Crime and populism prevent abolition in the Caribbean


on 28 February 2010

Juan Matos de Juan, Chairman of the committee against the death penalty, Puerto Rico Bar Association, says that many factors can explain that trend: a tough stance against crime, political and popular support for the death penalty and American influence in regional politics.
Amnesty International’s death penalty coordinator Piers Bannister, made an implacable demonstration: “Behind the tourist picture of the Caribbean, reality is not so pleasant. Poverty is a serious problem, many people are living in very difficult situations.”

“Let’s hang people”

The region has the highest crime rate in the world. For example, Jamaica has the third crime rate in the world after South Africa and Colombia. Whether it is gratuitous violence, domestic violence, ethnic tensions or drug-related violence, people want solutions faced to the accumulation of crime. Piers Bannister explains: “To tackle crime, politicians are saying ‘Let’s hang people’, and the population is enthusiastic about it. Politicians can’t break the circle, even if they are personally against the death penalty.” The challenge is to create an environment in which everyone can live express their conviction.
Saul Lehrfreund, Co-Director of the Death Penalty Project (UK), shares the same opinion. “We have to find a dynamic inciting politicians to make a change. They can’t hide behind biblical references or the law of the Talion anymore. We need to help the Caribbean make courageous decisions.”

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