Categories
Regional Stability

Time to Deal with the Epidemic of Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean

Police take a suspected drug trafficker off a helicopter in Hermosillo in the state of Sonora. Photo: Knight Foundation/flickr

The daily bloodshed on the United States’ doorstep is the clearest sign that something is rotten in the neighborhood. Headless torsos swinging from lampposts in Ciudad Ju√°rez in Mexico contrast all too sharply with the clean streets of El Paso just across the border, ranked one of the safest city’s in the United States. But Mexico is not alone in experiencing alarming rates of violence. Taken together, the Americas are home to 14 percent of the world’s population, but more than 31 percent of its homicides according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

A ruthless epidemic of violence is afflicting many states and cities in Central and South America and the Caribbean. The region’s homicide rate is more than double the global average. And in contrast to other parts of the world, whether North America, Western Europe, Africa, or Asia, the patient is getting sicker. Six of the top ten most violent countries in the world are in Latin America and the Caribbean, with most of the victims consisting of young men under 30-years of age. Violence against women is also intensifying. And for youth living in low-income settings, there is a 1 in 50 chance that they will be killed before they reach their 31st birthday.

Pre-crime Identification – the FAST Program

Sweaty palms and an elevated heart rate: are you having bad thoughts? Photo: barrowboy/flickr

The Department of Homeland Security seems to be developing technologies reminiscent of the pre-crime unit depicted in Phillip K. Dick’s “Minority Report”.

The department’s so-called “FAST” project — which stands for Future Attribute Screening Technology — aims at nothing less than screening people for malign intent: for crimes they have not yet committed.

As the homepage for the FAST project describes, non-invasive sensors will be used to scan people for indications of bad thoughts. Currently, these indicators factor in posture, gait, thermal imaging of the face and changes in vocal tension while speaking, but might be extended to include other things, such as pheromones.

Frantic in Zurich

Zurich, Switzerland, courtey of Zug55/Flickr
Zurich, Switzerland, courtesy of Zug55/Flickr

Roman Polanski went missing in Zurich upon his arrival for the Zurich Film Festival.

The festival’s welcome comittee waited in vain at the airport for the¬†director of such brilliant films like Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Chinatown (1974) and The Pianist (2003). He received an Oscar in absentia for the latter; in absentia because he has been a fugitive from US justice since 1978 when he pleaded guilty to having drugged a 13-year-old girl and forced himself upon her.

Instead of facing jail time, Polanski escaped to France, where he was safe from extradition to the US. Since then Polanski has been very careful not to travel to countries where the long arm of US justice might reach him.

However, this finally happened on Saturday when Zurich police arrested the 76-year-old on an international arrest warrant. It didn’t take long for the Swiss art and film scene to decry and condemn the move as “a slap in the face for the entire cultural community in Switzerland.”

Conspiracy theorists quickly pointed out the fact that Polanski had traveled to Switzerland before and even owns a house in the fancy mountain village of Gstaad. They believe that Switzerland wanted to suck up to the US authorities after the legal troubles of UBS and the attack on the country’s banking secrecy laws.

These theories however are probably complete nonsense.