Political Policing

The United States and Latin America

Political Policing

Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: Published: July 1998

Latin American Studies, Politics > International Relations, Sociology

Reconstructing eighty years of history, Political Policing examines the nature and consequences of U.S. police training in Brazil and other Latin American countries. With data from a wide range of primary sources, including previously classified U.S. and Brazilian government documents, Martha K. Huggins uncovers how U.S. strategies to gain political control through police assistance—in the name of hemispheric and national security—has spawned torture, murder, and death squads in Latin America.

After a historical review of policing in the United States and Europe over the past century, Huggins reveals how the United States, in order to protect and strengthen its position in the world system, has used police assistance to establish intelligence and other social control infrastructures in foreign countries. The U.S.-encouraged centralization of Latin American internal security systems, Huggins claims, has led to the militarization of the police and, in turn, to an increase in state-sanctioned violence. Furthermore, Political Policing shows how a domestic police force—when trained by another government—can lose its power over legitimate crime as it becomes a tool for the international interests of the nation that trains it.

Pointing to U.S. responsibility for violations of human rights by foreign security forces, Political Policing will provoke discussion among those interested in international relations, criminal justice, human rights, and the sociology of policing.


“Martha Huggins has written a major exposé of the CIA’s and AID’s promotion of state terrorism through political murder, disappearances, and institutionalized torture by civil and military police, and their affiliated death squads in Latin America. Every American concerned about our country’s role in the world should read this book.” — Philip Agee, author of Inside the Company

“Written with scholarly precision and patriotic outrage, Political Policing is the most comprehensive investigation we have of the long and detestable U. S. involvement in police training in Latin America. Anyone who cares about the future of this hemisphere will want to read Professor Huggins’s brilliant exposé.” — Jack Langguth, Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Martha K. Huggins is Roger Thayer Stone Professor of Sociology at Union College in Schenectady, New York. She is the editor of Vigilantism and the State in Modern Latin America.

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Winner, 1998 Best Book Award

Winner, Michael Hindelang Award

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2172-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2159-0
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