Violence, victimization and attitude towards democracy in Latin America

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GESI Analysis 6/2018

Abstract: The present work has the objective of examining whether there is a correlation, on the one hand, between violence and attitude towards democracy and, on the other, between victimization and attitude towards democracy.

For this purpose, Latin America is taken as the geographical area and the period 2005 - 2015. Also, two hypotheses are proposed and comments will be made on how many cases are confirmed.



Latin America is the most violent peace region on the planet. However, the threats and risks to their security do not come from abroad, but from the instability of their States caused by structural problems such as corruption, organized crime, democratic fragility, high levels of unemployment, lack of legal security, high levels of inequality and, in some countries, extreme poverty (Castillo Castañeda, Martín Peccis & Ríos Sierra, 2015).

In this sense, the scenario of violence in the region is not determined by interstate conflicts, but by robberies, intrafamily violence, kidnappings, femicides, trafficking in persons, traffic accidents, homicides, among others (Martín Cubel, 2016). This situation is usually reflected immediately in perception of personal insecurity or the economy, either through lack of investment or the closure of businesses. But perhaps the most important are its long-term effects.

One wonders what repercussions the climate of violence and insecurity may have on democracy. Not only in reference to the erosion of the credibility of certain institutions, but also in terms of the deterioration of citizens' attitude towards democracy. There are authors who maintain that for a democracy to work, a political culture in accordance with it is necessary. In this sense, the effects of violence and insecurity in Latin America on the political culture of the citizens of the region should be a concern.

In line with the above, Cruz (2000) raises the idea that the violence, crime and insecurity problems that predominate in Latin America, while affecting the political culture, constitute one of the biggest problems for the legitimacy of democracy. The repercussions that these problems can have on politics is a little studied topic, as Bergman points out,

Similar changes in the economic and political landscape [of Latin America] would have surely triggered a torrent of books and research interests. Yet, one of the most puzzling questions in the literature is why such a drastic deterioration in public security and rise in criminal activity have not produced a wave of new volumes in the field. (2006: 213).

The preparation of this work has the humble purpose of helping to alleviate this lack of studies. Thus, the purpose of the following pages is to examine whether the homicide rate and the percentages of victimization are related to support for and satisfaction with democracy. The period studied is 2005 - 2015, and the selected countries are the 18 in which the Latinobarometro Corporation conducts surveys (excluding Spain).

The work is divided into five parts. In a first section, the theory about the variables that are usually used to examine the state of democracy is exposed and some case studies in Latin America are reviewed on the incidence of violence and victimization in the attitude toward democracy. Next, the methodology used is detailed. In a third section the results of the correlations between variables are shown. Fourth, the conclusions are indicated and it ends with a section of references.


Effects of violence and victimization on the democratic political culture

The quality of democracy in some Latin American countries is still low (Mainwaring & Pérez - Liñán, 2015). Although almost all the States of the region have adopted a system of democratic government, the truth is that a large part of them suffers from a series of problems, some of which are potential dangers for democracy. Perhaps, the most pressing are corruption, institutional weakness, violence, insecurity or organized crime, but not all have been paid the same attention from the Social Sciences. However, to examine the state of democracy, economic, institutional and cultural variables have been used.

Taking economic variables, authors such as Lipset (1992) or Przeworski (2007) point out that a country is more likely to maintain a democracy the greater its economic development. These studies usually use per capita GDP as an independent variable. However, in some cases this hypothesis has been refuted. For example, the 2017 Latinobarometro Report shows that democracy and economic development do not go in the same direction. There is a smaller number of households that have difficulties to reach the end of the month, but at the same time the decline of democracy is increasing.

On the other hand, taking institutional variables, authors such as Ayala Espino (2002) affirm that the erosion of democracy obeys an inadequate institutional design, therefore, the main variable to take into account when studying the state of democracy they are the institutions. In this sense, Dhal (2012) points out that democracy requires a series of requirements for its subsistence. These would be free, fair and frequent elections, alternative sources of information, freedom of expression, autonomy of associations and inclusive citizenship. However, there are many authors who have warned that compliance with these requirements does not ensure the survival of democracy, but also requires a political culture that supports it.

