MONTEVIDEO – Uruguayan voters have rejected a constitutional reform measure that would have lowered the legal age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 16 amid general concern in the country over public safety.
According to the figures from Sunday’s vote, only 46 percent of valid ballots favored the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility, when more than 50 percent was needed for approval.
Along with the constitutional reform issue, Uruguayans also voted in presidential and legislative elections.
Proponents of the “no” vote argued that Uruguayan youths were beset with such problems as lack of educational and employment opportunities, domestic violence and sexual exploitation which sometimes forced them into crime.
Young people needed viable alternatives in their lives and not a law sending them to prison at a lower age, the proponents said.
According to national statistics, almost 40 percent of Uruguayan children under six years of age live in poverty.
In the capital, Montevideo, where half of the 3.4 million Uruguayans live, the impact of childhood poverty ranges from 44.1 percent to 43.7 percent in children between six and 12 years of age.
Uruguay has approximately 260,000 teenagers, of which 1,000 are being tried in criminal courts and currently 350 are in detention programs.