The Criminal Threat to Democratic Consolidation in Latin America

51 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 24 Aug 2010

See all articles by Regina Bateson

Regina Bateson

Department of Political Science, Yale University

Date Written: 2010


Drawing on more than 200 original interviews in Guatemala and analysis of data from the LAPOP 2008 survey, I argue that high levels of violent crime may imperil democratic consolidation in Latin America. At the individual level, crime victimization and concern about crime are correlated with support for authoritarianism and heightened levels of political participation. At the elite level, public concern about crime provides rightist politicians an opportunity to re-empower militaries, to enact repressive policing measures, and to expand the military’s role in the provision of domestic security. And at the conceptual level, high levels of crime and pervasive impunity are contributing to a widespread delegitimization of the idea of human rights in Latin America. Should crime rates continue to increase in the region, anti-crime movements and parties could mobilize large numbers of Latin Americans while threatening the quality and durability of democracy in the region.

Keywords: Latin America, crime, political participation, human rights, democracy, mano dura, authoritarianism, policing

Suggested Citation

Bateson, Regina, The Criminal Threat to Democratic Consolidation in Latin America (2010). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN:

Regina Bateson (Contact Author)

Department of Political Science, Yale University ( email )

Box 208269
New Haven, DC 06520-8269
United States

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