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THREAD: For many years, I believed Africa probably had the world's highest murder rates. Or maybe the Mideast. But that simply isn't so (the Mideast is actually remarkably peaceful in terms of criminal violence). The region with by far the highest homicide tally is Latin America.
Unfortunately, few people in Latin America are aware of this. So we set out to explore the problem and see what we could learn about Latam's murder epidemic. Here was the first story in a series: wsj.com/articles/400-m…
One of the big factors behind Latin America's violence is very powerful groups of organized crime. In weak states of Central America, gangs have become so strong they are as powerful as the government. This helps fuel migration to the U.S. wsj.com/articles/pay-o…
In Mexico, organized crime has led to a record murder tally. Sadly, that body count doesn't even include more than 37,000 people who are missing - disappeared so that their remains can't be found and mourned by loved ones. wsj.com/articles/its-a…
Thanks to a government offensive begun in 2006, Mexico's large cartels were broken up. They are so fractured that many have become gangs more than cartels, who prey on locals and run elaborate schemes of extortion. wsj.com/articles/a-feu…
In much of Latin America, the police are poorly paid and trained, and the judicial system is ineffective. That creates impunity, which only feeds more crime. Victims of crime, or their loved ones, are often victimized by the judicial system again. wsj.com/articles/after…
Judicial systems are so weak that many citizens in places like Mexico and Brazil take justice into their own hands, lynching suspected criminals. These murderers are not hardened gang members, but ordinary citizens, including grandmothers. wsj.com/articles/in-a-…
Another reason there is so much crime in Latin America is domestic violence. Many women grow up fearful of men, some of whom who resent female independence. And violence at home damages children, who often grow up to become violent themselves. wsj.com/articles/it-is…
Latin America also leads in homicide by gun. In Brazil, gun control failed to prevent guns from landing in hands of criminals. So a new president wants to make it easier for "good people" to own guns, too. Violence experts say this may lead to more murder. wsj.com/articles/brazi…
Not all is lost, however. Countries like Ecuador and cities like Cali, Colombia are have success reducing murder rates by strengthening institutions like police and courts, and launching social programs aimed at vulnerable youth. wsj.com/articles/insid…
And these brave women in El Salvador have found healing in standing on stage and talking about issues of violence. wsj.com/articles/a-sal…
From our reporting around the region, my firsthand impression is that countries like Colombia, Chile and Ecuador understand how to fight violence. Countries like Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela, sadly, do not. It will be many years and much more death until they hopefully learn. END
One more thing: This won't change until elites in these countries come to grips with the problem of weak institutions. Sadly, many don't care all that much b/c the vast majority of victims are poor, and in Brazil and Colombia, black. That's the sad truth.
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