Combining the previous approaches, Mainwaring and Pérez - Liñán (2015) take a series of institutional and economic variables to study the state of democracy in Latin America, concluding that a higher level of development, a solid state, an institutionalized party system and a pro-democratic leadership are variables that contribute to strengthen democracy. They claim that, in a large number of countries in the region, the quality of democracy is still low. Moreover, they detect some cases in which democracy is eroding[1]. That is, cases in which there is a process of deterioration of the quality of democracy in a sustained manner, although this does not lead to the establishment of an authoritarian regime through a coup d'état.

However, although they do not give a deep treatment to the implications that violence may have on democratic regimes, they do point to the undermining of Colombian and Guatemalan democracy by the presence of armed actors. Precisely, the existence in Colombia of the guerrillas, the paramilitaries and drug trafficking are elements that make the country present democratic deficits. On the other hand, democracy also severely limits the existence, in some areas of certain Latin American countries (such as Mexico or Brazil), of organized crime and militarized responses by the State[2].

Adopting cultural variables, Almond and Verba (1992) were pioneers in the attempt to construct a theory about political culture. They affirmed that democracy needs citizens with a certain political culture. The argument is that a democratic system requires a political culture in accordance with it. These authors define political culture as those "specifically political orientations, positions related to the political system and its different elements, as well as attitudes related to the function of oneself within said system" (Almond and Verba, 1992: 179). They suggest that political culture congruent with democracy is civic culture, a mixed type that combines the modern with the traditional or, according to its own categories, a culture that mixes participatory and subject orientations. In short, citizens are expected to feel involved in democracy and be an active part of it.

Inglehart (1988) and Diamond (1993) also argue that attitudes related to political culture "may have fundamental political consequences, being closely linked to the viability of democratic institutions" (Inglehart, 1988: 46). Although the theory of political culture has been criticized, it remains a fundamental concept in the analysis of democracies. Cultural factors alone do not explain the constitution or performance of a democratic system, but it is also true that, together with institutional and economic factors, they are related to the emergence and persistence of democratic institutions.

To overcome the criticism received, Almond elaborates with Binghan Powell (cited in De Cueto and Smolka, 2011), a proposal in which political culture is understood as the subjective dimension of the political system. It is divided into three levels: systems, processes and government strategies, each of which corresponds to a culture. Systems culture consists of judgments, knowledge and feelings regarding officials, political authorities, the regime and the nation. The process culture is composed of the judgments, knowledge and feelings of the members of the political system about themselves as actors and with respect to the rest of the political actors. Finally, the government strategy culture refers to the judgments, knowledge and feelings towards the external and internal policies of the system.

Taking into account the above, and emphasizing the systems culture, a review is made of some studies that have been done on the variables that affect the attitude of citizens toward democracy, especially taking into account the work that is being done, focus on violence and political culture in Latin America. However, due to the number of variables they handle, it is pertinent to allude to the study conducted by Vargas Chanes and González Núñez (2013), who use a multilevel model to explain satisfaction with democracy in 17 Latin American countries using macro variables (a country level) and micro (individual level). The most significant micro variables are evaluation of the economy, satisfaction with life, level of education, respect for rights and freedoms, perception by gender and ideological tendency. The most relevant macro variable is real GDP per capita in terms of purchasing power.

As it has been pointed out previously, works like this one have an enormous importance due to the number of variables that are taken into consideration. However, the study of the role of political culture and democracy has not sufficiently considered the effect of violence and victimization on the attitudes of citizens towards democratic regimes. Most of the studies that have been done have dealt with the impact of crime on the performance of institutions, as well as on political violence and democracy, but the literature on common violence and democracy is not very extensive. This may not be a problem in countries where levels of violence and insecurity are very low, but it is a challenge for Latin America, because violence transforms political culture and affects democratic regimes (Cruz, 2000).

