Definitions of War, Torture, and Terrorism in Latin America

  • Eros DeSouza
  • Michael Stevens
  • Amanda Clinton
  • Laura Marcucci
  • Madison Mellish
  • Rodrigo Barahona
  • Eddy Carillo
  • Ricardo Angelino
  • Luciana Karine de Souza
  • Sherri McCarthy
Chapter
Part of the Peace Psychology Book Series book series (PPBS)

Abstract

The following are current definitions from the US government regarding war, torture, and terrorism. War is defined as:

The following are current definitions from the US government regarding war, torture, and terrorism. War is defined as:

a breach in any of the international conventions (signed at Geneva 12 August 1949), or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party; prohibited by Article 23, 25, 27, or 28 of the Annex to the Hague Convention IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land (signed 18 October 1907); which constitutes a grave breach of common Article 3 (as defined in subsection (d)) when committed in the context of and in association with an armed conflict not of an international character; or of a person who, in relation to an armed conflict and contrary to the provisions of the Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices as amended at Geneva on 3 May 1996 (Protocol II as amended on 3 May 1996), when the United States is a party to such Protocol, willfully kills or causes serious injury to civilians. (US Code 2009a)

Torture is defined as:
an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control; “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from:
  1. (a)

    The intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;

     
  2. (b)

    The administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;

     
  3. (c)

    The threat of imminent death; or

     
  4. (d)

    The threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality. (US Code 2009b)

     
International terrorism is defined as:
violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State; appear to be intended:
  1. 1.

    To intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

     
  2. 2.

    To influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

     
  3. 3.

    To affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping. (US Code 2009c)

     

Although these official definitions appear clear and succinct, in reality they carry multiple meanings, depending on whom you ask. In other words, these phenomena are subjective, complex, and embedded in ecological contexts and nuances. Thus, the purpose of this chapter is to examine the existing scholarly literature on war, torture, and terrorism, including the official definitions of these terms, and then analyze people’s definitions of war, torture, and terrorism among six Latin American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Peru) and Puerto Rico. Although Puerto Rico is a territory of the USA, it is culturally and linguistically distinct from the USA. Thus, Puerto Rico is not included in the US sample or in the discussion of the chapter dealing with the USA. Another purpose is to report on exploratory analyses of the extent to which definitions of war, torture, and terrorism varied across gender, prior military training, having a relative in the military, and nationality.

Literature Review on War, Torture, and Terrorism

Latin America consists of 33 nations spanning from the southern part of North America (i.e., Mexico) to the southern part of South America and has a total population of 600 million people (Martinez-Diaz 2008). Despite the diversity that exists within and across each nation, Latin America as a whole shares some key features: (a) a rich pre-Columbian past; (b) mostly Spanish or Portuguese colonization; (c) by and large, a racially mixed population; (d) independence from the Iberian peninsula during the nineteenth century; (e) weak political institutions; and (f) economic inequality (Feldmann and Peräla 2004).

When relevant, the USA is discussed in this chapter due to its widespread influence in Latin America. That is, the USA hegemonic power or asymmetry in power relations has dominated Latin American history (Butler 2003). For example, the USA–Spain War that ended in 1898 resulted in the USA acquiring Puerto Rico and other territories in Latin America (LexJuris de Puerto Rico 1996–2006). In addition, beginning in the 1880s until the early twentieth century, the USA used its military strength to influence the independence of Panama from Colombia in order to build and control the Panama Canal and prevent Nicaragua from building a competing canal. In fact, during the twentieth century, the USA has regularly intervened in Latin American affairs economically, politically, and militarily (for a more complete review, see Booth 1988).

War

Compared to other regions of the world (e.g., Europe and Asia), Latin America has experienced very few major wars. Table 8.1 presents a list of the large-scale international conflicts that occurred in Latin America during the twentieth century (Clem 2005; DeSouza and Stevens 2009).
Table 8.1

Conflicts that occurred in Latin America in the twentieth century

Conflict

Years

Countries involved

Outcome

Chaco War

1932–1935

Bolivia vs. Paraguay

Bolivia ceded much of its territory to Paraguay

Peru–Ecuador War

1941 and 1995

Peru vs. Ecuador

Ecuador recognized Peru’s territorial claims

Soccer War

1969

El Salvador vs. Honduras

After mediation from the Organization of American States, El Salvadorian forces withdrew from Honduras, but the war produced losses for both sides

Falklands/Malvinas War

1982

Argentina vs. Great Britain

Argentine forces withdrew from the Falklands/Malvinas

Perhaps their participation in such few major wars is one reason why there is little research on perceptions of war among Latin Americans. For example, to our knowledge, only one study has investigated gender differences in perceptions of war and included a Latin American sample. DeSouza et al. (2011) found in a sample of US and Peruvian college students that women were less likely to justify state aggression (war) against another country than men, even after controlling for students’ age and race/ethnicity. Even though only one study has addressed gender differences within Latin American samples, such gender differences appear to be widespread, as evidenced by studies conducted outside Latin America. For example, a study with adolescents and young adults from Estonia, Finland, Romania, the Russian Federation, and the USA showed that men were significantly more likely to endorse the justification of war and killing than women, as evidenced by their endorsement of the statements: “War is necessary” and “A person has the right to kill to defend property” (McAlister et al. 2001).

Perceptions of Torture

Few studies have been conducted on Latin Americans’ perceptions of torture. Globo (2008) reported on a survey administered to a national sample of Brazilians, which showed that 26% of Brazilians admitted that they would use torture themselves if they were police officers in order to obtain information from suspected criminals. Globo’s (2008) study may reflect not only Brazilians’ but possibly also most of Latin Americans’ perceptions of feeling unsafe and fearful due to high crime rates, especially in urban areas. These feelings of insecurity and anxiety have important implications, in that they may lead many individuals to tolerate a heavy-handed approach (generally referred to as mano dura in Spanish) of crime control, including violence, repression, and violation of human rights, by the police (Goldstein et al. 2007). Under such circumstances, they may have a very restricted view of the kinds of behaviors that constitute forms of torture.

Terrorism

Latin America is also engaging in a “war on terror,” which, unlike the USA’s war that focuses on international terrorism, focuses on segments of its own population (i.e., “internal enemies” of the state). Even though the two “wars” target different groups, the USA has intervened in Latin America’s war, a role that we briefly review here.

