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Latin America

Volume 454: debated on Thursday 14 December 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions she has had with Latin American governments on tackling urban crime and gun violence. (105173)

Urban crime and gun violence are significant problems throughout much of Latin America and are issues that we discuss on a regular basis with the governments concerned. Latin America has some of the highest rates of gun violence in the world. In many opinion polls, tackling violent crime, often linked to the illegal drugs trade, ranks with unemployment as the main concern of citizens in a number of countries. My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, raised security issues with the Colombian Government in his visit to the country in September, as did my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Dr. Howells), in his visit to Colombia and Venezuela in October.

We want to help tackle these problems, and are supporting a range of projects that directly address them. Some examples include support for police reform in Venezuela, one of the worst affected countries, to improve the effectiveness of the police in tackling crime, plus support to local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) addressing the threat of gun crime at community level; in Bolivia we are working with national and local authorities on projects to improve citizen security, community policing and crime prevention; and in Brazil we are working with NGOs and the police to improve security policy and tackle gun violence. We also encourage our partners to address the issue of small arms and light weapons, which contribute significantly to crime and violence in the region.