Latin America: A broken system / The Economist

Citizens’ security is the region’s biggest problem. Time to improve criminal justice.

PEDRO RODRÍGUEZ, head of Nicaragua’s youth-affairs police, grabs the shoulder of 17-year-old Axel Matus and gives it a shake. “He was one of our worst cases,” he says. In most of Latin America, a youth with Axel’s background—gangs, drugs, knife-fights, joblessness—would cringe at such attention from a burly police commander. But Axel stands bolt upright and admits: “My life was utter chaos.”

Not any more. Axel now attends the Juvenile Affairs police headquarters in Managua, where he is given free meals and tuition every day. Besides subjects like maths and English, he is learning how to be a barber (his blade skills now applied with scissors). Hundreds of troubled kids voluntarily study with him, and the police chief knows most of them by name. They are neatly dressed and ooze self-esteem. SEE MORE…

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