Evaluating common hypotheses for violence in Central America
Ellis, Geoffrey A.
Bruneau, Thomas C.
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This thesis endeavors to bring analytical clarity to the assumptions that inform proposed policy solutions to the alarming rise in violence in Central America. The thesis evaluates three of the most common hypotheses for citizen insecurity in the region: the impact of structural economic problems like poverty and inequality; the efficacy of state criminological approaches; and the effectiveness of internal security institutions. To evaluate each hypothesis, the thesis uses a comparative case analysis of Nicaragua and El Salvador. In spite of dramatic divergence in violence outcomes, the two countries share many variables including geographical proximity, economic development challenges, a history of civil conflict, and democratic transition in the 1990s. Using homicide rates as the most reliable indicator of violence, the findings reveal that structural economic problems like poverty and inequality have only an imperfect correlation with citizen security. On the contrary, variables that correlate more closely with peaceful security outcomes include the effectiveness of security institutions—characterized by sophisticated plans, sound structures, and adequate resources—and rigorous criminological approaches as characterized by community involvement, efficient intelligence-gathering mechanisms, and recidivism reduction programs. The thesis's implications pertain not only to Central America but also to troubled regions throughout the world.
RightsThis publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.
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