Punitive populism and fear of crime in Central America

Authored by: Sebastian Huhn

The Routledge International Handbook on Fear of Crime

Print publication date:  December  2017
Online publication date:  December  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138120334
eBook ISBN: 9781315651781
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315651781-27

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Abstract

Twenty years ago, in 1996, the Guatemalan government and the guerrilla-umbrella group Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG) signed a peace treaty to end the last Central American armed conflict of the twentieth century. After a century of civil wars, revolutions, contra-revolutions and authoritarian regimes, the region was in peace and at least formally under democratic rule. Optimism and hopes for a peaceful and non-violent future were respectively high in the 1990s. Nevertheless, those hopes were only short lived. All Central American countries were soon to be affected by high crime rates and violence as serious and enduring social problems. In statistical terms, the region is today known as one of the most violent in the world for crime and violence. With more than 100 deaths resulting from violence per 100,000 inhabitants, El Salvador had the highest global homicide rate in 2015. Honduras and Guatemala have similarly high homicide rates. In contrast, Nicaragua and Costa Rica have relatively low regional homicide rates of 10 per 100,000 inhabitants, but these remain high relative to the global average. 1

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