However, this idea is not shared by all the authors. Thus, García Jurado (2006) believes that political culture is not only composed of what people think, but of what people do. However, this idea is quite debatable, or is it that there is not a previous cultural pattern corresponding to each political attitude? From a similar approach, Tilly & Goodin (2006) affirm that political dissatisfaction is not necessarily detrimental to the strengthening or consolidation of democracy, but depends on the type of dissatisfaction. In contemporary democracies, the essential attribute of an emerging political culture is political dissatisfaction (Dalton & Welzel, 2014). As long as democratic norms are respected, discontent may lead the authorities to carry out reforms that involve a deepening of democracy. These citizens are called unsatisfied democrats, whose attributes would be: 1) they demand more democracy; and 2) they support a series of liberal democratic values (Monsiváis - Carrillo, 2016).

However, this work is framed in the theoretical current that defends that, in Latin America, the risk to democracy comes not so much from the threat of a possible military coup, but from citizen approval to the return of authoritarianism as a way of coping to the situation of insecurity generated by the high rates of violence. And it is that the political culture has an essential role in the construction of a democratic governability and in the formation of democratic societies (Lechner, 1997).

The lack of a democratic political culture can lead to the deterioration of democracy in a given country, even if it has an adequate institutional design and is economically prosperous. Berrocal and González (2000) affirm that the democratic political culture has to reject the solutions of force to face the problems of a society. However, Cruz (2000) argues that the high levels of violence in Latin America hinder the development of this type of political culture. Moreover, they would boost the rise of an authoritarian political culture characterized by:

a) a reduction of public spaces for citizen participation; b) authoritarian attitudes that postpone respect for civil liberties and human rights, [...]; c) erosion of trust in the political institutions of the country; and d) sympathies in favor of leaderships or authoritarian regimes. (2000: 138-139).

In the case of this work, it is points b) and d) that are most interesting. Violence, victimization and insecurity affect political values ​​and attitudes, that is, political culture. Citizens, seeking to face the situations of insecurity and violence that mark their day to day, can end up supporting authoritarian leaders or even show sympathy for hard-line policies that come to undermine rights and freedoms, hypotheses that have been confirmed in some studies.

In this sense, Pérez (2009) examines the relationship between crime and support for military coups in Latin America, using the Americas Barometer database. With the exception of Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela, the citizens of the other countries express support with averages over 50 on a scale of 0 - 100 to military coups under conditions of high crime rates. In addition, the personal perception of insecurity and crime victimization also increase support for military coups.

The author points out that individuals will be less inclined to support extra-constitutional options insofar as they perceive that democratic governments do their work effectively. One of the tasks of the governments is to provide security to their citizens, something that in Latin America they do not always achieve. This leads to citizens betting on strong governments, even accepting cuts of freedoms provided they are secured. In fact, in a previous study, Pérez (2003) points out that as crime rates rise, citizens are more in favor of governments taking repressive and undemocratic measures. That is why it is stated that crime erodes support for democracy.

Taking into account the high rates of violence in Latin America, understanding how this problem affects the attitude of citizens regarding democracy is an important element when promoting stable democratic governance. As Pérez (2009) points out, to the extent that democratic governments are unable to cope with the problems of insecurity and violence that exist in many countries, the legitimacy of democracy will diminish.

A similar argument is raised by Kruijt (2006), who affirms that violence poses a threat to democracy insofar as it destroys the perimeters of citizenship and the moral foundations of the democratic order. The author points out the danger of violence for democratic consolidation, but because of the impact that violence has on the strength of the State. That is to say, that violence, in many countries, is exercised by organized groups that dispute territorial control. However, it does not go into analyzing how violence can erode the support that citizens give to a democracy.

