Security In Latin America Highest In Panama, Nicaragua

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A recent Gallup poll indicates that Panama and Nicaragua are the two countries with the highest perceptions of security in Latin America.

The poll finds that, while Latin American and the Caribbean was the region where respondents felt least secure in their communities, the overall perception of safety has improved. In 2009 the region scored a 54 (on a scale of 0 to 100), and in 2013 that improved to a 56. The region with the highest perceptions of security came from Southeast Asia, East Asia, the United States, and Canada.

Panama and Nicaragua were the two top performing countries in Latin American and the Caribbean, each scoring a 67 and improving seven and nine points since 2009, respectively.  Ecuador was another country that saw big gains, registering a 14 point jump to score a 63—fourth best in the region.

Chile ranked third in the region, with a score of 66, a seven point jump from 2009. Uruguay ranked fifth with a score of 62, a three-point improvement from 2009.

The country that scored the lowest in Latin America, and the world, was Venezuela, with a score of 41—a four point drop from 2009. Only 26% of Venezuelans responded that they had confidence in their local police and 19% said that they felt safe walking alone at night in their city or area. A startling 22% said that they had money stolen from them or a member of their household in the last 12 months.

Bolivia, which had the region’s lowest score in 2009, saw a five point increase to score 47.

The findings in the Gallop poll correlates highly with other measures of economic and social development, such as GDP. Countries with higher perceptions of safety tend to better in terms of development.

The poll concludes that, apart from the personal human impact of violence, there are economic impacts as well. According to the UN Development Programme, an estimated 0.5% of GDP in Latin America was lost in 2009 due to excess mortality attributable to homicides. In Honduras alone, the country with the highest murder rate in the world at 90.4 per 100,000 inhabitants, violence and crime are estimated to have cost the country 10.5% of GDP in 2010.

Panama and Nicaragua have both experience significant economic growth during the past several years, contributing to less crime or political violence.

The survey was conducted by telephone and face-to-face interviews with about 1,000 respondents in each country, aged 15 and older. Respondents were asked three questions pertaining to if they felt safe walking their city at night, if they had confidence in their local police, and if they or a household member of theirs had been stolen from in the past 12 months. The poll’s margin of error was ±2.1% to ±5.6% 19 times out of 20.

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