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From community policing to political police in Nicaragua

Authors:

Lucia Dammert ,

Universidad de Santiago, CL
About Lucia

Lucía Dammert is professor of Political Studies at the Universidad of Santiago de Chile. Her research interests lie in the field of public security, criminal organizations and criminal justice reform. She has held key advisory positions in many Latin American countries as well as in multiple regional and global organizations.

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Mary Fran T Malone

University of New Hampshire, US
About Mary Fran

Mary Fran T. Malone is professor and chair of the department of Political Science at the University of New Hampshire. Her work focuses on the current crime epidemic in Latin America, and its implications for democratic governance. She studies the legitimacy of justice institutions and public support for democratic norms and practices; and the micro level consequences of crime in distinct national and sub-national settings, uncovering how political context can mediate the linkage between crime and political attitudes and behavior.

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Abstract

In a region plagued by high rates of violent crime and repressive policing practices, Nicaragua has earned a reputation as exceptional. Despite poverty, inequality, and a historical legacy of political violence and repression, Nicaragua has defied regional trends. It has registered low rates of violent crime while deploying policing practices that emphasized prevention over repression. April 2018 marked an end to this exceptionalism. Police attacked anti-government protestors, and launched a sustained campaign against dissidents that continues to the present day. While the Nicaraguan police had long cultivated a reputation as community-oriented and non-repressive, they appeared to quickly change into a repressive, political force. In this paper, we trace how the Nicaraguan police have evolved over time. Relying upon longitudinal data from 1996-2019 from the Latin American Public Opinion Project, we trace the process of police reform in Nicaragua, and analyse public attitudes towards the police as these reforms unfolded. 

Resumen: De policía comunitaria a policía política en Nicaragua
En una región plagada de altos índices de delitos violentos y prácticas policiales represivas, Nicaragua se ha ganado una reputación como excepcional. A pesar de la pobreza, la desigualdad y un legado histórico de violencia política y represión, Nicaragua ha desafiado las tendencias regionales. Ha registrado bajas tasas de delitos violentos al tiempo que ha desplegado prácticas policiales que enfatizan la prevención sobre la represión. Abril de 2018 marcó el fin de este excepcionalismo. La policía atacó a manifestantes antigubernamentales y lanzó una campaña sostenida contra los disidentes que continúa hasta el día de hoy. Si bien la policía nicaragüense había cultivado durante mucho tiempo una reputación de estar orientada hacia la comunidad y no represiva, pareció transformarse rápidamente en una fuerza política represiva. En este artículo, rastreamos cómo la policía nicaragüense ha evolucionado a lo largo del tiempo. Basándonos en datos longitudinales de 1996-2019 del Proyecto de Opinión Pública de América Latina, rastreamos el proceso de reforma policial en Nicaragua y analizamos las actitudes del público hacia la policía a medida que se desarrollaban estas reformas.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.32992/erlacs.10529
How to Cite: Dammert, L., & Malone, M. F. T. (2020). From community policing to political police in Nicaragua. European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, (110), 79–99. DOI: http://doi.org/10.32992/erlacs.10529
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Published on 16 Dec 2020.
Peer Reviewed

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