By Luis Felipe López-Calva
UNITED NATIONS, Wednesday May 15, 2019 (IPS)
– – Development is a very uneven process, accompanied by heterogeneity in
outcomes across sectors, across regions and across income groups. Such process,
Albert Hirschman elegantly established about 60 years ago, constantly generates
tensions and demands for redistribution of resources and power. In this sense,
conflict is inherent to development.
Long term outcomes in terms of
prosperity, equity and peace will always depend on the way in which such
tensions are processed. Indeed, it depends on the way in which actors interact
to solve these tensions; it depends on effective governance.
If tensions are solved by excluding some groups systematically, inequity and violence are more likely to characterize societies. Indeed, we see in Latin America and the Caribbean that violence has become a mechanism to adapt to these tensions and to process conflict.
The Regional Human Development
Report 2013-2014 “Citizen Security with a Human Face” showed
the ways in which crime and insecurity undermine development in Latin America
and the Caribbean. Crime erodes the well-being of citizens and deters economic
growth (Enamorado et al, 2013).
Despite recent progress in citizen
security and marginal reductions in violence, LAC remains
the most violent region in the world. Indeed, a recently released report
by Igarape Institute states that while Latin America is home to
8 percent of the world’s population, 33 percent of all homicides take place
Moreover, 17 of the 20 countries with them most homicides
in the world are in LAC. While, WHO classifies 10 homicides per 100,000
inhabitants as an epidemic, the average in LAC was 24 in 2016, marginally
reduced to 21.6 in 2018.*
We see in the figure below that homicide rates
in the region, in particular for some countries in Central America and the
Caribbean, are much higher than those of countries with similar levels of GDP
For example, Honduras and Congo have similar GDP per
capital rates, however Honduras suffers 56.5 homicides per 100,000 people,
while Congo suffers 9.3. Similarly, while Mexico has close to 20 homicides,
Montenegro, with a similar GDP per capital, only has 4.5.
The homicide rate in Colombia is over to 25, while in Lebanon it is 4. What explains these high rates of violent crime in LAC?
Villalta, Castillo and Torres offer
an overview of existing theories to answer this question in the region. The
economic perspective argues that individuals weight the costs (of eventual
punishments) and benefits to decide whether they engage in crime or not.
The social-structural perspective views fluctuations in
crime and violence as a result of changes in societal structures, culture and
institutions; it supports the idea that rising trends in criminality are a
consequence of changing labor market conditions, exclusion, and economic
The political perspective argues that recent processes in
LAC countries, such as transitions towards democracy, shifts in political
agendas or even the “War on Drugs”, have weakened state control and left
inefficient local governments in charge of public safety.
Finally, social disorganization theory argues that,
similarly to language, roles and social expectations, antisocial and criminal
behaviors are socially learned.
According to this view, areas within cities with low
low-income levels, racial heterogeneity, and residential instability are more
likely to experience social disorganization. Depending on the country context,
a combination of these theories helps explain crime in LAC.
research offers support for the different theories: the sense of impunity in some countries encourages law offenders to
engage in criminal activities; the lacks of confidence in police and justice systems sometimes
prevent victims from reporting crimes (moreover, it’s not rare that corrupt
police collaborate with organized crime in some countries, for money or fear); support
for extralegal violence is significantly higher in societies characterized by
little support for the existing political system; and the lack of
economic opportunities also plays a role as a strong correlation between crime and youth unemployment has been
also demonstrates the effect of inequality in crime (the case of Mexico is
discussed by Enamorado et al, 2016).
As I have mentioned in the past, the pavement of
development in LAC requires effective governance as pre-condition to improve
productivity, inclusion and resilience. That is, effective governance is about
creating socio-economic opportunities, strengthening institutions and enhancing
are challenging tasks as these figures show. Fact-based initiatives such as INFOSEGURA which
aims to promote and improve the quality of information on citizen security in
the region, are critical public policy instruments to address this challenge.
*Homicides rates are expressed per 100,000 inhabitants throughout the post.
Luis Felipe López-Calva is UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Jamaica’s Justice Ministry Rolling out Initiatives to Prevent Witness Intimidation
Jamaica, Monday July 22, 2019 – The
Jamaica government is embarking on initiatives to protect witnesses in trials from
intimidation, including providing buses equipped with audio-video technology,
to assist in securing testimony from witnesses.
