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

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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.

“The dramatic rise in reported criminality and citizen insecurity is one of the most often-mentioned yet least researched aspects of contemporary Latin America. This valuable compendium draws on recent empirical data, uneven and incomplete but nonetheless illuminating, as well as on comparative analysis, to discuss the sources and characteristics of crime in Latin America and its impact on democratization, the rule of law and institutional strength. The authors go beyond mere description and denunciation to develop better shared understanding of criminal activity and of how best to combat it. An important contribution.” —Abraham F. Lowenthal, Professor of International Relations, University of Southern California

“This is an important and timely collection of essays. For too long criminology has ignored the political dimension of crime and the implications of privatizing security. This collection, bringing together political scientists, sociologists and criminologists, addresses this critical nexus face-on and offers a coherent set of explanations for the rise of crime and the new forms of security that have emerged in Latin America.” —Federico Varese, Oxford University
“This volume is a solid contribution to the scholarship on crime, security, and democracy in Latin America. Although there are other collections that tackle these or similar issues, this volume offers, for the first time, a combined focus on crime, the police, prisons, and the criminal justice system. As such, it will be of tremendous significance to scholars and students interested in the analysis of crime and public security and their relevance to the challenges that Latin American democracies face.” —Carlos Aguirre, University of Oregon

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Contributors to this important and insightful volume agree that Latin American democracies are haunted by the twin specters of rising criminality and widespread public insecurity. Contributors . . . examine, quantitatively and qualitatively, both specific case studies of rising crime, police corruption and shared perceptions of public insecurity.” —Latin American Studies
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780268022136
  • Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press
  • Publication date: 9/15/2009
  • Series: ND Kellogg Inst Int'l Studies Series
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Marcelo Bergman is associate professor of law at Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas in Mexico City. He is the author of the forthcoming book Cheaters Suckers and Legalists: On TaxEvasion and the Rule of Law in Latin America.

Laurence Whitehead is an Official Fellow in Politics at Nuffield College, Oxford University, and Senior Fellow of the college, and director of the Centre for Mexican Studies at Oxford University. He is the author of numerous books, including Latin America: A New Interpretation.

Contributors: Laurence Whitehead, Marcelo Bergman, Claudio Chaves Beato, Frederico Couto Marinho, Lucia Dammert, Mark Ungar, Hugo Fruhling, Elena Azaola, Elvira Maria Restrepo, Luis Pasara, Ana Laura Magaloni, John Bailey.

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