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JDI Latin America and Caribbean Unit


Supporting research on crime and citizen security, and the professional development of policing in the LAC region.


Archive for the 'Research development' Category

Why government effectiveness and corruption may contribute to the high levels of homicide in Latin America

By José Luis Hernández-Ramírez and Catalina I Mellado Neely, on 5 August 2021

In this post the PhD students Catalina Mellado and José Luis Hernández elaborate a critic to the article of Chainey, Croci & Rodriguez-Forero (2021) related with a potential relation between Homicides and effectivienes of Latin America Governments to provide services and avoid the corruption.


  • Research linking homicide rates and social/economic structural variables show inconsistent (and limited) explanatory power in Latin America
  • Ineffectiveness of governments generates conditions where criminals can operate easily and prosper
  • Poor control of corruption seems related with an increase of homicides levels in Latin America
  • Further research should explore how the functioning of government institutions can affect crime in the region

In their recent article, Chainey, Croci & Rodriguez-Forero (2021) discuss how the high levels of violent crime in the Latin American (LatAm) region are influenced by the ineffectiveness of government institutions. They argue that the ineffectiveness of government institutions, further undermined by corruption, affect society’s perception of government legitimacy, and how in turn it has an effect on violent crime. The authors, claim that traditional approaches that consider that crime and violence are symptoms of early stages of a country’s development are not sufficient for explaining the persistently high homicide rates in LatAm, and do not fully grasp the particular characteristics of the region.

A large body of research examines the link between variations in homicide trends in LatAm with economic and socio structural variables (i.e., inequality, poverty, unemployment, GDP per capita, among others) (Bergman, 2018; Oberwittler, 2019; Vilalta, 2021). However, on review, these studies have not been conclusive in explaining the high levels of homicides in the region. Furthermore, increases in homicides have been observed, on most LatAm countries, with improvements in economic and social development.

In this article, Chainey et al. (2021), review this issue, seeking explanation to these trends addressing the question: What is the effect of government effectiveness and corruption on the high levels of homicides in the LatAm region? To answer this, they draw from research that has begun to examine the influence that government institutions can have on crime levels within a country and perform a cross-sectional statistical analysis that explores variations in homicide in relation to indicators of government effectiveness and corruption.

As part of their novel approach and based on their findings, Chainey et al suggest some theoretical principles that explain how the levels of homicide are related to the effectiveness of governments. The authors state that when government institutions don’t allocate efficiently and effectively resources towards citizen security, they fail to prevent crime and create a void in which criminal activity can thrive.

The failure to deliver sufficient resources for preventing crime in LatAm countries includes the lack of justice and protection of fundamental rights, as well as the poor provision of public security and capacity to generate professional police agencies. This has created areas within LatAm countries where the presence of the government (at local and federal level) is weak or non-existent, which in turn can create an environment that allows criminal activities to develop.

Chainey et al. describe the failure in provide services as an institutional organizational theoretical concept relating to citizen security, and in particular with homicide. They state that “the appropriate use of power and the adequate allocation of public resources in society provide a fundamental basis for the provision of citizen security. When governments fail to allocate sufficient resources to the public institutions responsible for social control and physical infrastructure, and fail to invest in the formation, development, maintenance, and functionality of these public entities, their effectiveness in providing citizen security is hindered. In a public service provision system where corruption is present, particularly in relation to law enforcement and the judicial system, this can lead to high levels of a perceived lack of justice and the legitimization of violence. … [How] institutions operate and how effective they are in the provision of citizen security can influence the homicide levels that are observed”. According to Arias (2016), this can also even create parallel polities, where the voids left by governments are filled by criminal groups that take on the role of the government and supply basic services.

The reasoning that the authors present is innovative in explaining the relationship between the level of homicides and government effectiveness because their findings show the particular significant influence of this factor in LatAm. This contrasts with most research to date because this influence of the effectiveness of government institutions has been included in few studies for examining the high levels of violence in the LatAm region.

Authors point out that their statistical cross-sectional analysis was modest, but that it does offer valuable new insights that can be built upon. This includes improving the statistical analysis by increasing the sample of data that are examined by analysing the evolution of homicide levels over time and its relationship with government effectiveness and homicide.

Within this theoretical framework, and through empirical analysis, the paper concludes by stating that in the LatAm region, where government effectiveness is low and corruption is high, homicide rates are high. It further concludes that to better understand how the levels of homicides in the region are influenced by government effectiveness and corruption, future research should also examine the relationship between homicide and the rule of law, impunity and government legitimacy, corruption.

This article highlights the complex and multidimensional character of homicides. Although variables such as social inequality have an important role to play in explaining variations in homicide levels. institutional factors also appear to influence the high homicides levels that are present in the LatAm region.


The article of Chainey, Croci & Rodriguez-Forero could be consulted at: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-0760/10/5/172 

For more information about the Authors check their personal webs:

Spencer Chainey

Gonzalo Croci

Laura Rodríguez-Forero