Focusing solely on victimization, Bateson (2009), analyzing the surveys of the Latinobarometro Corporation and the Latin America Public Opinion Project (LAPOP), finds a relationship between victimization and dissatisfaction with democracy, but not with a support for undemocratic options. In his study he exposes two ways in which crime can affect democracy in Latin America. First, a higher degree of victimization would make citizens less participatory actors (a hypothesis that he later refuted). Democracy would be affected because it needs a minimum level of participation that would be undermined by high crime rates. The second has to do with support for authoritarian options. Greater victimization would lead to rejecting democracy as a form of government. This last point is serious because, as Diamond (1997) points out, support for democracy by citizens is an important component for democratic consolidation.

Narrowing the geographic scope, Cruz (2003), in the case of Central America, performs a work in which shows that insecurity and violence are an obstacle to the processes of democratization, as they reduce the population's support for democracy. Victims of criminal violence tend to show less support for democracy, because in these cases citizens may come to believe that this is not the best system for securing them. These results are coherent with what Burnett (2008) states when referring specifically to El Salvador, whose democracy indicates that it is in crisis due to the problems of insecurity and violence in which the Central American country is immersed.

Finally, focusing on Mexico, Barahona and Rivas (2011) carry out a study in which they examine the relationship between victimization and support for democracy and satisfaction with it (among other variables). They conclude that crime victims show a lower degree of satisfaction with democracy, but not less support for it. That is, there is no direct relationship between satisfaction with democracy and support for it. In addition, they find a certain relationship between perceiving that violence did not increase much in the last year and satisfaction with democracy, although not in all the States of Mexico.



Taking into account the previous works, the purpose of these pages is to examine if there is a correlation between violence and victimization and attitude towards democracy. Specifically, the following correlations are analyzed: 1) violence and support for democracy; 2) violence and satisfaction with democracy; 3) Victimization and support for democracy; and 4) victimization and satisfaction with democracy. The geographical scope studied will be all the Latin American countries that the Latinobarometro Corporation takes into account when conducting its surveys[3].

In this sense, the dependent variables will be support for democracy and satisfaction with democracy, which we will call together as an attitude towards democracy. To extract this data, surveys conducted by Latinobarometro Corporation during the period 2005-2015 have been used, taking into account that in 2012 and 2014 they were not carried out.

To see support for democracy, the question is "Which of the following phrases are you most in agreement with?", and the response categories are "Democracy is preferable to any other form of government", "In some circumstances, an authoritarian government can be preferable to a democratic one", "To the people as one, we do not care about a democratic regime that one is not democratic", "No answer" and "Do not know”. "It will be understood as support for democracy only the first category of response. On the other hand, to know satisfaction with democracy, the question is "In general, would you say that you are very satisfied, rather satisfied, not very satisfied or not at all satisfied with the functioning of the democracy in (country)?" And satisfaction with democracy will be understood as the response categories "Very satisfied" / "More satisfied".

In another order of things, the independent variables will be violence and victimization. The violence will be measured in the homicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants, and the data from the World Bank will be taken[4]. It should be noted that, although the period studied is 2005 - 2015, there are some countries for which data are not available every year (Argentina 2013, Bolivia 2013 and 2015, Brazil 2005 and 2006, Chile 2015, Ecuador 2015, Guatemala 2005 and 2015, Nicaragua 2013 and 2015, Dominican Republic 2013 and 2015, and Venezuela 2013). In the case of the victimization variable, this will be measured taking into account whether the person surveyed, or someone in their family, has been assaulted, attacked or a victim of a crime in the last twelve months. The question from the Latinobarometro Corporation that collects this information is the following: "Have you or any relative been assaulted, attacked, or a victim of a crime in the last twelve months?” And the response categories are "You", "Relative", "Both", "No", "No answer" and "Do not know". In this work, the independent variable victimization is a construct that discriminates between being a victim or not. Every person who answers "You", "Relative" or "Both" is taken as a victim.

