Entries with label private security .

In the largest countries in the region, there are four times as many private guards as police officers and ten times more weapons than in Europe

The high rates of violence in Latin America and the deficient presence of the authority of the respective States in parts of the territory have led to the proliferation of private security companies throughout the region. His issue It now has more than 16,000 companies, in an industry that involves more than 2.4 million people. The sector faces significant challenges, such as vague legality in many cases, a lack of experience, ways that are incompatible with civil and human rights in certain places, and the risk of escalating stockpiles.

The private security boom in Latin America

article / Martín Biera Muriel

The proliferation of private security companies in Latin America is linked to crime and violence statistics in the region. It is estimated that 19 out of every 20 violent crimes that occur in the world take place in Latin America, where 17 of the 20 most violent cities in the world and 4 of the 5 most violent countries are located.

The status has led to an "explosive growth" in the privatization of security in Latin America, as the report "Security for Sale" by the Inter-American Dialogue. The rise of the issue of Private Defense and Security Companies (PMSCs) has occurred not only in countries with marked conflicts, such as Colombia, where in the last ten years there has been an increase of 126%, but also in countries of greater social peace and institutionality such as Chile, which in five years has seen an increase of 50%. The total number of companies engaged in this function in Latin America reached 16,174 in 2017, as specified at the time by the Center for the Democratic Control of the Armed Forces in Geneva (DCAF).

The PMSC sector

The term PMSC includes both security companies in use in developed countries, normally dedicated to the safekeeping of establishments or individuals, as well as defence companies that can replace functions usually reserved for the State. The latter developed after the end of the Cold War and have become an important player in international relations, with participation in conflicts of interest. leave and even high intensity.

These defence companies operate in a framework The regulation of which was attempted to be standardized in 2008 with the Montreaux Document, a compilation of legal obligations and good practices aimed at guaranteeing the sovereignty of States and protecting Human Rights. While the text applies more directly to situations of armed conflict, it also provides a framework for security companies in general, given the tenuous boundary between a subject Especially in Latin America, where the authority of the State often does not extend to the entire national territory, some civil conflicts are especially virulent and some use the Armed Forces in the fight against criminal violence and the maintenance of public order.

More Guards Than Cops

The more than 16,000 PMSCs in Latin America employ around 2.4 million people. While security guards outperform in issue to members of the police around the world, in many Latin American countries there is a particular imbalance between the issue components of the police forces and that of private agents: in Colombia, Brazil and Mexico, the ratio is one police officer to four members of EMSP; in countries of extreme violence such as Honduras and Guatemala, the ratio is even as high as one to seven. It is also the case that many members of the police resort to moonlighting, acting as police officers during the day and becoming security agents at night in some neighborhood. business or building.

The largest companies are those that are engaged in the surveillance and escort of VIP clients. The largest are of European and American origin and specialise in a part of the sector, especially in the protection of private property. Most of them operate in cities or in centres of natural resource extraction isolated from urban areas. In relation to the frequent criticism that these companies receive, for alleged supplanting of functions proper to the legally constituted authority, it is necessary to emphasize that the framework The legal system in which large companies operate is strict and supervised.

degree program Armament

It can be argued that the skill among operators has generated a kind of degree program armaments in which each business You want to offer more efficient services. At the same time, as there is a greater issue With more modern weapons, criminals also tend to increase their firepower and their capabilities to meet their objectives, which consequently leads companies to also increase the caliber of their weapons, in a spiral that is difficult to control. Statistics show that Latin America has the highest ratio of firearms to security guards in the world outside of conflict-affected areas. This ratio is ten times higher than that of small arms in Europe.

This has led to the fact that certain PMSCs have been criticized in the Latin American scenario for having contributed, directly or indirectly, to illegal arms trafficking and the increase in armed gangs, generating a vicious circle. For example, in 2015 ninety people were arrested in San Francisco (some of them linked to PMSCs) for belonging to a network of arms trafficking linked to the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13). There have also been cases of theft and loss of weapons imported from the region, both by individual private security contractors and by the military itself; These weapons then enter the black market. Thus, more than 40% of illegal weapons in El Salvador are linked to some 460 private security companies, despite the obligation to have an official registry for their identification.


Reducing high levels of insecurity is one of the main challenges for many Latin American countries. The reasons for the persistent violence in their societies are manifold; These include political corruption and economic inequality. The richer classes can be considered targets of attempted robberies or kidnappings, but the working classes also suffer from high crime figures, in their case without the possibility of resorting to private security.

Private security in Latin America faces two major challenges. One is illegality on the part of the sector: illegal companies grow faster than in the legal sector; in Brazil, for example, the issue of guards employed informally outnumbered formal ones. The other is the lack of training or experience of a certain volume of private guards. To meet the need for greater legal regulation, and for a regulation more adjusted to national specificities, and to the convenience of greater training It will help to reduce the grey area in which in many cases it operates and the violations of Human Rights.

Categories Global Affairs: Articles Security and defence Latin America