WHEN GOVERNMENTS AND
COMMUNITIES PROVIDE SECURITY,
SMALL BUSINESSES AND START-UPS
FLOURISH AND CREATE THE ECONOMIC
GROWTH AND JOBS NECESSARY TO
REDUCE CRIME. MEDELLÍN, CIUDAD
JUÁREZ AND RIO DE JANEIRO OFFER
REASON FOR OPTIMISM.
BY DÓRA BESZTERCZEY AND SHANNON O’NEIL
Latin America has the sad distinction of being one of the world’s most violent regions, with crime rates double the world average. Actively struggling to provide safety to their citizens, Latin American governments are pouring mil- lions of dollars into law enforcement, and in some places even deploying the army. Many
countries are also working to strengthen law enforcement
institutions through reforming court systems and professionalizing police forces. While these are all important
measures, governments risk losing sight of the relationship between security, economic opportunity and growth.
In the long term, only prosperous societies will be
able to address the roots of today’s escalating insecu-
rity. The deciding factor may well be the fate of micro,
small and medium enterprises—the mainstays of the
region’s economies and the drivers of job growth and
economic output. Unfortunately, these entities are also
on the frontlines of the bloodshed—hit hardest by ris-
ing violence. Latin America’s future, as a result, hangs
in precarious balance.
Just a few years ago, Ciudad Juárez was Mexico’s fast- est growing city, burgeoning with new maquilado- ras churning out auto and computer parts, medical supplies and consumer goods bound north. Universities, restaurants and real estate blossomed in the