Vigilantism and the State in Modern Latin America: Essays on Extralegal Violence

Vigilantism and the State in Modern Latin America: Essays on Extralegal Violence

Vigilantism and the State in Modern Latin America: Essays on Extralegal Violence

Vigilantism and the State in Modern Latin America: Essays on Extralegal Violence

Synopsis

This book is the first major analysis of the vigilantism that accompanies the economic, political, and social disintegration occurring in many Latin American countries. The essays examine the most prominent forms of vigilantism, including mob lynchings, assassinations by self-appointed or privately employed "enforcers," citizen uprisings against the police, the work of the notorious death squads, and extra-legal violence by on-duty police. The authors show the relationship between vigilantism and authoritarian governments whose inegalitarian practices and economic dependence on foreign powers perpetuate a cycle of poverty, repression, and violence.

Excerpt

This book was inspired by a December 1988 conference in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, Mortes Anunciadas: a (Des) Proteção da Vida na América Latina. It was attended by scholars from South and North America and focused on many topics that are covered in this volume.

The Brazilian conference demonstrates Latin Americans' deep commitment -- both scholarly and political -- to understanding and resolving the relationships among distributive justice, human rights, and crime. It also points to the problems that such scholars and human rights workers face when conducting research on these questions. Much information about crime, human rights abuses, and justice is not public or publicized. Students of human rights and distributive justice therefore must study what is covered up, censored, or distorted.

One source often used by Latin (and North) American social scientists and human rights workers is the newspaper. Latin Americans have devised ingenious ways of reading the daily journals to glean the hidden and the censored and to uncover the obfuscated. North American social scientists can learn much in this regard from their colleagues to the south.

Indeed, newspapers are frequently the only source of information about matters of justice. Latin American social scientists quickly learn that national, regional, and local government agencies are not receptive to probing research on crime and human rights. But Latin American scholars and human rights workers do not abandon the task because of difficulties obtaining information. Even when their lives are threatened by the "sensitivity" of their research topics, they do not pull back. Indeed, in many parts of South and Central America, researchers and . . .

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