Taking into account the above, the research questions that guide this work are: 1) What is the relationship between violence and attitude towards democracy (satisfaction with democracy and support for it)? and 2) What is the relationship between victimization and attitude towards democracy (satisfaction with democracy and support for it)? The starting hypotheses are the following:

H1. Citizens will show a lower degree of support for democracy and satisfaction with it as the homicide rate increases.

H2. Citizens will show a lower degree of support for and satisfaction with democracy as the percentages of victimization increase.

The first hypothesis is based on the idea that high levels of violence lead to a situation in which people are willing to support a non-democratic type of regime and lose certain freedoms in order to feel more secure. For its part, the second part of the belief that victimization puts citizens in contact with the institutions responsible for imparting justice. In some Latin American countries, they hardly come to clarify the cases, so they are seen by the citizens as inefficient, corrupt, etc., eroding support for democracy.

As can be seen, what is maintained is that there will be a negative linear correlation between the variables. That is, as the values of the independent variables increase (violence and victimization), the values of the dependent variables (support for democracy and satisfaction with democracy) will decrease, and vice versa.

The concept of relationship or correlation refers to the degree of joint variation that exists between variables. In particular, the focus will be on the linear relationship between two variables. A positive linear relationship between two variables indicates that as the values ​​of the X increase, the values ​​of the Y also vary in a similar way. A negative linear relationship means that the values ​​of the variables vary inversely, that is, high values ​​in X give low values ​​in Y.

To quantify the degree of relationship between the variables, the Pearson correlation coefficient is used. This is represented by r, and adopts values ​​between -1 and +1: a value of 1 indicates perfect positive linear relationship; a value 0 indicates null linear relationship; and a value of -1 indicates a perfect negative linear relationship. However, it is important to note that correlation does not imply causality. Two variables can be highly related without implying that one is the cause of the other (Marín, undated). In addition, we must bear in mind that there will be occasions when violence or victimization and support for democracy or satisfaction with it will be positively correlated. This does not mean that the more violence or victimization the more a democracy is supported or satisfied with it, but simply that there are many other variables that affect the attitude of citizens towards the democratic regime.

For the interpretation of the results, the following must be taken into account: if the correlation coefficient is between 0 and 0.2, the correlation is minimal; if it is between 0.2 and 0.4, the correlation is low; if it is between 0.4 and 0.6, we have a moderate correlation; between 0.6 and 0.8 the correlation is good; and, finally, if it is between 0.8 and 1, the correlation is very good. The above applies in negative values ​​(Lizama and Boccardo, 2014).

Finally, although it has been seen that there are some works on the subject of study of these pages, we believe that this article is a novel proposal for two reasons: 1) no other work that jointly contemplates violence has been found and victimization in relation to support for and satisfaction with democracy for all of Latin America; and 2) none of the studies reviewed works with such a broad period of time.

The second reason is especially relevant, since conducting a study on the effects of violence and victimization on the attitude towards democracy in a single year can lead to misleading conclusions. Also, you can not talk about changes in the political culture in the short term. A multiplicity of variables affect this attitude, and in a single year there may be events such as the arrival of a new president or a negative economic situation that distorts the relationship between the rest of the variables and the attitude towards democracy.



Violence and support for democracy

After making the correlations between violence and support for democracy in each of the 18 countries studied, the result is that in 12 of them the correlation is negative. That is, only in these would the hypothesis be confirmed. However, it should be noted that only in Argentina, Mexico, Paraguay and Peru the correlation is good negative, being moderate negative in Chile and Colombia, low negative in Costa Rica, Ecuador and Dominican Republic and minimal negative in El Salvador, Guatemala and Uruguay. In the other six countries, the correlations are positive or non-existent (the latter case only occurs in Brazil), even being moderate in Bolivia, Panama and Venezuela. This means that, even in years when the homicide rate has risen in those countries, so has democracy support, so it seems clear that other variables come into play.

