The Politics of Crime and Militarised Policing in Brazil


This article queries the effects of international police assistance in the Global South, focusing specifically on Brazil. Utilising recently declassified documents accessed in Washington, DC, this article shows how United States officials sought to intervene in Latin American politics through international police assistance to Brazil during the 1960s–1980s. The article considers the geopolitical motivations behind these programs and highlights the connections between international police assistance, weak democratic institutions in Latin America and legacies of authoritarian policing in the region. The academic objectives are twofold: to foreground debates that emphasise the need for Southern Criminological research perspectives and to explore the broader effects of international police assistance programs in the Global South. By drawing attention to these issues, the article contributes to studies of policing, politics and public security in contexts like Brazil, where extreme levels of everyday violence are a threat to democracy and human rights.

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Except where otherwise noted, content in this journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Published: 2020-05-18
Pages:102 to 118
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How to Cite
Pessoa Cavalcanti, R. and Garmany, J. (2020) “The Politics of Crime and Militarised Policing in Brazil”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 9(2), pp. 102-118. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.v9i2.1157.

Author Biographies

Dr Roxana Pessoa Cavalcanti is a lecturer in Criminology at the University of Brighton. Her main areas of interest relate to social inequalities, state crime and responses to violence against black and indigenous people in Latin America. Dr Cavalcanti writes for mainstream popular as well as academic audiences. She is the author of 'A Southern Criminology of Violence, Youth and Policing' (Routledge, 2020). Her current research interests include the criminalisation and persecution of activists in Latin America; authoritarianism and police violence in Brazil. In 2016, she was funded by CONFAP-The UK Academies to conduct research on police violence and legitimacy in Brazil, as part of the project ‘Building democracy daily: human rights, violence and institutional trust’ [grant number 2016/50430-0]. She is invited speaker and visiting researcher at NEV institute at the University of São Paulo and UTPL university in Ecuador; member of the British Society of Criminology; member of the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control. In 2019, she was appointed deputy leader of the Cities, Injustices and Resistance research group at the University of Brighton.

The University of Melbourne

Dr. Jeff Garmany is Senior Lecturer of Latin American Studies in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne. He completed his BA in Anthropology at the University of Colorado, and his MA and PhD in Geography at the University of Arizona. Before joining the University of Melbourne, he held an appointment at King’s College London in the Department of Geography and the King’s Brazil Institute. His research interests include Urban Studies, Political Geography, Critical Development, and Latin American/Brazilian Studies. His publications include Understanding Contemporary Brazil, co-authored with Anthony Pereira (Routledge, 2019), along with numerous journal articles and book chapters.