The USA has, for the most part, been interested in Latin America only when the USA’s interests are at stake, neglecting endemic problems in Latin America (e.g., widespread poverty, mistreatment of indigenous peoples, political oppression, human rights abuses). Rather than fostering democracy and economic development, the US response to Latin American social/political/economic problems has mostly been to train Latin American officer corps (e.g., through the School of the Americas, which included teaching techniques such as interrogation, torture, and counterintelligence to eradicate the enemy within) and equipping their military with US-made arms (Weeks 2003). According to Taylor (1986), such training and massive firepower are ultimately ineffective and often counterproductive against low-intensity conflicts with insurgents or terrorist groups whose members hide among the local population. In fact, US intervention has created a climate of instability and violence, including state-sponsored terrorism, which Feldmann and Peräla (2004) define as “acts perpetrated by state agents or by private groups acting on orders or on behalf of a state, usually used by authoritarian or totalitarian regimes to terrorize their population and propagate anxiety in order to curb political opposition” (p. 104).

Moreover, from the 1960s to 1980s, many Latin American countries received advice, training, arms, technology, and finances from the USA to fight terror with terror through the creation of death squads, which were used by governments as counterinsurgency tools against their own population (DeSouza and Stevens 2009; McSherry 2007, 2009). These squads engaged in disappearances, extrajudicial executions, and torture (e.g., submarino in Spanish, near drowning or water boarding; planton, forced standing; hanging in contorted positions; confinement in boxes; sexual violence; and forced nudity) to subdue internal enemies (e.g., insurgents but also civilians, especially indigenous populations in the Andean region of South America as well as Central American countries)—a violation of the Geneva Accords (McSherry 2007; Radcliffe 2007). Such unlawful practices, which were extensively used in Guatemala, Peru, and Colombia, for example, are linked to “severe political repression, hundreds of thousands of indigenous deaths, and over a million refugees and internally displaced persons” (Jackson and Warren 2005, p. 552).

Of particular importance was the creation of Operation Condor in late 1973/early 1974, in which some members of the military and police corps of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay formed multinational death squads to engage in counterinsurgency activities, some of which were described above, against targeted dissidents in the war on terror, which were essentially cross-border kidnap–torture–murder clandestine operations (McSherry 2007, 2009). Others called these activities the “dirty war” to describe state repression in which human rights violations were widespread in Latin America. The dirty war was characterized by concealment (e.g., secret roundups, secret detention centers, and secret executions); furthermore, the distinction between terrorists and non-terrorists was blurred (Smith and Roberts 2008). For example, many of the so-called subversives were exiles “guilty” of criticizing their government or asking for change, such as a more equitable distribution of wealth and a voice for oppressed groups in their country of origin.

US attention to terrorism in Latin America has intensified since September 11, 2001 (Sullivan 2010; Weeks 2006), with the USA pressuring Latin American militaries to engage more in domestic law enforcement to combat drug trafficking, intelligence gathering on terrorist groups, and border patrol. One such example is Plan Colombia, the objective of which is essentially to eradicate the source of cocaine—coca crops; however, such a plan also created violence, with indigenous populations being caught in the middle of the conflict between military forces and mafias, militias, drug traffickers, and international terrorist groups (Radcliffe 2007). Through the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Rio Treaty (a.k.a. the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance), cooperation between the USA and Latin America has increased, as evidenced by the signing of OAS members to the Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism in 2002 as well as by the counterterrorism efforts shown by Argentina, Colombia, Panama, Paraguay, Mexico, and El Salvador (Sullivan 2010).

According to Sullivan (2010), terrorism is currently active in the following Latin American nations.
  • Colombia: Specifically, operations by the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN; a Marxist insurgent group formed in 1964 by urban intellectuals inspired by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara), such as inflicting casualties through land mines and obtaining funds through drug trafficking; actions of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC; a Marxist–Leninist insurgent group founded in 1964 by Manuel Marulanda Vélez that claims to represent the rural poor), such as engaging in tactical-level attacks on governmental installations, kidnapping for profit, and narco-trafficking; and actions of the rightist paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC; an umbrella organization formed in 1997 to counter left-wing guerrillas in a way that the military is unable to), such as obtaining funds through drug trafficking.

  • Cuba: Since 1982, Cuba has been listed as a country that supports terrorism in Latin America (e.g., ELN and FARC described above); however, Cuban support of terrorism has significantly decreased since 1992.

  • Peru: Although the Shining Path (a Marxist insurgent group based in the Andes that aims to destroy capitalism) has been substantially undermined since the 1990s with the capture of its leader, Abimael Guzman, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2006, two small factions carried out 61 terrorist attacks in 2008, resulting in the deaths of 31 individuals.

  • Venezuela: Its current government has evidenced some approval for the FARC and the ELN and been accused by the Colombian government of harboring terrorists (Romo 2010) and for support of Cuban and Iranian totalitarian regimes.

  • Tri-border area of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay: This porous region, with a large Muslim population, has been used for the production and movement of illegal goods, including trafficking of arms and drugs, false documents and money, and pirated goods such as films. There are claims that these activities have funded Middle-Eastern terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah and the Sunni Muslim Palestinian group Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement). In addition, the USA suspects that Hezbollah has been linked to two bombings resulting in the deaths of over 100 people—the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires and the 1994 bombing of the Argentine–Israeli Mutual Association.

To understand the causes of what is mostly nongovernmental terrorism in Latin America, Feldmann and Peräla (2004) investigated 1,840 unclassified, reported nongovernmental terrorist incidents in 17 Latin American countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela) during the post-Cold War era (1980–1995). Feldmann and Peräla (2004) defined nongovernmental terrorism as planned, indiscriminant attacks on noncombatants (e.g., civilians) to instill terror in society and weaken the power of the government. They excluded from the analysis government-sponsored terrorist acts, armed incidents between guerrillas and security forces, mob violence, and embassy occupation of a pacifist nature. Their findings revealed (a) a reliable relationship between nongovernmental terrorism and the deterioration of a state’s human rights, supporting the theoretical model that a state’s oppression of its people empowers terrorist groups to act against such an abusive regime; and (b) nongovernmental terrorism is most fertile where only some political and civil liberties exist, a condition that typifies weak democracies. Feldmann and Peräla also found that past history of terrorist activity tends to get worse, suggesting a vicious trend of escalating violence over a period of time.

