Political Policing: The United States and Latin America

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Reconstructing eighty years of history, Political Policing examines the nature and consequences of U.S. police training in Brazil and other Latin American countries. With data from a wide range of primary sources, including previously classified U.S. and Brazilian government documents, Martha K. Huggins uncovers how U.S. strategies to gain political control through police assistance—in the name of hemispheric and national security—has spawned torture, murder, and death squads in Latin America.

After a historical review of policing in the United States and Europe over the past century, Huggins reveals how the United States, in order to protect and strengthen its position in the world system, has used police assistance to establish intelligence and other social control infrastructures in foreign countries. The U.S.-encouraged centralization of Latin American internal security systems, Huggins claims, has led to the militarization of the police and, in turn, to an increase in state-sanctioned violence. Furthermore, Political Policing shows how a domestic police force—when trained by another government—can lose its power over legitimate crime as it becomes a tool for the international interests of the nation that trains it.

Pointing to U.S. responsibility for violations of human rights by foreign security forces, Political Policing will provoke discussion among those interested in international relations, criminal justice, human rights, and the sociology of policing.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Huggins clearly demonstrates the dangerous unintended consequences of U.S. police training.” - Dennis M. Rempe, Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs

“With vivid narrative and sharp analysis, Martha Huggins puts the police in its rightful place at the center of Latin American studies. . . . [A]ny look at the future requires an understanding of the past, and no such understanding is complete without the invaluable and pioneering contributions of Political Policing.” - Mark Ungar, Political Science Quarterly

[A] scathing indictment of the Office of Public Safety in general and its particular application in Brazil. . . . Her three chapters on OPS and its relationship to the Brazilian military dictators who seized power in 1964 are . . . extraordinary.” - Stephen G. Rabe, The International History Review

“Huggins presents the first detailed synthesis of U.S. efforts to penetrate, de-nationalize, and militarize the internal security forces of Latin America under the guise of making Latin American forces more efficient, professional, and democratic.” - W. Michael Weis, The Americas

Political Policing is a superb analysis, lucidly and compellingly written, of the US role in creating, training, and guiding Latin American police forces. - Kenneth Paul Erickson, Luso-Brazilian Review

“Martha Huggins has written a major exposé of the CIA’s and AID’s promotion of state terrorism through political murder, disappearances, and institutionalized torture by civil and military police, and their affiliated death squads in Latin America. Every American concerned about our country’s role in the world should read this book.”—Philip Agee, author of Inside the Company

“Written with scholarly precision and patriotic outrage, Political Policing is the most comprehensive investigation we have of the long and detestable U. S. involvement in police training in Latin America. Anyone who cares about the future of this hemisphere will want to read Professor Huggins’s brilliant exposé.”—Jack Langguth, Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822321729
  • Publisher: Duke University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1998
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 247
  • Product dimensions: 5.99 (w) x 9.17 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Meet the Author

Martha K. Huggins is Roger Thayer Stone Professor of Sociology at Union College in Schenectady, New York. She is the editor of Vigilantism and the State in Modern Latin America.

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Table of Contents

1 Policing International Politics: Theory and Practice 1
2 "Gunboat" Policing: The First Twenty-five Years 25
3 "Good Neighbor" Policing 41
4 From Policing Espionage to Supressing "Communism": World War II and Its Aftermath 58
5 Policing Containment 79
6 Counterinsurgency Policing: Internationalization and Professionalization 99
7 Policing Brazil's "Cleanup," 1964-1968 119
8 Repression and the Brazilian Police, 1968-1969 141
9 Fortifying Security and Privatizing Repression: Torture and Death Squads in Authoritarian Devolution, 1969-1970 161
10 Closing the Circle: Devolution Abroad and at Home 187
Conclusion Police Assistance as a "Protection Racket" 197
Appendixes 205
Notes 209
References 213
Index 237
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