From the above it is worth highlighting some data. In the first place, it is striking that in El Salvador there is hardly a negative relationship between the homicide rate and support for democracy. During the period studied, the homicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants in this country has not decreased from 41.3, and in the year in which there was a greater percentage of support for democracy, the rate was 72.8. On the other hand, Venezuela is also a case in which the percentage of support for democracy in the period studied has been relatively high compared to the rest of the countries in the region. The lowest percentage was 67% in 2007. However, the country has always had a homicide rate higher than 37 from 2005 to 2015.


Violence and satisfaction with democracy

Taking into account the correlation between violence and satisfaction with democracy, this is negative in 13 countries. In four of them it is moderate negative (Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay and Dominican Republic), in three it is good negative (Argentina, Peru and Venezuela) and in one it is very good negative (Brazil), while in the other five that present correlation negative this is low (Chile and Nicaragua) or minimal negative (Bolivia, El Salvador and Honduras). The remaining five show positive correlations, so it would be in these cases where the hypothesis would not be confirmed. However, it can be noticed that the violence variable has a greater negative correlation with the variable satisfaction with democracy than with the variable support for democracy. That is to say, violence seems to affect more the degree of satisfaction with democracy than the support for it.

As can be seen, in El Salvador the negative correlation is also minimal in this case, from which it is necessary to deduce that, in this country, other variables are what come into play at the time that citizens form their attitude toward democracy. On the other hand, it should be noted that Argentina and Peru repeat in negative good correlations, that is, violence and support for democracy as well as violence and satisfaction with democracy are related inversely and similarly, and this despite the fact that of homicides in both countries is low compared to the average for the region.

The case of Brazil is also striking, because while the correlation is very good negative in the case of violence and satisfaction with democracy, that is null in violence and support for democracy. This means that there is a relationship between a high homicide rate and low satisfaction with democracy, but not between democracy and support for democracy. Finally, it is pertinent to refer to the existing correlation in Venezuela between violence and satisfaction with democracy, because it is a good negative. This contrasts with the positive correlation that exists between violence and support for democracy, which means that there is a relationship between a high homicide rate and a lower satisfaction with democracy, but the same does not happen with support, whose percentage has risen even in years when the homicide rate has increased.


Victimization and support for democracy

For the case of the correlation between these two variables, there are 12 countries in which it is negative. In two of them it is good negative (Costa Rica and Ecuador) and in four it is moderate negative (Bolivia, Honduras, Panama and Paraguay). In the other six it is, therefore, low negative (Brazil, Chile and Peru) or minimum negative (Colombia, Nicaragua and Uruguay). Likewise, there are six cases in which the correlation is positive (although in two it is practically null, 0.05 in Argentina and the Dominican Republic), which means that, for example, although there have been years in which the percentage of victimization has increased in those countries, so has the support for democracy. As indicated above, this must be due to the fact that there are multiple variables that influence the degree of support that citizens show for democracy. In short, the above means that the hypothesis is confirmed in 12 cases.

Regarding the relationship between both variables, the case of El Salvador draws attention again, where there is a moderate positive correlation. That is, the percentages of victimization have increased at the same time as the percentages of support for democracy. Moreover, in 2009, when there was a greater percentage of support for democracy (68%), there was also the highest percentage of victimization in the period studied (71%). Mexico also shows a positive correlation between both variables, something that, as has been seen, does not occur with respect to violence and support for democracy or satisfaction with it. In this case, the variable homicide rate seems to have more weight than the victimization variable on the attitudes of citizens regarding democracy, and this despite the fact that in Mexico there have been years in which the percentage of victimization has been located in a 67% (year 2005). Finally, we must highlight the Argentine case, because, while it presents good negative correlations regarding violence and attitude toward democracy, the correlation between victimization and support for democracy is null.


