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Discourses on Violence in Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Nicaragua: Social Perceptions in Everyday Life


Author Info

  • Sebastian Huhn

    (GIGA Institute of Latin American Studies)


Central America has the reputation of being a violent region with high crime rates, youth gangs, drug traffic, and ubiquitous insecurity. Politicians, the media, and social scientists in and outside the region often claim that the societies are in complete agreement with their judgment of the situation and that all society members are calling for law and order and social segregation. Focusing on Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, the paper analyzes the social perception of violence and crime. On the basis of essays written by secondary school students and interviews with citizens from all walks of life in the three countries, the paper points out how elite arguments on violence and crime are translated into everyday life, and what society members suggest be done to deal with these problems. The sources prove that there are noticeable hegemonic discourses on violence and crime in Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. Simultaneously, a majority of the respondents call for social and integrative solutions rather than the so-called “iron fist.” The repressive trend in Central American policies therefore does not necessarily receive the presumed affirmation asserted by many authorities on and in the region.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies in its series GIGA Working Paper Series with number 81.

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Length: 30 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:gig:wpaper:81

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Keywords: Central America; violence; crime; public discourse; social perception;

This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


References listed on IDEAS
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  1. Ziggy MacDonald, 2002. "Official Crime Statistics: Their Use and Interpretation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(477), pages F85-F106, February.
  2. Peter Peetz, 2008. "Discourses on Violence in Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Nicaragua: Laws and the Construction of Drug- and Gender-Related Violence," GIGA Working Paper Series 72, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
  3. Sebastian Huhn & Anika Oettler & Peter Peetz, 2006. "Exploding Crime? Topic Management in Central American Newspapers," GIGA Working Paper Series 33, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
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Cited by:
  1. Sebastian Huhn, 2009. "The Culture of Fear and Control in Costa Rica (I): Crime Statistics and Law Enforcement," GIGA Working Paper Series 104, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
  2. Sebastian Huhn, 2009. "The Culture of Fear and Control in Costa Rica (II): The Talk of Crime and Social Changes," GIGA Working Paper Series 108, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
  3. Sebastian Huhn, 2008. "A History of Nonviolence: Insecurity and the Normative Power of the Imagined in Costa Rica," GIGA Working Paper Series 84, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.


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