Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Uruguayans turn tough on crime to tackle growing violence


MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) — Long famed for being a peaceful haven in South America, Uruguay is experiencing what some analysts and international organizations describe as an “epidemic” of violence.
Homicides in Uruguay increased by 46 percent last year, reaching an official rate of 11.8 per 100,000 people. The figure is far below the alarming homicide rates, often fed by drug wars and gang violence, in countries like Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela. But Uruguay’s homicide rate is now higher than most South American nations and is at a record high for the small country of about 3.5 million people.

Many Uruguayans have decided that drastic measures are in order. In less than a year, some 407,000 people — about a sixth of eligible voters — have signed a formal petition calling for a referendum to implement tough policies against crime. It will be held at the same time as the presidential election in October, amplifying crime as a campaign issue.
The initiative seeks life imprisonment for crimes such as multiple murders, contract killings and the rape and murder of minors. It would also give the military a greater role in domestic security by creating a 2,000-member national guard, eliminate probation for serious crimes and allow night raids with the approval of a judge.

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