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Criminality, Public Security, and the Challenge to Democracy in Latin America

Edited by Marcelo Bergman and Laurence Whitehead

Publication Year: 2009

As new democratic regimes take root in Latin America, two of the most striking developments have been a dramatic rise in crime rates and increased perception of insecurity among its citizens. The contributors to this book offer a collective assessment of some of the causes for the alarming rise in criminal activity in the region. They also explore the institutional obstacles that states confront in the effort to curb criminality and build a fairer and more efficient criminal justice system; the connections between those obstacles and larger sociopolitical patterns; and the challenges that those patterns present for the consolidation of democracy in the region. The chapters offer both close studies of restricted regions in Latin America and broader examinations of the region as a whole. The contributors to this volume are prominent scholars and specialists on the issue of citizen security. They draw on the latest methodologies and theoretical approaches to examine the question of how crime and crime fighting impact the consolidation of democracy and the rule of law in the region. These studies represent a major first step towards evaluating broadly a relative dearth of hard data about the Latin American security situation, as well as identifying future research paths. This book will be important for scholars, policy makers, and students, especially in the fields of Latin American and comparative law, political science, sociology, and criminology.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

TItle Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-xiv

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Introduction: Criminality and Citizen Security in Latin America

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pp. 1-23

Among the most striking developments in Latin America in recent years have been the dramatic rise in reported criminality and changing perceptions of crime, even as new democratic regimes have taken root. It seems that over the last fifteen years, homicides have more than doubled in some places, and property crime has (at times) tripled. There are major ...

Part 1: Trends in Criminality

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Chapter One: Regional Homicide Patterns in Brazil

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pp. 27-46

Brazil is one of the most violent countries in all of Latin America; indeed, it is one of the most violent countries in one of the most violent regions in the world. This is undoubtedly a key challenge for Brazilian development because it has a direct impact on economic and political life, contributes to the deterioration of and ...

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Chapter Two: Citizen (In)Security in Chile, 1980–2007: Issues, Trends, and Challenges

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pp. 47-61

Chile has oft en been regarded as an anomaly in Latin America due to its relatively low levels of violence and crime. However, rates of reported crimes and victimization have tended to rise over the past few years, and Chileans have also begun to feel an intense sense of insecurity. Although the causes are hard to pinpoint, socioeconomic factors ...

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Chapter Three: Rising Crime in Mexico and Buenos Aires: The Effects of Changes in Labor Markets and Community Breakdown

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pp. 62-89

By the late 1990s crime rates in Buenos Aires and Mexico City had more than doubled compared to the early part of the decade. For the first time in recent history, crime became a major public concern, and citizens began to rank feelings of insecurity as one of two top concerns. Both cities, particularly Buenos Aires, which ...

Part 2 Police and Criminal Justice Reform

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Chapter Four: La Mano Dura: Current Dilemmas in Latin American Police Reform

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pp. 93-118

Amid mounting crime in Latin America over the past ten years— including a 41 percent rise in homicides that has made it the world’s most crime-ridden region1—governments throughout the region have enacted a wide range of reforms to make the police more effective and accountable. While such changes extend over a broad range of proposals, ...

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Chapter Five: Public Opinion and the Police in Chile

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pp. 119-146

During the past twenty years, a number of governments in Latin America have undertaken police and criminal procedure reforms to improve the efficiency of their criminal justice systems and make them more accountable. Many of these attempts at police reform resulted from corruption scandals and the indiscriminate use of lethal force by the police.1 Twenty ...

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Chapter Six: The Weaknesses of Public Security Forces in Mexico City

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pp. 147-172

This chapter outlines some of the results of a qualitative study conducted between 2001 and 2005 on the preventative police in Mexico City. One of the key goals of this study has been to “give a voice” to police officers so as to understand their views and their understanding of their job, as well as the obstacles they face when doing their work. The premises of the ...

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Chapter Seven: The Pursuit of Efficiency and the Colombian Criminal Justice System

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pp. 173-202

Colombia is different from most countries in Latin America in that the most recent criminal reforms did not originate from a transition of a dictatorial regime to a democratic one nor from a sudden up rise of crime. It is also singular in that it has experienced the longest irregular war in the whole continent (almost fifty years), almost four decades of drug ...

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Chapter Eight: Criminal Process Reform and Citizen Security

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pp. 203-222

Wherever the rule of law reigns supreme, a high level of rule compliance provides the backbone of citizen security both objectively (respect for the rights of others does in fact grant citizens more security) and subjectively (people derive a sense of personal safety when rules are obeyed). But if a society disregards rules, and if such disrespect coexists with high levels of ...

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Chapter Nine: Latin America’s Prisons: A Crisis of Criminal Policy and Democratic Rule

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pp. 223-248

Latin America’s prison populations are swelling to record levels. The increase reflects the weakness rather than the strengths of the region’s efforts to impose law and order. Most of all, conditions in the penitentiary systems of the region provide evidence that patterns of discrimination are entrenched, criminal justice systems are in disarray, and tolerance of ...

Part 3: Citizen Security, Democratization, and the Rule of Law

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Chapter Ten: “Security Traps” and Democratic Governability in Latin America:Dynamics of Crime, Violence,Corruption, Regime, and State

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pp. 251-276

Above some threshold, crime, violence, and corruption can significantly complicate democratic transitions and degrade the quality of democracy in Latin America. Given their central importance, the theory linking this cluster of problems to civil society and democracy ought to be much more developed than it is. The central puzzle addressed here is: Why do ...

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Chapter Eleven: Citizen Insecurity and Democracy Reflections on a Paradoxical Configuration

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pp. 277-314

In the 1970s and 1980s—and earlier in Central America—military and authoritarian rule became widely associated by local and outside observers alike with the abolition of basic civil and political liberties and the systematic violations of human rights. These came to be perceived by many as the décadas negras of torture and disappearance, and of the politics of ...


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pp. 315-334


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pp. 335-338


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pp. 339-344

E-ISBN-13: 9780268075675
E-ISBN-10: 0268075670
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268022136
Print-ISBN-10: 0268022135

Page Count: 360
Publication Year: 2009