A New Campaign Against Latin America’s Epidemic of Homicide

Earlier this month in Culiacán, Mexico, according to a report from the New York Times, the veteran journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas, chronicler of the drug cartel–fueled violence that today ravages large swaths of Mexico and Latin America, was murdered. He was the sixth Mexican journalist killed just this year, and one of the more than nearly 130 who have been killed or “disappeared” since 2000.

Terrible as the end of Cárdenas’s lifestory was, however, it is far from unique. Like literally hundreds of thousands of other people in Latin America, Cárdenas was the victim of an epidemic—not of a disease, but of homicide. Indeed, there is a murder in Latin America every 15 minutes. Every day, 400 people suffer violent deaths. Every year, 144,000 join them.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Latin America is the most violent region in the world. Despite being home to only 8 percent of the global population, Latin America accounts for 38 percent of all homicides in the world. In the years between 2000 and 2016, more than 2.6 million human beings were killed. The violence is on a scale that only the war zones of the Middle East and Central Asia can match.

And if nothing is done, the problem will only get worse. Absent concerted and determined action, by 2030, the homicide rate could increase from 21 to 35 per 100,000.

But Latin America is not doomed. This open wound can be healed; the bloodflow can be stanched. If appropriate measures are taken, consistently and sustainably, there can be hope. That is the fervent belief of the nearly 30 separate organizations—from Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico—behind #InstintodeVida [site in Spanish], a new region-wide campaign devoted to homicide reduction.

To address this crisis, and to show that the problem of homicide in Latin America is not insurmountable, this campaign supported by the Open Society Foundations will offer grassroots activists and decision makers policies derived from new and innovative analyses and data.

The Laboratory for Analyzing Violence of the Rio de Janeiro State University, for example, has mapped homicide reduction programs in the region and identified those policies most likely to create tangible results.

Similarly, experts and advocates are working to make homicide data more reliable through the use of a protocol, the first of its kind in the region to be produced by a cooperation between civil society and government.

Further still, the campaign is offering a public policy menu for homicide reduction—a document which synthesize technical learnings from those in Latin America and across the globe. With this menu as a touchstone, campaign partners are developing advocacy efforts intended to pressure decision makers to commit to launching homicide reduction plans where they don’t exist already, and to fine-tune and reimplement those which have been developed in the past.

At its core, the members of this campaign understand that until politicians in Latin America agree to undertake concrete and tangible policy reform, the homicide crisis will not abate. This is an issue that affects everyone, from those in the most at-risk communities to those who enjoy positions of social and political leadership. Cooperation must be total, and all ideas must be on the table.

The guarantee of basic physical safety is fundamental to an open society. But this promise cannot be met by any individual group alone. If Latin America is to pull itself out of this abyss and build a future where stories like that of Javier Valdez Cárdenas become the exception, not the rule, then campaigns like #InstintodeVida must be supported. Maintaining the status quo cannot be an option—too many lives are at stake.

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Life should not be short if you are making the difference; least, if it is cut short by making a difference.

wide spread of homicide and its increasing rate reflects the fact that its a global phenomena as it happens in all societies even if Latin America is experiencing the highest rates. In my country Sudan homicide also increased during the last two decades targeting the activists and human rights defenders and most of them are youth and specifically from some areas and groups which means that homicide also has an ethnic face. Since I had an opportunity to learn from Latin America lessons on violence especially violence against women as part of ELLA study tour to Mexico which took place in November 2016, I learnt that violence in all its forms and whoever targeted by violence women , girls ,men and youth and in order to reduce homicide it needs to be tackled in a comprehensive approach that having policies and laws in place is important but not enough there is a need to conduct researches to address the root causes of violence; social, economic and political as well as working with the community through educating community members by concepts of human rights, gender and peace and coexistence, sensitizing decision makers to enact laws and develop policies based on justice and equality, respect of human rights and democracy and rule of law, also the comprehensive process should be participatory that various actors to be engaged in developing policies such as officials , CSOs, community leaders, students, media and youth groups to ensure realizing a society free of violence and homicide.

Not this again.

LAC (Latin America and the Caribbean – three subregions) isn't the most violent region in the world or anywhere near it, there are many regions with greater violence. Not surprisingly, this is supported by the leaders in the global security sphere. The author is trying to make out the Middle East 'can only match' LAC (what?) and thinks Africa isn't worth mentioning!

This is utter insanity and flies in the face of what is accepted consensus on the issue.

You mean South and West Asia? Central Asia is not dissimilar to Central and South America in the violence stakes while likely worse than the Caribbean.

LAC is well down the list of most violent regions globally, Central America being the worst of the three subregions but I count at least 6 or 7 in the ROTW that are more violent. it isn't a serious discussion just tabloid fodder. The sort of stuff that sells newspapers.

It's also disrespectful.

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