Securing the future with justice and dignity in Latin America

Location ATB G207
Date and Start Time 12 April, 2013 at 11:00


John Gledhill (Manchester University) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This panel invites analyses that consider what security means to different groups in society, how far and why they accept the securitization of social problems, what interests shape and profit from public security agendas, and the relationships between crime, violence, politics and economic change.

Long Abstract

Despite differences of political orientation, most Latin American governments have declared improving public security a priority in recent years, with mixed results. Even supposed "success stories", such as Colombia's citizen security programs, or Rio de Janeiro's favela pacification, are losing some of their lustre with the passage of time. The cost in lives of Felipe Calderon's war against the Mexican drug cartels came to be seen as unacceptable by many citizens, particularly since cartel criminal activity diversified rather than diminished: but there have also been increases in homicide rates and other forms of violent crime in regions of Latin America that have seen greater advances in democratization and reduction of social inequality than Mexico. Latin American scenarios therefore raise challenging questions about what security means for politicians, policy makers, law enforcement officers, academic experts and citizens living in different class situations and urban and rural habitats. This panel invites contributions that look at the problem of security from the bottom-up as well as from the top-down, and at how different groups in society react to the politicized reframing of social problems as security problems, nationally and transnationally. Welcome, too, are papers on the relationships between politicians and criminal organizations and the political economy of security, ranging from the economic interests that influence public security operations, the explosive growth of private security services, the relationships between economic insecurity and other forms of social violence, and the ways patterns of social, inter-personal and domestic violence might be related to neoliberal market society.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Genealogía de la violencia actual mexicana

Author: Lars Leer (Oslo and Akershus University College)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will explore the genealogy of the current Mexican Violence by using historical perspectives on the parallelisms with the Colombian Drug War. It will focus on three main topics: the development of everyday politics of violence, tdrug cartels and the spiral of paramilitary violence.

Long Abstract

En el plano internacional se puede pensar que la agudización de violencia en México es un hecho novedoso y coyuntural, atribuido a las luchas intestinas entre los llamados carteles del narcotráfico, por un lado; y frente a la decisión del presidente Felipe Calderón de enfrentarlos militarmente, por el otro.

Sin embargo, una genealogía del conflicto desde los antecedentes de la Revolución Mexicana (1910) demuestra que la actual violencia es apenas una de las varias vertientes de una confrontación violenta de carácter casi permanente producto del irrespeto fundamental al derecho a la vida, en los que confluyen tanto causas estructurales como la degradación extrema a la que se ha llegado.

Así mismo, la supuesta "colombianización" de México obliga a la elaboración de un paralelismo con la historia reciente de ese país y de la manera como se aborda el problema de la violencia y su relación con los llamados carteles de las drogas y su espiral de violencia paramilitar.

Estudiar estos hechos desde una perspectiva crítica a las políticas presidenciales y al modelo de "guerra al narcotráfico" impuesto a México por Estados Unidos, es de urgente utilidad y de central importancia para comprender tan complejo fenómeno.

When Security Is No Longer a Right: The Implications of the Punitive Turn in Post-War El Salvador

Author: Ainhoa Montoya (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores the rise of the private security industry in post-war El Salvador, where homicidal and other forms of violence have become routine. Specifically, the paper investigates how access to security has been shaped by the country's post-war political economy.

Long Abstract

An understanding of the problem of public insecurity and how it is reinforced by economic insecurity must acknowledge the increasing commoditisation of public security over the past few decades. This paper explores the process and implications of security commoditisation in the context of El Salvador's violent democracy. It does so by enquiring into the nature and impact of what Wacquant has identified as a "punitive turn" in public policy, a phenomenon that originated in the US and was later exported elsewhere. The paper is concerned with the particular notion of security promoted throughout this turn and how this notion is related to the increasing commoditisation of public security. El Salvador's post-war governments have emulated aspects of the punitive turn undertaken by the US, rationalising this maneuver on the basis of their country's homicide rate (one of the world's highest) and other forms of routine violence. Grounded in research conducted in a Salvadoran rural municipality during the late 2000s, this paper describes the insecurity and increasing victimisation of ordinary citizens that have allowed the Salvadoran governments to legitimise their rather inefficient mano dura approaches and led Salvadoran citizens to seek out privately-procured means of security. I suggest that Wacquant's disregard of the form and magnitude of public-private partnerships in the provision of security neglects the ways in which the state has been reconfigured throughout the punitive turn. Nor does his analysis fully tease out the ways in which different forms of insecurity have come to reinforce one another throughout this turn.

'No one takes responsibility': uncovering the gendered political connections between multiple forms of insecurity

Authors: Mo Hume (University of Glasgow)  email
Polly Wilding (POLIS)  email

Short Abstract

In a context of chronic generalised violence, the paper argues that it is crucial to understand women's multiple strategies of survival beyond (and including) the law as everyday forms of resistance rather than passive acceptance or merely survival.

