Much of the challenges faced by Latin and South America, parts of Africa and the Caribbean, stems from deeper issues other than the obvious default reason of poverty.
If we are able to dispense with the preconceived notion that poverty is the defining crime-driving characteristic we may be able to have a meeting of the minds on the role political corruption plays in the metastasizing effect of crime.
Before we talk about corruption it may be a good idea to look also at the idea that for the most part high crime producing countries have largely been nations which have had a hard time governing themselves after been freed from the chains of colonialism.
Among some of the nations which have struggled with deep social issues are Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico.
In many cases the problem of crime has worsened as a direct result of Government’s inaction or in others their direct action.
In Colombia and Mexico, two of the Nations which have waged decades-long wars against narco-traffickers, a large part of the reason the problem has been so intractable has been the corruption of public officials at all levels.
Colombia is a nation which I generally point to as a model of decided leadership against crime and corruption.
Much of Colombia’s change may be attributed to the hard-line politician named Alvaro Uribe after he took over the Colombian presidency. He would go on to rule the country for eight years, until 2010, scoring major victories against violent groups on the left and right. President Uribe was barred constitutionally from running for a third term.
Today in the words of Colombia’s official tourist slogan: “The only risk is wanting to stay.” As for Colombians themselves, a worldwide poll conducted late last year by WIN/Gallup International Association found they are not just in passably good spirits. They are the most contented people on the planet, with a “happiness score” of 75 — almost double the global average. (Canadians were No. 18 with a score of 48.)
The murder rate remains troubling according to ( the star.com) by most accounts — 33.2 deliberate homicides per 100,000 population in 2011 — but that figure represented a sharp decline since Uribe took power in 2002 when the rate was more than twice as high, at 70.2.
President Uribe was barred constitutionally from running for a third term in office in 2010, and his anointed successor, Juan Manuel Santos, was elected in his place.
As late as 2002 The large cities — Bogota, Medellin, Cali — were still mostly shuttered at night, and inter-city roads were frequently impassable owing to the threat of robbery or kidnap. Meanwhile, the drug gangs were flourishing, and vast swathes of the countryside were controlled by armed rebels.
The bad statistical indices — those for extortion, kidnapping, and murder — are way down, while the good indicators are sharply up, including employment, tourist arrivals, foreign direct investment and economic growth. Savvy outsiders now consider Colombia a safe place to invest their money and a great country to visit, a land where personal security no longer needs to be a major concern, at least not for those who stay clear of drugs and politics.
Despite all of these positives, not everyone is happy with the sharp turnaround in Colombia made possible by President Uribe’s strong band decisive leadership.
Gimena Sanchez, a Colombia expert at the Washington Office on Latin America, a U.S.-based think tank, says many unresolved problems lurk behind Colombia’s new and improved façade, including some 3,000 extra-judicial killings committed by the armed forces during Uribe’s two terms.
“Now we’re seeing an increase in killings of human-rights defenders,” she says. “The conflict has shifted, but the perception that everything is great and there are no problems isn’t true. It’s not the full picture.”
Despite the meteoric rise in the confidence of the Colombian people in the dramatic turn around of their country, the buzzwords are the very same.
Never mind that there is generally no evidence to back up claims of extrajudicial killings claims from the those who purport to be advocates for human rights they make those scurrilous claims anyway.
In the 18-year period leading up to 2002 when President Uribe took office, the process knows as La Violencia, claimed upwards of 200,000 lives in Colombia.
Colombia’s murder rate around the turn of the century was the highest in Latin America. In 2002, at least 28,387 people were killed in the country, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Its homicide rate of 68.9 per 100,000 people in 2002 was more than 10 times higher than Costa Rica (6.3) and nearly twice that of Guatemala (37.0) and Venezuela (38.0).
Despite the changes and the consistent annual downward trend of homicides in Colombia, there are those who are fixated on what authorities did to bring sanity to their country.
Those criticisms are usually made from the comfort and safety of countries with none of the existential threats the nations they target face.
Jamaica has a decision to make, unfortunately, it does not seem like there is a Jamaican Uribe anywhere in the two political parties
There is nevertheless no shortage of Jamaican style Gimena Sanchez.