Victimization and satisfaction with democracy

Regarding the variables victimization and satisfaction with democracy, there are negative correlations in 13 countries. In five of them it is moderate negative (Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua and Venezuela), in two it is good negative (Brazil and Costa Rica), in one it is very good negative (Colombia) and in five it is low negative (Argentina, Honduras, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay). It is in these cases that the hypothesis would be confirmed, because in the other five countries (Bolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama and the Dominican Republic) the correlations are positive. However, it should be noted that, although there are countries where it is not confirmed, victimization seems to have a greater negative impact on satisfaction with democracy than on support for it, since in the latter case our hypothesis was confirmed in one country less.

Referring to some specific cases, in the first place, El Salvador stands out again because, despite having high percentages of victimization and high homicide rates, there is no relationship between violence and victimization and attitude toward democracy. Moreover, the relationship obtained is positive, so that violence and victimization have increased as have satisfaction with democracy and support for it. On the other hand, while there is no negative correlation between victimization and support for democracy in the case of Mexico, it does occur between victimization and satisfaction with democracy. This data is relevant because, if we have previously seen that there are negative correlations between violence and attitude towards democracy, the same does not occur with the variable victimization, which is only negatively related to satisfaction with democracy. That is, the homicide rate seems to be more important than the victimization in the attitude of Mexicans with respect to democracy. Finally, we must highlight the case of Venezuela, a country in which there is a moderate negative correlation between victimization and satisfaction with democracy, but a positive (minimal) between victimization and support for democracy. Venezuelans seem to support a democratic regime regardless of how the homicide rate and victimization rates evolve, which does not prevent there being a relationship between these variables and satisfaction with democracy.



In this paper we have examined the relationship between violence (measured in the rate of homicides per 100,000 inhabitants) and victimization and attitude towards democracy (support for democracy and satisfaction with it). An area study of the Latin American region has been carried out since this is the most violent area in the world.

The concern behind the development of these pages is based on the idea that violence and insecurity are elements that erode the attitude of citizens towards democracy. If true, the survival of democracy in Latin America may not be assured.

To achieve the objective of the work, the theory about the variables that affect the survival of a democracy has been reviewed and a special emphasis has been placed on the culturalist current. In addition, some studies have been reviewed on the incidence that violence, victimization and insecurity have on the attitudes of Latin American citizens towards democracy.

What has been tried to do with the present work is to overcome the limitation that involves studying the incidence of these variables on the political culture of citizens in a single year. Thus, taking as reference the period 2005 - 2015, and the 18 Latin American countries in which the Latinobarometro Corporation conducts surveys, two hypotheses were raised.

The first states that there is a relationship between a high homicide rate and less support for democracy and satisfaction with it. In the case of the relationship between the homicide rate and support for democracy, the hypothesis has been confirmed in 12 countries, while the relationship between the homicide rate and satisfaction with democracy has been confirmed in 13 countries.

The second hypothesis raises the existence of a relationship between high percentages of victimization and less support for democracy and satisfaction with it. As in the previous case, the relationship between high percentages of victimization and less support for democracy has been confirmed in 12 countries, while 13 countries have confirmed the relationship between high percentages of victimization and low satisfaction with democracy.

As has been pointed out, there are countries in which only one of the hypotheses is confirmed, or even none (with the most striking case of El Salvador). However, in aggregate terms, the number of countries in which both hypotheses are confirmed is much higher. In future studies, a greater number of variables would have to be taken, such as level of studies, gender, GDP per capita, and so on. However, these pages can clarify the question of what relationship can exist between the climate of violence and insecurity in Latin America and the attitude toward democracy of the citizens of the region.


José Carlos Hernández is a political scientist and researcher in the International Security Studies Group.



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[1] During the 21st century, the cases would be Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

[2] Mexico is a paradigmatic case of militarization to confront organized crime. Felipe Calderón undertook during his presidency (2006 - 2012) the "war on drugs", and Enrique Peña Nieto has also followed in this same line. In fact, recently an Internal Security Law has been approved that empowers the Armed Forces to carry out police work, a rule that has been criticized by different human rights organizations.

[3] Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela.

[4] Except for Argentina, a country for which there was almost no data in this regard and were taken from the website


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