Crime-weary Latin Americans lose faith in state mechanism

October 4th, 2008 - 9:42 am ICT by IANS  

Mexico City, Oct 4 (IANS) Six out of 10 people in Mexico, Colombia and Brazil have said they depend more on security outside the due process of law given the high crime rate and corrupt law enforcement in their countries, says a recent report quoted by the EFE news agency.During the presentation of the report at the headquarters of the Mexico City municipal government recently, former Bogota mayor Antanas Mockus said that 28 percent of Mexicans are prepared to carry a gun to defend themselves, while in Barranquilla, Colombia, that figure was 23 percent.

The survey was carried out among 10,000 people over the age of 14 in several cities of Colombia, Brazil and Mexico, said Mockus, who was accompanied by Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard.

The Colombian politician said that the survey touched on topics such as trust in public officials and leading figures in the social and political sector and asked respondents about their values and perception of the judicial system, as well as of various government institutions.

Most of those polled were sceptical about their country’s police officers, politicians, judges and even clergy, and said they put more trust in relatives, friends, fellow students and workers and even in their neighbours and teachers.

The survey also showed that 19 percent of respondents in Mexico City said extra-judicial punishment of criminals was justified and 10 percent even said they favoured legally unwarranted killings of lawbreakers.

Ebrard said the study will help in the formulation of public policies to combat impunity and crime.

“It’s a very pertinent study that we should use to develop broad, intensive actions to change some of the results presented to us today, because to the extent we achieve that, we’ll have a better society,” Ebrard told EFE.

Mexico has been rocked by a wave of violent crime involving warring drug cartels that has left some 6,000 dead - mostly gang members and police - over the past two years. A rise in the number of kidnappings has also sparked outrage among the population.

Colombia has suffered through a decades-old armed conflict involving leftist guerrillas, far-right paramilitaries and army soldiers in which civilians have often been the victims, although levels of violent crime in major cities have dropped in recent years.

Lack of public safety is also a major concern in Brazil, with parts of large cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo controlled by heavily armed drug gangs.

Police have committed numerous rights violations in trying to recapture control of the slums, while corrupt off-duty or former police are known to extort “protection” money from local residents.

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