Previous research has indicated that within and across nations there are a number of demographic variables that may be associated with perspectives on governmental aggression. For example, DeSouza et al. (2011) found that students’ age, race, and general tolerance for a government’s general use of aggression were significantly correlated with support for government retaliation in response to a hypothetical terrorist attack. That is, in comparison to their counterparts, younger and White students, as well as those more inclined to tolerate their government’s general use of aggression, supported harsher governmental retaliation following a hypothetical terrorist attack. When the data were examined separately by country, there was much more variability among Peruvian respondents’ support for governmental retaliation than among US respondents. The US findings were straightforward: Military targets evoked significantly greater support for governmental retaliation than commercial targets; high impact scenarios also evoked more support for governmental retaliation than low impact scenarios.

In addition, DeSouza et al. (2011) found a significant gender difference, but only in the US sample, with men being supportive of hasher aggressive retaliation by their government than women. Thus, US women may be more likely than US men to support maintaining international relations through diplomacy rather than military intervention. Although there were no such gender differences in the Peruvian sample, the purpose of the current study is to examine whether such gender differences may exist among a larger, more diverse sample of Latin Americans.

One possible explanation for the country differences found in DeSouza et al.’s (2011) study is that governmental retaliation to terrorist attacks often spills over into the general population in Latin America but not in the USA. That is, in the war on the Shining Path, the Peruvian government reacted with massive firepower, often not discriminating between innocent peasants and Shining Path terrorists (Kay 2007). In addition, Peru’s antiterrorism laws ignored human rights and legal protection of its citizens, including, but not limited to, threatening and imprisoning human rights activists, journalists, and anyone critical of the government (Starn et al. 2005). In fact, Latin American states have been responsible for an alarming number of victims in the name of fighting terrorists (Wickham-Crowley 1990). According to Feldmann and Peräla (2004), over the last three decades, the impact of state terrorism in Latin America has been far greater than that committed by nongovernmental terrorist groups. Thus, non-US respondents (e.g., Peruvians and other foreign nationals) might recall images of violence perpetrated by the state under the rubric of a terrorist threat and be less likely to support governmental retaliation for terrorist attacks compared to US respondents.

In later chapters in this volume, Latin American views of national security, invasion, and torture are considered in some detail. In the current chapter, we begin with more basic issues: How do Latin Americans define war, torture, and terrorism, and do their views vary in relation to demographic characteristics like gender?

The Current Study

Sample

The sample consisted of 776 Latin American adults. Of these, 51 (7%) were from Argentina, 103 (13%) from Brazil, 69 (9%) from Colombia, 63 (8%) from Costa Rica, 129 (17%) from Nicaragua, 272 (35%) from Peru, and 89 (12%) from Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico is not a country, but it is treated as one in the analysis due to its distinct culture, which sets it apart from the USA). These participants defined war, torture, and terrorism in their own words in a survey that was part of a larger global investigation by Malley-Morrison (2009) that covered 43 countries. The ages of the Latin American sample overall ranged from 18 to 79 years, with an average age of 26.87 (SD  =  10.40) years. The overall sample is mostly female (62%), Christian (96%), and middle class (55%, with an additional 26% being working class, 14% being upper middle class, 5% are of the lowest social class, and 1% of the highest social class). In addition, most (91%) reported that they had never served in the military (only 4% ever served and 6% did not respond); however, most (43%) had a family member in the military (36% indicated that they did not and 21% did not respond).

Design

The present study analyzed respondents’ written definitions of war, torture, and terrorism by moving from a qualitative research approach to a quantitative one based on grounded theory (Gilgun 2005), which allows the creation of a taxonomy made up of categories and subcategories. All categories and subcategories emerged from the data without imposing a priori standards. The coding process began by unitizing all written responses. A unit is an independent and complete idea, which is placed into only one category. Thus, all categories and subcategories are mutually exclusive (i.e., a unit can only be placed into only one category or subcategory); however, a respondent may generate more than one unit (i.e., independent idea). Only marginal and statistically significant results were reported; nonsignificant results were not.

All units were coded as present (1) or not present (0). Thus, when appropriate (i.e., expected cell count >5), we conducted chi-square analyses to determine whether there were significant differences in a given category/subcategory by country. For the entire sample, we examined gender differences, as well as differences by whether the respondent, and any family member of the respondent, ever served in the military. Only the results that were statistically significant (with p values less than 0.05) or marginally significant (with p values between 0.10 and 0.05) were reported. Nonsignificant results were omitted. For further details regarding the methods as well as descriptions of all categories and subcategories, see Chap. 2. In addition, note that the qualitative results section provides percentages based on the number of responses coded for each category divided by the total number of responses. The percentages provided in the quantitative section refer to the number of participants who provided responses coded for each category divided by the total number of participants.

Note that there are multiple voices in each country that this study cannot address. Therefore, caution is warranted when generalizing to other groups, since our Latin American sample is one of convenience.

Results and Discussion

What Is War?

To better understand lay definitions of war in Latin America, we grouped categories that shared a similar theme. In definitions of war, there were five main thematic categories: (1) causes, (2) focus on conflict, (3) qualifications of war, (4) outcomes of war, and (5) moral judgments. There was also a category capturing responses that were uncodeable based on the coding manual.

Qualitative Analysis of War

Twelve percent of definitions of war responses described causes leading up to war. General causes accounted for 20% of causes definitions of war and 2% of all definitions of war responses. A 36-year-old Costa Rican man, for example, defined war simply as “competition.” A 22-year-old Brazilian woman echoed this kind of response in defining war as “two groups with different ideas fighting against each other.” Responses that specified motivation or intent behind war were coded under the subcategory of motivation/intent,which was further broken down into subcategories, including political motivation. Responses describing political motivation were the most commonly used type of responses under the causes major category, accounting for 31% of causes and 3% of all definitions of war responses. A 33-year-old Argentinian man described political motivation when he defined war simply as “capitalism.” Table 8.2 provides additional examples of responses coded for causes.
Table 8.2

Definitions of war: causes

Coding category

%

Example of response

Country

Age

Gender

Quote

General causes

2 (20)

Colombia

21

Female

Lack of communication

Last resort

1 (5)

Brazil

21

Female

Use of violence when there is no other alternative

Motivation/intent

3 (25)

Puerto Rico

20

Female

Using force to achieve an objective

Political

3 (31)

Costa Rica

37

Male

Big transnational business by governments

  

Brazil

24

Female

Power disputes

Self-defense

<1 (4)

Peru

18

Male

Fight against another to defend their rights

  

Argentina

24

Male

Depends on the situation, but typically, it is the defense of a region with the use of armed strength

Moral judgment

2 (14)

