BUENOS AIRES – Crime and violence plus the economy have become over the past year the biggest concerns for Latin Americans, who also see domestic violence as what most damages their societies, according to a Latinobarometro survey released Friday in Buenos Aires.
On the average, crime is the most important problem for 22 percent of Latin Americans, topped only by the sum of those worried by economic problems including unemployment (16 percent), shortages of basic goods (3 percent), inflation (3 percent) and poverty (3 percent).
Among the 18 countries in the region analyzed in the study, the inhabitants of Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Chile, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, El Salvador and Uruguay rate insecurity as their most important problem.
Elsewhere, Brazilians see health as their biggest concern, while for Bolivians it’s corruption and for Argentines it’s the general state of the economy.
For the first time since 1996 – the year of the first Latinobarometro – the study asked what kind of violence is most harmful for society.
“Surprisingly,” the study says, “the majority of Latin Americans (63 percent) believe the most harmful kind for a country’s development is not the violence perpetrated by criminals in the streets but is rather domestic violence, whether inflicted on women or children.
Though the index of concern for insecurity has remained stable over recent years, there has been a reduction in the number of respondents who say they themselves have been crime victims, from 44 percent in 2015 to 36 percent in 2016.
However, only 12 percent of those interviewed said “they have no fear” of suffering crime directly.
“The evolution of crime as the main problem is not related to statements of victimization,” says the study by the Chile-based NGO Latinobarometro, but rather to the changing demands of different societies.
“More importance than a better economy is given to crime because, in comparison, other problems lose their importance,” the institution’s Executive Director Marta Lagos said Friday at an international presentation of the study in Buenos Aires.
This implies that Latin Americans live with “high stress” because they fear violence both inside and outside the home.
On the positive side, acknowledging that domestic violence is a major problem “indicates the dismantling of machismo” and of a society that “is becoming more open,” Lagos said.
This opening is also seen in other aspects analyzed in the study, which includes such issues as trust in the political systems and the way Latin Americans get their information, and which is based on some 20,000 face-to-face interviews taken between May and June 2216 in 18 countries of the region.