Beyond gang truces and Mano dura policies: Towards substitutive security governance in Latin America

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With responses to urban violence receiving increasing academic attention, the literature on anti-gang efforts in Latin America has focused mainly on coercive mano dura policies and cooperative gang truces. Yet, there remains a paucity of studies going beyond such carrots-and-sticks approaches towards gangs. To fill this gap, this study investigates the possibilities and limitations of substitutive security governance across Latin America and the Caribbean. More specifically, this article looks at Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programmes in Medellín, Armed Violence Reduction and Prevention (AVRP) efforts in Haiti and Security Sector Reform (SSR) in Guatemala and Rio de Janeiro. It will be argued that communities are driven to support gangs against the oppressive state when they are indiscriminately targeted through muscular operations. Likewise, engaging gangs in dialogue grants them legitimacy and further weakens the position of the state. Therefore, the only sustainable solution lies in substitutive security governance, which aims to replace the functions gangs fulfil for their members, sponsors, and the community in which they are nested with a modern and accountable state that is bound by the rule of law. Still, substitutive strategies vis-à-vis gangs have their own limitations, which can only be overcome by way of an integrated and coordinated framework.




Schuberth, M. (2016). Beyond gang truces and Mano dura policies: Towards substitutive security governance in Latin America. Stability, 5(1).

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