Long Abstract

Despite progressive legislation across Latin America to address multiple forms of violence against women, research shows that many women are reluctant to address intimate partner violence through formal legal challenges preferring to 'deal with the problem' rather than seek formal redress through legal processes that can be costly, time consuming and often result in impunity. Further, when women do make formal complaints, their legal claims are repeatedly ignored or not taken seriously. This reluctance to prosecute is often perceived as passivity on women's part rather than a response to systemic patriarchy. Building on feminist theorising on violence and based on detailed empirical research in El Salvador and Brazil, the paper offers an exploratory discussion of women's coping strategies and, in particular, the ways in which they resist and challenge their gendered subordination. In a context of chronic generalised violence, the paper argues that it is crucial to understand women's multiple strategies of survival beyond (and including) the law as everyday forms of resistance rather than passive acceptance or merely survival. In this way, a much more nuanced understanding of women's agency is emphasised as a critique of both the shortcomings of the legal process and the state itself. We aim to set out a tentative research agenda that seeks to understand the gendered political connections between multiple forms of insecurity.

Security Responses in Hybrid Political Orders: The Gang Truce in El Salvador in 2012

Author: Susan Hoppert-Flaemig (University of Bradford)  email

Short Abstract

This paper looks at the gang truce in El Salvador in 2012 to analyse security perception among state elites in hybrid political orders.

Long Abstract

The call for security reforms in many countries of the world became louder with the emergence of human security and good governance concepts in the 1990s. Despite the debates about the concepts in academic and policy circles, there is still limited knowledge about what security actually means for state elites outside the Western world and why strengthening state institutions does not necessarily lead to security provision. This paper aims at understanding state security responses by looking at the attempt of the FMLN Government in El Salvador (since 2009) to establish a policy based on citizen security principles that would differ from the hard line Mano Dura approach of previous governments. Drawing on the concept of hybrid political orders, it is argued that security policies are often an outcome of formal and informal processes of negotiation between multiple state and private actors. The truce between the two biggest Salvadoran street gangs established in March 2012 serves as an example of the ambiguity of security policies: the process lacked transparency and the conditions of the truce are not fully known, but homicide rates dropped significantly since then. The gang truce never appeared in the government's official programme, yet it became an important issue on the security agenda. It shows that while many official measures to reduce and prevent violence could not be implemented straightforward, other unforeseen opportunities opened up in a space where the existence of powerful non-state actors was at least implicitly acknowledged.

Legitimizing punitive power through Peruvian "gangs"

Author: Matías Viotti Barbalato  email

Short Abstract

This research is set in a shanty town in Lima (Peru) where the violence, poverty and social exclusion determine the routine life of the people and especially of the young people in so-called “gangs”.

Long Abstract

In recent years social insecurity has spread through Peruvian society as it has across Latin America. After the end of the armed conflict, which lasted from 1980 to 2000 (CVR 2003), came the emergence of "pandillaje" ("gangs") in Peru. "Pandillaje" has been defined by social science and mass media as violent and hierarchical bands involved in delinquency and related to the hooligans of Peruvian football teams (Santos, Martinez and Tong). From our point of view the concept of the "gang" is a social construction which came from the Chicago School theories. The Chicago School has defined the gangs as schools of delinquency without taking into account their political, historical and social context. Following this line of thinking, the dominant discourse in the 1990s defined a sector of youth as violent and "dangerous", hiding other kinds of violence like the structural, symbolic or routine.

This research is an analysis of "pandillaje" within the power relations drawing on our two years of fieldwork with the "gangs" known as Los Chacales and Los Dioses. We will analyse this process through the different forms of governmentality through which society legitimizes the social exclusion and the violence of policies like "zero tolerance" which are widespread in Latin America. We are going to analyze the role of these young people in a different context from the "official" definition of "gang", when they created a Youth Social Association and carried out a self-organised project to provide themselves with work against their social exclusion.

Gun control, the politics of fear and neoliberal governance: A case study of the Brazilian referendum

Author: Roxana Pessoa Cavalcanti (King's College London)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores the meaning of security for two different groups, namely: civil society activists promoting an anti-violence agenda, and gun lobbyists. It explores the implications of their discourses in relation to gun control and the impact these have had on the political economy of security.

Long Abstract

Brazil has the second largest firearm manufacturing industry in the world's western hemisphere, the US being the largest. It is a country delineated by social inequality, a society marked by fear of crime and an epidemic number of firearm related deaths. A civilian lead social movement started in 1997 aiming to reduce violence and the number of guns in the country, this resulted in the approval of a radical referendum, the first of its kind in the world, which asked the population whether firearms sales should be banned to civilians or not. This paper investigates the referendum by examining how the theoretical frameworks developed by Wacquant (2003; 2009) and Chevigny (2003) facilitate the understanding of factors that may have shaped the result of the referendum. The paper adopts a qualitative approach to explore not only the construction and dissemination of global gun proliferating myths, ideologies of crime, criminals and the criminal justice system but also to evaluate the detrimental effect of these issues on society. For this purpose, interviews were conducted with activists from pro-gun and pro-control lobbies and media content was analyzed.

