"Bullets from the military police ('PM') only kill black people". Protest in São Paulo, 2014. Image: Oswaldo Cornetti/fotos públicas. Some rights reserved.Latin America faces an increase in the use of violence as a way to resolving everyday conflicts. The overwhelming presence of organized crime in most Latin American countries has led to homicide rates which multiply world rates by four, to state-of-emergency and epidemic dimension levels.
Although the countries with the highest homicide rates are Honduras, El Salvador, Jamaica, and Venezuela, regional averages often obscure bloody local realities. The violence index in cities as diverse as Acapulco in Mexico, Trujillo in Peru and some Greater Buenos Aires areas in Argentina is also very high. So, if we are to integrate the geography of violence into our analysis of the diverse of phenomena which are degrading everyday life in Latin America, we must take care to use a specific and localized focus.
The resulting picture is necessarily multidimensional. In many countries which were not previously known for their violence rates, crime is now way higher than it used to be ten years ago. Available surveys show that almost a third of the citizens in Costa Rica, Uruguay and Chile, for example, have been victims of some crime in the last 12 months. This makes it clear that a process of erosion of the quality of daily life is currently going on in many countries in the region.
The visibility of gender violence – which, admittedly, has surfaced progressively -, a violence that strikes in many contexts under many forms - from street harassment to rape and sexual assaults on young girls, teenagers and adults -, is also a recent development. Undoubtedly, traditional patterns of distribution of power between men and women play a central role in the current high level of gender violence, as does institutional indifference towards impunity involved in this kind of crime.
What all of this means is that too many citizens in too many places in Latin America are living in chronic worry and fear, and admit that their main anxiety has to do with the possibility of becoming victims of a crime in the near future, even though it encompasses in fact a variety of constituent elements of present day society. Fear, or the feeling of insecurity, has become a social problem on its own, with an impact on the quality of life of citizens, on the way they relate to each other and on the demands they put to their governments and institutions.
This complex scenario has been chosen by DemocraciaAbierta as a main field of analysis and agency in the region. In partnership with the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Santiago de Chile, our objective is to deepen the discussion on and the knowledge of the multiple, diverse and complex realities of violence we are facing today.
Our purpose is to publish, within DemocraciaAbierta’s Violencias section, contributions from specialists, public actors and civil society representatives who will be addressing topics related to this intolerable epidemic phenomenon in high need of in-depth study.