‘Iron Fist’ Policies Driving Up Violence in LatAm: Report

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Hard-line security policies in Latin America are increasing violence, according to experts at the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

In Tegucigalpa, Honduras on July 23, representatives from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the United Nations presented their latest reports on security and human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean. Among their findings, both organizations agreed that “mano dura” (iron fist) security policies adopted in some countries were having the adverse effect of increasing violence levels, reported La Red 21.

In addition to contributing to the overall level of violence, hard-line security policies were found to be creating an atmosphere of social stigmatization and violating civil liberties. The targeting of youths who associate with gangs and the lowering of the age of criminal accountability in some countries were highlighted as examples of this.

InSight Crime Analysis

“Mano dura” policies have been shown to have a number of inherent problems, as well as the human rights concerns outlined in both reports. The policies have led to the targeting of youth based on their appearance, acquaintances and other superficial characteristics. An InSight Crime investigation in 2010 found that in El Salvador, the stereotyping led to the stigmatization and alienation of disenfranchised communities. Moreover, the policy was ineffective at combating crime, as the arrested youth were often placed prisons where they were prime targets for gang recruitment.

As part of its mano dura policy, Honduras has repeatedly extended the military’s powers in an effort to fight rising crime. On June 30, a human rights group in Honduras filed a claim with the country’s Supreme Court, alleging that the government’s decision to grant police powers to the military is unconstitutional. Honduran President Porfirio Lobo has proposed a constitutional reform that would create a permanent military police force.

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