1st Edition

Mano Dura Policies in Latin America

Edited By Jonathan D. Rosen, Sebastián A. Cutrona Copyright 2023
    216 Pages 19 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    Leading scholars and policy analysts from around the Americas come together to untangle the factors that have fuelled the implementation of mano dura politics, their rising popularity, and impacts across nine widely heterogeneous countries in Latin America.

    Beginning with a discussion on the concept of mano dura, the editors move to survey various theoretical approaches to punitivism, and later review of the empirical research evaluating different drivers behind the adoption of tough on crime policies. Since hard-line initiatives often have consequences beyond the general goal of reducing violence, they then analyze the impacts of these policing strategies on crime rates and different democratic institutions. Country chapters on Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, and Argentina follow a common thematic structure to answer the following questions:

    • What are some of the trends in gangs, organized crime, and violence?
    • How have governments responded to combat crime and violence?
    • What factors have fuelled the implementation of mano dura policies?
    • Why are mano dura policies popular?
    • What have the consequences of these policies been?

    Mano Dura Policies in Latin America is essential reading to students of Latin American studies, political science, public policy, and criminal justice. It will also interest scholars working on drug trafficking, organized crime, and violence in Latin America.


    Sebastián A. Cutrona and Jonathan D. Rosen

    1. General Trends

    Mary Malone

    2. The Cycle of Mano Dura Policies: The Militarization of the Drug War in Mexico

    Jonathan D. Rosen, Roberto Zepeda, Sebastián Cutrona, and Richard Huizar

    3. Performing Punitivism: Mano Dura in El Salvador

    Christine J. Wade

    4. Mano Dura Policies in Honduras: Capitalizing off (In)Security

    Pamela Ruiz

    5. Fighting the Last War: Colombia’s Experience with "Tough on Crime" Policies

    Adam Isacson

    6. The Evolution of Crime Policy and Attitudes Toward Mano Dura in Ecuador

    John Polga-Hecimovich

    7. Throwing Away the Key: Mano Dura with Bolivian Characteristics

    Marten Brienen

    8. Faces of a Perverse State: Mano Dura Policies in Brazil from a Historical Perspective

    Marcos Alan Ferreira and Anna Beatriz Ramalho Gonçalves

    9. The Popularity and Limits of Tough on Crime Policies in Argentina

    Hernán Flom

    10. Conclusión

    Jonathan D. Rosen and Sebastián A. Cutrona


    Jonathan D. Rosen is Assistant Professor in the Professional Security Studies Department at New Jersey City University. Dr. Rosen’s research focuses on drug trafficking, organized crime, and security. He is the author of 20 books and has published journal articles in Trends in Organized Crime, the Journal of Criminal Justice, Deviant Behavior, International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, and Contexto Internacional, Revista CS, among other journals. Dr. Rosen has participated in grant-funded research studies in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Mexico.

    Sebastian A. Cutrona is Associate Professor at O.P Jindal Global University, India. His work has been published in Trends in Organize Crime, the International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice, and Crime, Law, and Social Change, among others. Dr. Cutrona has taught drug trafficking, organized crime, and Latin American politics at the University of Miami (United States), Universidad de San Andrés (Argentina), and Universidad Nacional de La Rioja (Argentina). His research interests mainly consist in organized crime, drug policy, and Latin American politics.

    "Amid deteriorating security and democracy, mano dura policies have become one of the most persistent and entrenched policing policies in Latin America. This volume provides a much-needed analytical and policy structure that comprehensively explains the ever-expanding applications, rationalizations, and damages of this approach in countries throughout the region."

    Mark Ungar, Brooklyn College

    "Tragically, in the twenty-first century Latin America has been wracked by unprecedented levels of criminal violence. In this masterful, up-to-date volume, top country experts trace the evolution of government policies against organized crime in Latin America’s large countries and countries of the Northern Triangle. The book makes an important and compelling argument: while tough on crime policies enable human-rights violations and are rarely effective over the longer term, they are popular among Latin America’s fearful citizens."

    Cynthia McClintock, George Washington University