Copenhagen Consensus Center
Home Menu

Copenhagen Consensus Latin America: Violence and Crime, Cohen Rubio

By Mark A Cohen and Mauricio Rubio

The working paper used by the Expert Panel is available for download here, the finalized paper has been published in the Latin American Development Priorities: Cost and Benefits book by Cambridge University Press. 

Short Summary

Crime and violence is a major concern in Latin America. The main issue is the high incidence of crime, followed by drug trafficking, proliferation of violent youth gangs, money laundering and domestic violence. In conducting the research for this present paper, the researchers evaluated the nature of the evidence on the extent to which these perceived issues would rise to the level of being “significant,” as well as the evidence on “what works” and what the benefits and costs are from programs that have been shown to be effective. 

There are several very stark examples of this problem in the case of crime and violence in Latin America. For example, the demand for drugs in the U.S. and Europe will have an impact on the supply of drugs in various Latin American countries – and hence will impact organized crime and gang-related violence. Because these markets operate outside of traditional legal institutions, enforcement of property rights disputes, for example, also take place outside normal legal channels –hence contributing to the demand for violence itself. Moreover, because the demand for drugs is coming outside of Latin America, any attempt to reduce the supply of drugs in one “hot spot” country in Latin America will ultimately backfire as drug production is shifted to another country to keep up with the demand. There is good evidence that this has happened repeatedly in Latin America. Thus, without global solutions, a Latin American solution to this problem is unlikely to succeed.