Brazil

28

Male

Human ignorance and evil of mankind

  

Puerto Rico

22

Male

Inhuman mediation to win certain causes

Note: Two figures are presented in the percent column for definitions in each subcategory. The first percentage figure is the percentage of definitions coded into the specified subcategory out of the total number of definitions of war. The second percentage (in parentheses) indicates the percentage of definitions coded into the subcategory out of all the definitions in the causes of war category. For example, political definitions represented 3% of all the definitions of war and 31% of the definitions in the causes of war category

Within the Latin American sample, the most common theme was focus on conflict only, which was found in 21% of responses. This code captures definitions that gave a synonym for war; many participants used words such as “battle,” “conflict,” or “fighting.” The general category focuses on conflict only, including responses that simply give a synonym for war, without any further elaboration. Table 8.3 provides further examples of responses illustrating a focus on conflict.
Table 8.3

Definitions of war: conflict and qualifications

Coding category

%

Example of response

Country

Age

Gender

Quote

Focus on conflict only

General conflict

21 (92)

Brazil

23

Female

Fight between people

Nonphysical conflict

2 (8)

Nicaragua

45

Male

Different political ideas and philosophies

Qualifications of war

General qualifications

2 (8)

Puerto Rico

38

Female

Warlike conflicts between countries

Scale or intensity

12 (42)

Nicaragua

27

Female

Armed conflict between human beings

Duration/frequency

<1 (<1)

Colombia

44

Male

Night of aggression against two countries

Groups officially or legally recognized as holding power

10 (35)

Peru

18

Male

Conflicts between nation

Nonofficially recognized groups

3 (10)

Costa Rica

26

Female

Fight between two armed groups

One-sided aggression

2 (6)

Puerto Rico

51

Female

One fighting against the other

Note: Two figures are presented in the percent column for definitions in each subcategory. The first percentage figure is the percentage of definitions coded into the specified subcategory out of the total number of definitions of war. The second percentage (in parentheses) indicates the percentage of definitions coded into the subcategory out of all the definitions in the conflict or qualifications of war categories, respectively. For example, one-sided aggression represented 2% of all the definitions of war and 6% of the definitions in the qualifications of war category

Table 8.3 also provides examples of different qualifications of war. Qualifications refer to descriptions about war that go beyond conflict but describe a characteristic of war such as its size, time, or the parties involved. Scale or intensity of conflict, used in 12% of definitions of war responses, was indicated by participants who mentioned the use of violence, a certain level of fighting/destruction, and/or the use of specific weapons within war. This subcategory accounted for 42% of qualifications responses. For example, a 24-year-old man from Argentina noted, “armed confrontation between two countries or groups of individuals,” and a 22-year-old woman from Costa Rica defined war as a “large scale fight between various countries or on an international level.”

The next most used subcategory is an officially or legally recognized authority (e.g., Congress) that holds political power to make a decision to declare war as opposed to terrorists or insurgency groups. This subcategory accounted for 10% of the definitions of war responses and 35% of qualifications responses. An example from a 25-year-old Brazilian woman reads “When nations are not able to resolve their conflicts in a civilized way and choose combat.”

Table 8.4 provides examples of outcomes of war. The most frequently used subcategory in outcomes (54% of outcomes) focuses on concrete outcomes (i.e., the physical, tangible effects of war or fighting, such as death, violence, injury, and destruction). Thirteen percent of definitions of war responses included concrete outcomes, which was the second highest code given to Latin American definitions of war. These responses mentioned physical effects of war such as death, devastation, or injury. For example, a 22-year-old woman from Puerto Rico noted that war was “death of innocents, destruction,” and a 21-year-old man from Colombia wrote, “massacres, deaths, poverty.”
Table 8.4

Definitions of war: outcomes of war, moral judgments

Coding category

%

Example of response

Country

Age

Gender

Quote

General outcomes of war

2 (6)

Peru

19

Male

The problems that bad governments produce

Concrete outcomes

13 (54)

Nicaragua

47

Male

Death

Abstract outcomes

10 (40)

Puerto Rico

46

Female

Suffering

Moral judgments

12

Brazil

28

Female

Absurd barbarity

Note: Two figures are presented in the percent column for definitions in each subcategory (moral judgments is a major category, so the only number presented represents the percentage of definitions coded for moral judgments out of the total definitions of war). The first percentage figure is the percentage of definitions coded into the specified subcategory out of the total number of definitions of war. The second percentage (in parentheses) indicates the percentage of definitions coded into the subcategory out of all the definitions in the outcomes of war category. For example, concrete outcomes represented 13% of all the definitions of war and 54% of the definitions in the qualifications of war category

The next most frequently used outcomes subcategory (40% of outcomes) was rather abstract, focusing on the intangible effects of war, including emotions and sensations caused by war, such as sadness and pain. It should be noted that the category of concrete outcomes is different from abstract outcomes; 10% of the sample referenced abstract outcomes, which include intangible effects of war such as emotion, which is evidenced by a 22-year-old Peruvian woman in the following part of her answer: “…rage, resentment, hate.”

Finally, 12% of the definitions of war exhibited some sort of moral judgment on the act of war itself, not on the motivations or intentions behind it. For example, an 18-year-old Peruvian man wrote, “state of chaos, bestial act of the human species.” Table 8.4 provides additional examples of moral judgment responses.

Quantitative Analysis of Definitions of War

In regard to quantitative analysis, there were infrequent explanations of factors that might cause or motivate a country to go to war. It is interesting that the analyses showed neither gender differences nor significant differences related to having served or having a family member serve in the military in any of the causes of war categories. By contrast, we found a number of demographic group differences on some of the more common definitions. For example, chi-square analyses revealed significant country differences in definitions related to conflict. (See Table 8.5 for percentages of responses in coding categories by demographic groups and chi-square values.) The country with the lowest frequency of conflict responses was Peru and the country with highest frequency was Brazil.
Table 8.5

Definitions of war: percentages of responses in coding categories by demographic groups and chi-square values

Categories

Demographic groupsa

  

χ2 b

 

Male

Female

   

Concrete outcomes

18

25

  

4.53*

 

Argentina

Brazil

Colombia

Costa Rica

Nicaragua

Peru

Puerto Rico

 

Focus on conflict

51

57

45

55

54

29

55

43.86***

Scale/intensity of conflict

49

36

21

30

33

18

17

33.82***

Officially recognized groups

36

26

18

29

25

9

37

48.23***

Concrete outcomes

11

5

17

19

30

33

15

44.95***

Abstract outcomes

2

6

11

2

16

28

11

52.00***

*p  ≤  0.05; ***p  ≤  0.001

aThe numbers in these columns are the percent of the group that gave responses falling into each of the specified categories

Chi-square analyses also revealed significant country differences in the use of definitions falling into the qualifications subcategory of scale or intensity of the conflict. The country with the lowest frequency was Puerto Rico, closely followed by Peru. The country with the highest frequency was Argentina, which experienced a major conflict with Great Britain over the Falklands/Malvinas in 1982. In regard to another fairly popular subcategory of qualifications responses, specifically references to officially or legally recognized authority involved in war, chi-square analyses again revealed significant differences among countries. Puerto Rican respondents were most likely to provide this form of qualification, closely followed by respondents from Argentina, with Peruvian respondents providing the lowest percentage of responses in this category.

