May 4, 2011

How do violence affect Latin America?

Andres Marroquin experienced this in his native Guatemala, where he regularly saw police and ambulances retrieving bodies along public thoroughfares."I have friends who have been murdered," said Marroquin, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin in Superior. "It's a problem that affects us directly."
The result, he said, is "paranoia -- you're afraid to go out of the house."
His concern about the problem led him to study factors contributing to violence in countries around the world. In a statistical analysis, he found that some of the factors often blamed for rising violence -- poverty, increasing urbanization, even income inequality -- were not significant.Worldwide, the most violent countries had more ethnic and linguistic diversity, lower educational levels and weak rule of law. The highest rates were in Latin America, he said.
Homicide rates in Latin America could be affected by the availability of guns, especially after the Central American civil wars of the 1980s, the long-running conflict in Colombia and Peru's insurgency in the 1980s and 1990s. But efforts to calculate the impact of factors such as guns and drug trafficking are stymied by a lack of data, Marroquin said.
In his 2009 study of worldwide homicide rates, "the strongest variable is governance," particularly the effectiveness of the judicial system, Marroquin told CNS. The implication for policy makers is that scarce resources might best be used to reduce corruption and increase effectiveness in a country's legal system, he said.
Marroquin stressed that his study looked at worldwide factors in violence and that there is probably variation from region to region, between countries and even within countries. In Guatemala, for example, he has found that homicide rates in eastern Guatemala are three times those of the West. He suspects that could be due to drug trafficking routes, but lacks the data for detailed analysis.
"We know that drug trafficking affects" homicide rates, "but we don't know how much," he said.
Thanks to Barbara for writing this.

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