Before 2018 is over, more than half the population of Latin America will have elected a new president. At the top of new leaders’ agendas will be the task of effectively addressing an epidemic of violence that has made Latin America home to a third of the world’s homicides despite having only 8 percent of its population.
The region’s citizens are fed up and demanding solutions. In Mexico, where the murder rate in 2017 was the country’s highest on record, voters just elected former Mexico City mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador on the promise that he would take on crime and the corrupt elites who turn a blind eye to it. López Obrador has called for his incoming government to form a security strategy by consulting international experts, religious leaders and others in a series of forums that will begin on Aug. 7.
It’s an important first step. The implications of not acting, for Mexico and the rest of Latin America, have seldom been clearer. The homicide epidemic has already killed more than 2 million Latin Americans since the turn of the century, and violence will continue to drag down economies. Widespread frustration, in turn, threatens to provide the perfect kindling for demagogues and critics of democracy.