In regard to outcomes, chi-square analyses of the occurrence of concrete outcomes (i.e., the physical, tangible effects of war or fighting, such as death, violence, injury, and destruction) in definitions of war revealed significant differences by country and gender, with Peru having the highest percentage of responses in this category and Brazil having the lowest. As can be seen in Table 8.5, significantly more women than men referred to concrete outcomes in their definitions. Chi-square analyses also revealed significant country differences in the abstract outcomes subcategory, with Peru having the largest proportion of responses in this subcategory and Costa Rica having the lowest.

What Is Torture?

Six major categories emerged from the definitions of torture: (1) intent/motivation, (2) characteristics of the victims, (3) conditions that give rise to torture, (4) judgment concerning torture, (5) focus on method/technique, and (6) outcomes. However, only four major categories were mentioned by a relatively large number of participants, with responses in categories 2 and 3, including their subcategories, garnering fewer than 4% of the responses.

Qualitative Analysis of Torture

Definitions in the category focus on intent, motivation, or emotion including all of its subcategories represent 16% of torture definitions. The most common type of intent response fell into the subcategory for constructive intent, referring to torture as, for example, a means to get information (37% of intent responses). A 21-year-old man from Peru wrote that torture is a “means of obtaining information.” Table 8.6 provides additional examples of responses describing intent.
Table 8.6

Definitions of torture: focus on intent, motivation, or emotion

Coding category

%

Example of response

Country

Age

Gender

Quote

Focus on intent/motivation/emotion general

<1 (3)

Nicaragua

42

Female

An act to cause fear

General destructive intent

<1 (1)

Brazil

19

Female

Purposeful physical and psychological maltreatment

Intent to pressure or break a person

<1 (1)

Nicaragua

25

Female

To break someone little by little

Intent to cause pain, suffering, or harm

1 (9)

Nicaragua

18

Male

To cause pain to a person

General constructive intent

4 (27)

Brazil

26

Male

Unjust way of getting something

Information or compliance

6 (37)

Puerto Rico

48

Male

Coercion by force

Strategic or tactical advantage

1 (5)

Colombia

43

Male

Abuse of authority

Achieve personal goal

<1 (3)

Peru

18

Female

Attempt against the life of a person for personal gains

As a punishment

2 (14)

Peru

21

Female

Very severe penalty

Note: Two figures are presented in the percent column for definitions in each subcategory. The first percentage figure is the percentage of definitions coded into the specified subcategory out of the total number of definitions of torture. The second percentage (in parentheses) indicates the percentage of definitions coded into the subcategory out of all the definitions in the intent of torture category. For example, as a punishment represented 2% of all the definitions of torture and 14% of the definitions in the intent of torture category

Only a small portion of definitions of torture provided descriptions of characteristics of the victims involved in torture or mentioned the conditions that lead to torture. Examples of responses coded into these categories are provided in Table 8.7.
Table 8.7

Definitions of torture: characteristics and conditions

Coding category

%

Example of response

Country

Age

Gender

Quote

General characteristics

<1 (19)

Peru

25

Female

Aggression toward people or animals

Helplessness/powerlessness

1 (48)

Brazil

30

Female

Act with violence against someone who is helpless

Unwilling subjects being held against will

1 (33)

Puerto Rico

19

Male

Hurt someone against his will

Conditions that give rise to torture

<1

Brazil

24

Male

Action by someone who is unable to negotiate

Note: Two figures are presented in the percent column for definitions in each subcategory (conditions that give rise to torture is a major category, so the only number presented represents the percentage of definitions coded for conditions out of the total definitions of torture). The first percentage figure is the percentage of definitions coded into the specified subcategory out of the total number of definitions of torture. The second percentage (in parentheses) indicates the percentage of definitions coded into the subcategory out of all the definitions in the characteristics or conditions of torture category. For example, general characteristics represented 1% of all the definitions of torture and 19% of the definitions in the characteristics of torture category

Judgments indicating intolerance towards torture accounted for 32% of definitions of torture responses. Among responses describing general intolerance were those like the following from a 59-year-old Columbian man defining torture as an “unjust method.” In the Latin American definitions of torture, 17% of responses noted that torture was immoral/inhumane/cruel/abusive/vile. This is a subcategory found within the intolerant/condemning subcategory of judgment. This immoral subcategory represented 52% of all judgment responses for definitions of torture. For example, a 26-year-old from Argentina wrote, “abusive act, violent injustice, dehumanizing against an innocent subject.” Table 8.8 provides examples of responses from each subcategory under judgments.
Table 8.8

Definitions of torture: judgments

Coding category

%

Example of response

Country

Age

Gender

Quote

General judgments

0 (0)

    

Tolerant judgments

<1 (1)

Brazil

19

Male

Valid method of coercion

Sometimes necessary

<1 (1)

Peru

21

Male

Something inhuman, but at times necessary

Intolerant/condemning judgments

7 (22)

Puerto Rico

40

Female

Ignorance

Unnecessary

1 (4)

Argentina

23

Female

Unnecessary act of violence

Unlawful/unjust

3 (9)

Brazil

26

Male

Unjust way of getting something

Immoral. Inhumane/cruel/abusive/vile

17 (52)

Colombia

40

Female

Maltreatment

Sadistic/sick

2 (5)

Brazil

40

Female

Having pleasure in another’s suffering

Violation of human rights

2 (7)

Colombia

78

Female

Disrespect of humans and lack of human rights

Note: Two figures are presented in the percent column for definitions in each subcategory. The first percentage figure is the percentage of definitions coded into the specified subcategory out of the total number of definitions of torture. The second percentage (in parentheses) indicates the percentage of definitions coded into the subcategory out of all the definitions in the judgments of torture category. For example: unlawful represented 3% of all the definitions of torture and 9% of the definitions in the judgments of torture category

