smart authority” that is neither harsh nor weak, according to a report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The Report on Human Development in Central America 2009-2010 indicated that “smart authority” should be implemented using preventive and coercive actions that “show congruence with the justice system and respect the establishment of the values of civility.” “Opening spaces for citizen security and human development asserts that the keys to success for this new security strategy include, among other measures, real political will, clear leadership, and continuity from one government to the next,” according to the UNDP. The president of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, who chaired the event marking the release of the report, said that it is first necessary to know what the problems are, admit them, and “never deny them,” in order then to be able to solve them. Central America has become the region with the highest levels of ordinary violence in the world, according to the report. “Approximately 79,000 people have been murdered in the region over the past 6 years,” according to the information presented, principally in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. “Despite the significant differences among the region’s countries, the average murder rate reached 33 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2008, three times greater than the global average.” In Honduras, there were 58 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2008. In El Salvador 52 homicides were reported, and in Guatemala 48 per 100,000 inhabitants. Belize follows with 32 homicides, then Panama with 19, Nicaragua with 13, and Costa Rica with 11. The world average is 9, according to the UNDP. The principal problems that affect these countries and raise the levels of insecurity are drug trafficking, gangs, and organized crime. “Violence is affecting one of the essential forms of freedom,” said Rebeca Grynspan, the director of the UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean. “No aspect of human security is as basic as keeping the population from being victimized by fear and physical violence,” she added.