Pacifying the poor: the effects of Rio de Janeiro's public security policy

Authors: Angela Torresan (University of Manchester)  email
Neiva Cunha (Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro/UERJ)  email

Short Abstract

Using examples of three Rio de Janeiro favelas subjected to state pacification policies, we explore some of the effects the securitisation project has had on favela residents and discuss how old questions of inequality, poverty and public neglect, are resignified into a problem of national security.

Long Abstract

With the advent of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, Rio de Janeiro's state government launched a security policy in 2008 specifically targeting the drug business in favelas. This policy is founded on a widespread perception of favelas as poor neighbourhoods that have been transformed into no-go areas by networks of illicit trafficking. The main discursive strategy is to "reclaim" favela territories in order to "reintegrate" their communities and social space into the city. Twenty-two of Rio's favelas are currently in different stages of the pacification project. Some are still going through the secretive intelligence phase of operations; a few have been recently occupied and their residents are trying to come to terms with the imposed changes; and others are experiencing the multiple effects of the implementation of social programmes which follow the militarised occupation and securitisation of the area. We reflect on the various effects of the pacification policies (both military and social) on the residents of pacified favelas. Using three examples, Santa Marta, Vidigal and Chapéu Mangueira, we explore how the different processes of urbanisation are "reintegrating" communities into the city and what kind of citizenship is elaborated through this potentially turbulent process of securitisation. We discuss how the old questions of inequality, poverty and public neglect, are resignified into a problem of national security in the case of Rio de Janeiro's pacification of favelas.

Changes and uncertainties in public security at Rio de Janeiro

Author: Rodrigo Monteiro (UERJ)  email

Short Abstract

At this papper we will present results of research in three pacifed favelas in city of Rio which are result of a public security policy which involves UPPs (Peacemaker Police Units), conflicts, challenges changes and resumption of territories previously dominated by traffickers or militiamen groups

Long Abstract

City of Rio de Janeiro will host two global events (World Cup 2014 and 2016 Olympic) and has gone through significant changes in its public security policy during the past years. Effects of these changes has been a reduction of the homicide rate, the UPPs (Peacemaker Police Units) and the resumption of territories previously dominated by drug traffickers or militiamen groups.

This research is sponsored by FAPERJ, and is part of a series of other studies by NUPEVI. At this papper we intend to present results of our research in three pacifed favelas in city of Rio: Batan (40,000 residents), Complexo do Alemão (60,000 residents) and Fallet-Fogueteiro-Coroa (20,000 residents). These communities still have populations with a high deficit of citizenship.

In general, a major achievement was the guarantee of basic civil rights: the right to life, to come in and go out of the favela freely, as well as access to vocational courses and a wider range of social projects.

However, there are differences in how each community enhances and develops their social organizations, the NGOs, the access to public services, the access to real estate informal transactions and how is the relationship between the existing social projects and the military police.

Several dilemmas, uncertainties and changes permeate discourses of residents, policemen and organization managers. This presentation aims to address such issues that also represent responses from the local residents and their different associations to the changes implemented in their neighborhoods.

The production of insecurity in Brazil and Mexico

Author: John Gledhill (Manchester University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper discusses impediments to the achievement of public security policies that work for all citizens irrespective of their race and social class that are common to Brazil and Mexico despite their different recent records on combatting social inequality.

Long Abstract

Diminishing socio-economic inequality is a necessary but not sufficient condition for eliminating other forms of insecurity in Latin American societies. In recent years, the trajectories of Brazil and Mexico can be distinguished in terms of the way public policies have worked to reduce or increase social inequality, although both remain societies with high levels of inequality and deep deficits in the public provision of healthcare and education as well as high levels of crime and violence. There are also significant differences between their public security policies, and in both countries, significant differences between the security situations of different regions, which require further critical analysis from a multi-dimensional perspective on what security and insecurity mean for ordinary people. This paper focuses on impediments to the production of public security policies that work for all citizens irrespective of their race and social class that are common to both countries. They include the role of legitimated and deniable violence in political life and pursuit of economic interests, and the extension of criminal opportunities through continuing diversification of national and transnational illegal economies that are part of a global development model in which criminal practices have become ever more entangled with the practices of apparently respectable states and private corporations. They also include the "capture" of police and military by non-state actors, and the continuing prevalence of rights-violating forms of state intervention that all too often lead disadvantaged citizens to accept the rule of crime as the lesser of two evils.

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This panel is closed to new paper proposals.