Altogether, responses equating torture with its methods represented 45% of definitions of torture. Responses falling into the general method category (6% of all methods responses in definitions of torture) describe what happens in torture, without mentioning motives or making inherent moral judgments. For example, a description from a 23-year-old woman from Costa Rica reads torture is “extortion to the human being to obtain information.” Table 8.9 provides additional examples of responses referring to methods of torture.
Table 8.9

Definitions of torture: method and outcome

Coding category

%

Example of response

Country

Age

Gender

Quote

Focus on method

General method

3 (6)

Argentina

22

Male

Actions they exercise against a person to obtain information

Hurting/harming

16 (36)

Costa Rica

22

Female

Pain

Physical harm

15 (33)

Peru

20

Female

Hitting someone

Psychological/mental/abstract harm

11 (25)

Peru

25

Female

Actions that humiliate and cause harm to a person

Focus on outcome

General outcome

1 (29)

Argentina

21

Female

Abuse, damage, abuse

Physical outcome

1 (63)

Peru

20

Male

Death

Psychological/mental/abstract outcome

<1 (8)

Nicaragua

43

Female

Injuries, consequences of anything that hurts people

Note: Two figures are presented in the percent column for definitions in each subcategory. The first percentage figure is the percentage of definitions coded into the specified subcategory out of the total number of definitions of torture. The second percentage (in parentheses) indicates the percentage of definitions coded into the subcategory out of all the definitions in the method or outcome of torture categories, respectively. For example, physical harm represented 15% of all the definitions of torture and 33% of the definitions in the methods of torture category

Within methods of torture, the subcategory of hurting/harming accounted for 16% of the Latin American definitions of torture and 36% of the methods responses; these definitions mentioned that torture was harmful but without any physical or psychological details. An example of such a response was from a 23-year-old Argentinean man who wrote, “to cause suffering on another person.” In addition, 15% of the definitions of torture were coded as physical methods, which include concrete physical measures used in torture. For example, a 38-year-old Nicaraguan woman noted, torture is “to hit, harm without measure.” The code of psychological methods was given to 11% of responses. An example given by a 24-year-old Costa Rican woman was “a way to manipulate and hurt someone.” These three subcategories (general methods, physical methods, and mental methods) add up to a total of 42% of responses coded for methods of torture.

Quantitative Analysis of Definitions of Torture

Under the constructive intent subcategory, some responses defined torture as an attempt to extract information from individuals or coerce their compliance. Slightly over 8% (n  =  65) of the total sample gave responses falling into this subcategory. However, as can be seen in Table 8.10, there was a marginally significant difference related to having a family member in military service, with those having a family member in the military being more likely to give responses in this subcategory than those who did not.
Table 8.10

Definitions of torture: percentages of responses in coding categories by demographic groups and chi-square values

Categories

Demographic groupsa

χ2

 

Relative military

No relative military

Intent: information

10

5

4.36^

 

Military

No military

General method

11

4

3.76*

Physical method

39

21

5.50*

Psychological method

36

15

8.98*

 

Male

Female

Hurting method

18

25

4.52*

 

Argentina

Brazil

Colombia

Costa Rica

Nicaragua

Peru

Puerto Rico

 

Intolerance

10

25

7

6

7

9

7

29.77***

Cruel/inhumane

16

16

35

21

32

25

18

16.99**

Physical method

22

18

22

32

33

16

18

20.30**

*p  ≤  0.05; **p  ≤  0.01; ***p  ≤  0.001; ^0.051  <  p  <  0.10

aThe numbers in these columns are the percent of the group that gave responses falling into each of the specified categories

Responses in the intolerance towards torture category clearly show disapproval of the use of torture. About 10% (n  =  80) of the total sample showed disapproval; chi-square analyses revealed significant country differences (see Table 8.10), with Brazilians making the highest proportion of responses in this category and Costa Ricans the lowest. Chi-square analyses also revealed significant national differences in the use of definitions indicating that torture is cruel, inhumane, and abusive (given by almost 24% of the sample), with Colombians giving the highest proportion of those responses and Brazilians the lowest. No other significant group differences were found for either type of response.

Table 8.10 also shows the findings from chi-square analyses of responses in the general methods category, which applied to only 4% (n  =  31) of the definitions of torture. The only significant difference as based on military service, with participants who had served in the military being more likely to give responses in this subcategory than those who did not. In regard to responses coded for hurting, harming, or causing pain (without identification of specific methods), which were provided by 22% (n  =  173) of the total sample, there were significant country differences (with Puerto Ricans making the highest proportion of such responses and Nicaragua the fewest) as well as significant gender differences (with more women giving more of these examples than men).

Slightly under 22% (n  =  168) of the total sample specified physical processes or methods of torture in their definitions. There were significant country differences, with Nicaragua having the highest frequency and Peru the lowest. There were no significant gender differences, but respondents who had served in the military gave more of these examples than those who did not (see Table 8.10).

The following subcategory describes the psychological processes or methods of torture, including the threat of physical pain. Slightly under 16% (n  =  121) of the total sample cited this subcategory. There were no significant country or gender differences, but there was a significant difference for having served in the military (see Table 8.10). Those who served in the military were more likely to endorse this subcategory than those who did not.

What Is Terrorism?

Four major thematic categories emerged from the definitions of terrorism. They are (1) causes of/motivations for terrorism, (2) terrorism as a process, (3) outcomes of terrorism, and (4) judgment concerning terrorism.

