"Latin America is violent and dangerous."
Yes, but not unstable. Latin American countries have among the world's highest rates of crime, murder, and kidnapping. Pockets of abnormal levels of violence have emerged in countries such as Colombia -- and more recently, in Mexico, Central America, and some large cities such as Caracas. With 140,000 homicides in 2010, it is understandable how Latin America got this reputation. Each of the countries in Central America's "Northern Triangle" (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) had more murders in 2010 than the entire European Union combined.
Violence in Latin America is strongly related to poverty and inequality. When combined with the insatiable international appetite for the illegal drugs produced in the region, it's a noxious brew. As strongly argued by a number of prominent regional leaders -- including Brazil's former president, Fernando H. Cardoso, and Colombia's former president, Cesar Gaviria -- a strategy based on demand reduction, rather than supply, is the only way to reduce crime in Latin America.
Although some fear the Mexican drug violence could spill over into the southern United States, Latin America poses little to no threat to international peace or stability. The major global security concerns today are the proliferation of nuclear weapons and terrorism. No country in the region is in possession of nuclear weapons -- nor has expressed an interest in having them. Latin American countries, on the whole, do not have much history of engaging in cross-border wars. Despite the recent tensions on the Venezuela-Colombia border, it should be pointed out that Venezuela has never taken part in an international armed conflict.
Ethnic and religious conflicts are very uncommon in Latin America. Although the region has not been immune to radical jihadist attacks -- the 1994 attack on a Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, for instance -- they have been rare. Terrorist attacks on the civilian population have been limited to a large extent to the FARC organization in Colombia, a tactic which contributed in large part to the organization's loss of popular support.