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

Edited by Marcelo Bergman and Laurence Whitehead

From the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies

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.

Marcelo Bergman is associate professor of law at Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas in México City. He is the author of the forthcoming book Cheaters Suckers and Legalists: On Tax Evasion 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, Lucía Dammert, Mark Ungar, Hugo Frühling, Elena Azaola, Elvira María Restrepo, Luis Pásara, Ana Laura Magaloni, and John Bailey.

“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


“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