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Title: Defaulting on public security : the politics of police and state reform in Argentina and Brazil
Author: Hinton, M. S.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2003
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From the Andean ridge to the Southern Cone, economic turbulence, poverty, inequality and corruption remain chronic almost everywhere, dashing popular expectations that the return to electoral democracy in the 1980s and the economic liberalisation model that was widely adopted in the 1990s would bring political stability and material improvement. Against this backdrop, the region experienced an explosion in criminality and violence that remains unabated: the Latin American homicide rate is twice the world-wide average - exceeded only by rates in sub-Saharan Africa. This dissertation concentrates specifically on the public security crisis and the politics of reform in Argentina and Brazil in the 1990s, focusing on the cities of Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. In both cities, there was a marked deterioration in the public security situation following the end of military rule - a period that left an ideological and tactical legacy on the police that could not be easily eradicated. While social problems, crime and drug trafficking were far more acute in Rio than in Buenos Aires, one shared characteristic was the failure of the police to adequately fulfil their expected role in a democratic polity, even though the police cannot bear sole responsibility for the public security problem or its solution. That successive governments failed for more than a decade to reform an under-trained, under-performing and corrupt police was commonly justified by invoking arguments of police recalcitrance to reform, or by claims that the government's overriding preoccupation with the economy necessarily took precedence over other policy issues. These explanations, however, could not fully account for the patterns observed in both cities. The main reasons the police could not fully break from their past and forge a new role for themselves were rooted in the corrosive nature of the political game, an enduring dynamic whose outcome was improvisation, denial, and evasion of responsibility. Rather than professionalise the police, redress deficient and weak institutional forms of external control, or overhaul irrational systems of resource allocation, civilian governments persisted in manipulating the police for personal benefit, and exploiting the public security issue for electoral purposes.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available