What are the root causes of poverty and crime in Central America?

South and Central America’s rampant drug use and expansive drug trafficking network appears to be the obvious scapegoat for the escalation of both poverty and crime rates within the region. Although they do agree that this is a large factor, Olson and Zaino state that there are additional factors playing pivotal roles as well. They claim that certain institutions, such as the USAID, focus the majority of their attention on creating governmental changes. The authors suggest, however, this organizations must instead aim to combat root causes of violence, like corruption, in order to eradicate the issue as a whole (Olson and Zaino, 8). I agree with this statement and believe that governments intending to provide aid to regions such as Central America cannot simply assume that changes within the political system alone will directly result in the reduction of crime and poverty.

Ingram and Curtis argue that social disorganization is also a key contributor to this issue. They state that disorganization is formed in a community through, “population growth, population concentration, mobility or migration” (Ingram and Curtis, 262). In these societies of Central America, a large number of individuals make their living as a migrant workers who travel to the United States. Therefore, it is clear why disorganization is found within these areas. In addition, the authors state that societal disorder leads to poverty as well. They claim that within poverty-stricken regions, there are substantially higher rates in homicides as well (Ingram and Curtis, 262). This helps explain the findings of Jamie Stark. She claims that El Salvador has an, “average now at 25 violent killings a day”, and is on track to become, “the world’s most murderous country outside a war zone” (Stark). Therefore, there are various explanations for  poverty and crime in Central America. Olson and Zaino provide an example of why this crisis seizes to be resolved, while Ingram and Curtis provide just one of the root causes of this issue.


Works Cited:

Eguizàbal, Cristina, Karisa M. Curtis, Matthew C. Ingram, and Eric L. Olson. “Crime and Violence in Central America’s Northern Triangle: How U.S. Policy Response Are Helping, Hurting, and Can Be Improved.” Wilsoncenter.org. The Wilson Center, 19 Dec. 2014.

Wilson Center

Jamie Stark


One thought on “What are the root causes of poverty and crime in Central America?

  1. I agree with your thesis that just changing a political system will not effectively eradicate drug and corruption issues in South and Central America. As seen in both Olson and Moffat’s piece and “Enrique’s Journey” many children and adults manage to leave this region to escape to a “better” life. Creating a democracy in this area will not necessarily change the amount of people who want to leave the region because they still might feel unsafe or may not be able to find suitable employment for their family to survive on. However, by changing issues such as crime rates, gang presence, and illegal drug and firearm trafficking, less people would flee their homeland because they feel more secure. CARSI is succeeding in focusing on the neighborhoods with high crime rates and has decreased the amount of corrupt police officers replacing them with ones that have been trained through the CARSI program. Overall, I find your point valid and I agree with your ideas that by changing the political system in Central and South America there is still a chance that crime rates, drug issues, and corruption will occur.

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