Qualitative Analysis of Terrorism: Valence

Within the Latin American sample, 63% gave neutral definitions that appeared detached, expressing neither a positive or negative attitude toward terrorism. For example, the definition, “group that looks to defend their ideas through violence,” given by a 19-year-old Peruvian woman, has a neutral connotation. On the other hand, a negative definition was given by 31% of participants. An example includes one from a 22-year-old woman from Nicaragua who wrote, “Group of people who commit repugnant acts against people or nations.” A select percentage (6%) made an effort to understand terrorism, and 0% of participants from Latin America expressed a positive regard for terrorism. Additional examples of valence responses are in Table 8.11.
Table 8.11

Definitions of terrorism: valence

Coding category

%

Example of response

Country

Age

Gender

Quote

Negative regarding terrorism

31

Brazil

23

Female

Absurd and inefficient way of solving a problem

Neutral regarding terrorism

63

Colombia

20

Male

Utilization of arms to obtain an end

An effort to understand terrorism

6

Costa Rica

31

Female

The only solution that they found

Positive regarding terrorism

0

Brazil

24

Male

Reaction to oppression

Note: The number displayed indicates the percentage of responses in each valence subcategory in relation to total number of responses. For example, 63% of all definitions of terrorism responses described terrorism with a neutral valence

Qualitative Analysis of Terrorism: Themes

Twenty-four percent of definitions of terrorism referred to causes/motivations behind terrorism. The most frequent types of causes/motivation example were those describing ideological motivation (28% of causes and 7% of all definitions of terrorism) and a political agenda (26% of causes and 6% of all definitions of terrorism). For example, a 22-year-old Brazilian woman explained the ideological motivation in that terrorism is constituted by “violent acts that support a point of view.” A 20-year-old Nicaraguan man described the political motivations behind terrorism by defining it as an “attempt to damage the government by harming its people.” Table 8.12 provides additional sample responses of definitions of terrorism describing causes.
Table 8.12

Definitions of terrorism: cause/motivation

Coding category

%

Example of response

Country

Age

Gender

Quote

General motivation

4 (17)

Brazil

36

Male

Violent acts in the name of a cause

Ideological motivation

7 (28)

Puerto Rico

30

Female

Defend ideals in a dangerous way

Political agenda

6 (26)

Nicaragua

38

Female

Conspire against the sovereignty of a country

International

1 (5)

Brazil

21

Female

Criminal act that tries to hurt a foreign country

Emotional causes

3 (13)

Puerto Rico

25

Male

Expression of fear, ignorance

Negative environmental conditions

1 (5)

Brazil

24

Male

Reaction to oppression

Last resort

1 (4)

Peru

19

Female

Lack of methods to transmit an idea

No motivation

1(2)

Puerto Rico

32

Male

Cause fear and damage without a just cause

Note: Two figures are presented in the percent column for definitions in each subcategory. The first percentage figure is the percentage of definitions coded into the specified subcategory out of the total number of definitions of terrorism. The second percentage (in parentheses) indicates the percentage of definitions coded into the subcategory out of all the definitions in the cause/motivation of terrorism category. For example, international represented 1% of all the definitions of terrorism and 5% of the definitions in the cause/motivation of terrorism category

Just as in definitions of torture, physical method was one of the most common codes, used for 23% of the definitions of terrorism responses (82% of definitions of terrorism methods responses). The use of physical method refers to specific concrete physical techniques used to obtain an outcome. For example, a 25-year-old woman from Columbia defined terrorism as a way “to spread terror through violent acts.” Process/methods responses accounted for 28% of definitions of terrorism responses. Table 8.13 provides examples of additional responses coded for process/methods in definitions of terrorism.
Table 8.13

Definitions of terrorism: process/method, outcomes

Coding category

%

Example of response

Country

Age

Gender

Quote

General process

2 (7)

Brazil

21

Female

Radical movement

Physical process

23 (82)

Puerto Rico

50

Female

Bloody invasion from one country to another

Mental process

3 (10)

Argentina

24

Male

Exercise their strength by instilling fear

General outcomes

1 (4)

Colombia

27

Female

It causes pain to other people

Physical outcomes

10 (42)

Brazil

22

Female

Destruction

Mental outcomes

9 (37)

Colombia

59

Male

Action that causes terror

Disruption of peace and stability

4 (15)

Puerto Rico

49

Female

Threaten the security of another nation

Disruption of economy

1 (2)

Argentina

33

Male

Differences in capitalism

Note: Two figures are presented in the percent column for definitions in each subcategory. The first percentage figure is the percentage of definitions coded into the specified subcategory out of the total number of definitions of terrorism. The second percentage (in parentheses) indicates the percentage of definitions coded into the subcategory out of all the definitions in the process/method or outcomes of terrorism category. For example, mental process represented 3% of all the definitions of terrorism and 10% of the definitions in the process/method of terrorism category

Twenty-five percent of definitions of terrorism responses focused on various types of outcomes (see Table 8.13). The focus is on what the actions of terrorism produce, rather than the processes themselves. The most commonly cited type of outcome in definitions of terrorism was physical outcomes (42% of outcomes and 10% of all definitions of terrorism). For instance, a 26-year-old Brazilian woman describes terrorism as “group action against a group or government” with the outcome being “that [terrorism] causes the loss of lives.” Nine percent of definitions of terrorism responses contained some sort of emotional outcome, which refers to emotions, fear, or anxiety. A 20-year-old woman from Peru simply wrote, “horror,” describing a feeling that results from terrorism.

As with definitions of war and torture, definitions of terrorism responses that indicated a judgment were coded under a major category of judgment. In definitions of terrorism, judgments were then further differentiated between moral judgments and legal judgments. Seven percent of Latin American participants expressed moral judgment, a code that includes general assessments of the terrorists or terrorism, without mentioning ideology. For example, the moral judgment code was given to the response “barbaric humans,” written by a 39-year-old man from Costa Rica. Other responses mentioned immoral acts (37% of judgments and 8% of all definitions of terrorism) involved in terrorism or the motivation behind it (12% of judgments and 2% of all definitions of terrorism). Legal judgments were also divided between illegal acts (8% of judgments and 2% of all definitions of terrorism) and motivation; however, no responses in this sample provided legal judgments regarding the motivation behind terrorism. The distinction between a moral judgment and a legal judgment is illustrated by the response of a 45-year-old Brazilian woman: She defined terrorism as an act against moral standards, “a cowardly act,” and an act against the law, “illegal.” Refer to Table 8.14 for additional examples of responses making judgments.
Table 8.14

Definitions of terrorism: judgments, real-life reference

Coding category

%

Example of response

Country

Age

Gender

Quote

General judgments

1 (3)

Brazil

23

Female

As bad as war

Moral judgments

7 (35)

Costa Rica

39

Male

Barbaric humans

Immoral acts

8 (37)

Colombia

51

Female

Total violation of human rights

Moral motivation

2 (12)

Costa Rica

58

Male

Exacerbated ignorance and fantasy

Appeal to relativity

1 (4)

Costa Rica

26

Male

Depends on who did it and why

Legal judgments

0

    

Illegal acts

2 (8)

Puerto Rico

19

Male

Violate the law

Legal motivation

0

    