Justice Minister Delroy Chuck said two
such vehicles, which will be rolled out soon, will be used to travel to remote
areas where witnesses may be located.
He said other initiatives include
equipping 78 courtrooms with digital audio facilities, and 19 with audio-video
recording apparatus, noting that “with this technology, witness intimidation
will be significantly reduced”.
Additionally, the Minister said,
legislation has been passed to allow witnesses in human trafficking cases being
tried in the Circuit Court, to testify before presiding judges without a jury.
“Our goal, mission and purpose at the
Ministry of Justice is to create a first class justice system that delivers
timely justice to all, irrespective of their socio-economic circumstances,” Chuck
emphasized, adding that a first-class justice system cannot exist without the
proper care and protection of witnesses.
His comments were delivered by Executive
Director of the Legal Aid Council, Hugh Faulkner, at a Witness Care Conference,
at the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, Mona, which ended over
Minister Chuck said engagement such as
the conference are intended to provide a “wealth of information” that should be
used as “critical investments” to yield “tangible results” for the care of
This, he added, is imperative in
spurring civic-minded Jamaicans into action, and sending a message to the
criminal underworld that “witnesses will not cower in fear, but will be
motivated to stand and be counted and play their part in creating a society that
is secure, cohesive and just”.
The inaugural event was a key activity
under the Justice Undertakings for Social Transformation (JUST) Project, a
$19.8 million Global Affairs Canada (GAC)-funded initiative, being implemented
by the Justice Ministry and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
It is supporting justice sector reforms through technical-legal assistance; institutional strengthening; and social order.
Real Estate Board in Jamaica Clamping Down on Developers Who Illegally Sell Properties
Jamaica, Monday July 22, 2019 – The
Real Estate Board (REB)/Commission of Strata Corporations (CSC) is clamping
down on unregistered real estate developers who are selling properties
“For the second time in 2019 we have had
a conviction for an unregistered developer, and both cases are now at the
sentencing process,” said Chief Executive Officer of the Real Estate
Board/Commission of Strata Corporations, Sandra Garrick.
“We want to remind persons that the Real
Estate Board/Commission of Strata Corporation is committed to ensuring that if
developers fail to register they will answer to the law.”
Garrick added that in one of the cases, units
were being marketed and sold in an unregistered scheme for which the developer
had not yet acquired land.
“Part of the REB’s responsibility is to
oversee that purchasers receive what they have contracted and that monies paid
over to developers are used as the Real Estate Act prescribes, meaning the
funds are put in a Trust account and not used as the developer’s personal
money,” she emphasized.
Garrick also encouraged purchasers to do their due diligence when
“As a purchaser, the first thing you
should do is ensure that the real estate developer is registered with the REB
and is allowed to contract business, sell units and advertise. A list of
registered developers can be found on the REB’s website and persons may call
the Board to do checks,” she said.
Garrick pointed out that there are times when the REB may give a developer tentative approval, but will not grant the approval to market the units.
Cayman Islands Leads International Gold Smuggling Investigation
GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands, Monday July 22, 2019 – Authorities in the Cayman Islands are leading a money laundering investigation with the assistance of the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA), following the seizure of gold worth around £4 million (US$4.9 million).
The gold was seized by the NCA as part of an international investigation into a suspected South American drugs cartel.
Officers from the UK’s Border Force, acting on intelligence from the NCA, moved in to detain the shipment at Heathrow on June 1. The gold was being transported from the Cayman Islands to Switzerland, having earlier been shipped to the British Overseas Territory on a private jet from Venezuela.
The bars and pieces of gold, which together weigh around 104 kilos, have been seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act, following a hearing at Uxbridge Magistrates in London.
NCA Heathrow branch commander, Steve McIntyre, said: “We believe that this shipment was linked to drugs cartels operating out of South America. Working with partners overseas and in the UK we were quickly able to identify it and stop it’s onward movement.
“The business model of many organized crime groups relies upon the ability to move money across borders, to fund further investment in criminal activity. If we can stop that it not only causes disruption to the criminal network involved and prevents them benefiting from crime, it also stops that re-investment.”
Nick Jariwalla, Border Force Heathrow Director, added that taking large amounts of money or gold out of the control of criminal networks hits them where they feel it most – in the pocket.
“This was a substantial seizure and demonstrates how effectively Border Force works with law enforcement partners, both at home and abroad, to combat organised crime,” he said.
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