Across Latin America, the debate over how best to reduce escalating crime and violence is often framed as a debate between security and justice – whether governments should focus on punitive measures to suppress crime or prioritize the strengthening of democratic institutions and respect for human rights.  

The report, Seguridad y Populismo Punitivo en América Latina: Lecciones Corroboradas, Constataciones Novedosas y Temas Emergentes (in Spanish), by Latin American Program consultants Carlos Basombrío and Lucía Dammert, summarizes the principal findings of a series of regional seminars held in Latin America and Washington, D.C., with the support of the Andean Development Corporation (Corporación Andina de Fomento, CAF).  The authors argue that to overcome outdated and overly punitive approaches to reducing crime and violence, policymakers must adopt an evidence-based approach that would substitute for the culture of control founded on populist demands for harsh sentences that have dominated the region for decades.  

Basombrío and Dammert examine the characteristics of crime, violence, and the state response in the region; provide five policy-oriented lessons learned based on the region’s recent experiences addressing crime; and explore two emerging issues, the use of pacts with criminal groups to reduce violence and the shifting dialogue on drug policy across the region.

The complete report is available for download below (in Spanish).