Real-life reference

1

Puerto Rico

32

Male

Osama bin Laden, Iraq

Note: Two figures are presented in the percent column for definitions in each subcategory. The first percentage figure is the percentage of definitions coded into the specified subcategory out of the total number of definitions of terrorism. The second percentage (in parentheses) indicates the percentage of definitions coded into the subcategory out of all the definitions in the judgments and real-life reference of terrorism category. For example, legal judgments of acts of terrorism represented 2% of all the definitions of terrorism and 8% of the definitions in the judgments of terrorism category

Quantitative Analysis of Terrorism

About 6% (n  =  40) of the total Latin American sample gave definitions falling into the general causes category. Chi-square analyses revealed that respondents who did not have a family member serve in the military were more likely to give responses in this category than those who did (see Table 8.15). Definitions of terrorism, like definitions of war, rarely focused on the causes of terrorism; participants with a family member in the military were significantly more likely to mention causes of terrorism than their counterparts.
Table 8.15

Definitions of terrorism: percentages of responses in coding categories by demographic groups and chi-square values

Categories

Demographic groupsa

χ2 b

 

Relative military

No relative military

Causes/motivation

4

8

4.00*

 

Male

Female

Physical outcomes

10

17

5.51*

 

Argentina

Brazil

Colombia

Costa Rica

Nicaragua

Peru

Puerto Rico

 

Physical process

46

35

38

43

41

23

30

22.29**

*p  ≤  0.05; **p  ≤  0.01

aThe numbers in these columns are the percent of the group that gave responses falling into each of the specified categories

The most common response for methods of terrorism was physical actions, which included comparisons of terrorism to warfare or torture. About one-third (n  =  224) of the total sample gave responses in the physical process/methods subcategory of process/methods. Frequency of physical methods responses differed significantly by country, with Argentina using the category most and Peru least. An emphasis on the physical was also found in the approximately 15% (n  =  100) of the total sample who provided definitions coded into the physical outcome subcategory of outcomes. Significantly more women than men identified terrorism with its physical outcomes (see Table 8.15).

Overall, participants focused the physical and emotional outcomes of terrorism. Women were especially sensitive to the physical destruction caused by terrorism, partially supporting our first hypothesis. This finding is keeping with the study of DeSouza et al. (2011). Interestingly, there were not gender differences concerning emotional outcomes.

The focus on the most visible aspects of terrorism suggests a disregard to the more complex negative outcomes of terrorism, such as the breakdown of nonviolent ways to deal with social change and grievances. We argue that many Latin American governments neglect the motives of people’s dissatisfaction, which may add fuel to terrorist groups’ ideology. Both sides are unable to find peaceful, workable solutions that benefit people at large. According to Beasley-Murray et al. (2009), neoliberalism policies in Latin America have not worked well for most people, who are typically poor. That is, market-driven leaders have emphasized technocratic formulas rather than engage in a democratic debate with those who want to change the ways in which wealth is distributed in Latin America in order to lessen misery and poverty. It appears that most Latin American governments have not had the interest of the people in mind but rather have disguised their neoliberal policies that seem to have benefitted just the elite (Goldstein et al. 2007), therefore giving a rationale for violent groups to emerge to combat such inequalities.

Conclusions

This study revealed definitions of war, torture, and terrorism in our Latin American sample that parallel official definitions (e.g., US government); that is, they were brief and did not include much contextual information. The media covering war, terrorism, and state violence may help educate lay people to understand the complexity and nuances of the causes, processes, and consequences of such violence, as violence begets violence, and begin the process of dialogue and positive social change in order to avoid those “sitting on the fence” from becoming radicalized. The media can also help by clarifying the blurring of morality, law, and language, as there are no easy moral answers to ethical dilemmas surrounding the impulses toward war and violence, including the use of torture to obtain information that may save lives, as officials sometimes need to dirty their hands for the greater good (Smith and Roberts 2008).

Although we found some significant country differences, there was not a pattern to these differences. In addition, there were few significant gender differences, or differences related to having any family member serve in the military, suggesting, overall, similar definitions across these variables. The only noticeable trend concerned the methods/techniques used in torture, suggesting that those who have served in the military learned about such methods/techniques there or became more aware of them than those who did not. Future research should investigate the curriculum that is currently being used in military schools and police academies in Latin America. This is particularly important given the growing proliferation of small arms trade in Latin American countries, which is closely related to drug- and gang-related violence.

According to Stohl and Tuttle (2008), gun violence is the number one threat to public safety in Latin America and the Caribbean, killing about 90,000 people yearly. Thus, Latin American residents may feel unsafe and fearful, leading them to tolerate human rights violations on the part of the police in order to feel a sense of security (Goldstein et al. 2007). This may be a reflection of our humanity, as most people are more interested in maintaining security than freedom. Therefore, future research should investigate how fear of crime and tolerance of police aggression restrict, rather than expand, individual rights.

Although the twenty-first century has economically (e.g., the 2004 ratification of a free trade agreement between the USA and Central American countries, including the Dominican Republic) and politically (e.g., transition to democracy in the 1980s and 1990s) begun well for Latin America, recent history has shown too frequently there has been just rhetoric concerning human rights in Latin America (Campbell 1998). For democracy to truly take hold there, protecting human rights, including cultural, ethnic, and gender rights, is one required element for countries, groups, and individuals to coexist peacefully (Diamond 1996).

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eros DeSouza
    • 1
  • Michael Stevens
    • 1
  • Amanda Clinton
    • 2
  • Laura Marcucci
    • 3
  • Madison Mellish
    • 4
  • Rodrigo Barahona
    • 5
  • Eddy Carillo
    • 6
  • Ricardo Angelino
    • 7
  • Luciana Karine de Souza
    • 8
  • Sherri McCarthy
    • 9
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyIllinois State UniversityNormalUSA
  2. 2.Psychology ProgramUniversity of Puerto RicoMayagüezPuerto Rico
  3. 3.National Alliance on Mental IllnessWashingtonUSA
  4. 4.Latin American Studies and PsychologyBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  5. 5.BrooklineUSA
  6. 6.The Center for Psychoanalytic Studies of the Association for Socio-Critical PsychoanalysisSan JoseCosta Rica
  7. 7.School of Medical SciencesNational University of La PlataLa PlataArgentina
  8. 8.Department of PsychologyUniversidade Federal de Pernambuco, Federal University of Minas GeraisPampulha Belo HorizonteBrazil
  9. 9.Educational Psychology, Counseling and Human RelationsNorthern Arizona UniversityYumaUSA

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