Iturralde, Manuel. “Democracies without Citizenship: Crime and Punishment in Latin America.” New Criminal Law Review 13 (2010): 309-32.

Jail cell in Latin America

Caption: Daily Mail: Prisoners in an overcrowded cell in El Salvador, March 2012 (Courtesy: Dailymail) I selected this picture because it directly correlates to what the author is talking about. It gives a visual representation to some of the themes in the article. In this picture you can see an overcrowded prison. Overcrowded prison systems show how the law and the justice system are ineffective. In the eyes of Latin Americans these inefficiencies are seen as an instrument used by the elites to oppress social classes lower than them.

In the article, “Democracies without citizenship: Crime and Punishment in Latin America,” Manuel Iturradle sheds light on the criminal justice system and how the elites in Latin American countries have impunity. The author talks abundantly about the struggle to prosecute organized criminals in Latin America and how security agencies have violated human rights. The victims consist of different lower social classes that make up the majority of the population. In eyes of the lower social classes, they see the law and the judicial system as a mechanism to oppress them by the elites. As a result they don’t trust the authorities and view them as being “evil.” The author also talks about how Latin American countries have adopted the concept of democracy and free market, yet their legal system is far from democratic. In Latin America, there is a hug gap between the idea of law and reality. To understand why this is the case, the author looks back at history for answers. He demonstrates that while the rest of the world was modernizing, Latin American countries were not able to move towards modernity. Their path consisted of “conquest, genocide, and widespread violence” which shaped todays legal practices. Todays judicial branch is weak and unstable because it lacks independence. As a consequence it is easily controlled and manipulated. Manuel also exposes the different actors involved in these regions and their roles. These actors include United States, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank.

The author does a magnificent job explaining why the legal system in Latin America is weak and unstable. It looks at history, particularly the Colonial and independence period, and explains how they have shaped todays justice system. He also links the lack of independence of the justice system from the executive branch to the impunity of political elites. He explains how the executive branch plays a role in weakening the judicial system. Manuel Iturralde also portrays a strong point when he talks about the idea of democracy that exits in Latin America. He states that democracy exists in Latin America, however it is only provided to the political elites in power. Those who are in different social class from the elites are excluded from democracy. The author connects this concept to social justice saying that democracy should provide social justice to all. However, in reality the elite enjoy impunity while majority of the population suffer from injustice. There are evidence that the government is unable or unwilling to prosecute state agents and the elites who committee crimes. Crimes such as human rights violation, political corruption, and “white-color crimes.”

This article reflects on some of the concepts we talked about in class. These concepts include, violation of human rights, the gap between wealthy and underprivileged classes, and the lack of full democracy in Latin America. This article can be useful for my own research because it provides figures and percentages of imprisonment rates, murder rates and prosecuted cases in recent years in Latin America. It also compares the statistical figures to other countries across the world. These statistics demonstrate how murder rates vary in Latin America compared to other parts of the world. They give you a sense of what is going on.

Tags: Latin America, Violation of Human Rights, Caudillismo, Social Justice, Social inequality, World Bank, IMF, IDB, El Salvador, Political Elites, Impunity

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