Santamaria, Gema, and David Carey Jr. Violence and Crime in Latin America Representations and Politics. University of Oklahoma Press, 2017.

The book is divided into three sections, part I is about “Extralegal violence and its justifications,” Part II talks about “Constructing crime,” and lastly part III discusses “The politics of making violence visible.” Although the book is divided into sections the central idea of the book is to examine the complexity of the concepts and context of crime and violence depending on the particular community. Moreover, the central argument is to recognize that crime and violence are socially constructed concepts whose definitions are constantly changing since derived from the power structure hierarchies. In other words, crime and violence definition change based on the context, such as region, particular societies, gender, class, race, ethnicity, and time.

The authors used historical, political, and social analysis to argue that citizens’ distrust to the state’s ability to protect them has let community groups defend themselves from delinquency. The authors argued that Mexico is a clear example because, in at least nine states, vigilante groups have emerged in order to defend their communities against drug-trafficking organizations. The problem with this initiative is that in 2014 President Enrique Peña Nieto legitimized some of the vigilante groups. These vigilante groups are armed community groups that often use their power to intimidate or to subordinate the community.

The issues of crime and violence legitimacy and legitimate armed community groups are useful and important because contribute to the emergence of human rights violation. In this case, justified by violence and crime by the state are examples of power dynamics and that shape the notion of criminality, deviance, and danger in Latin America. As argued violence in Latin America is produce and reproduce meaning that the state’s acts of violence influence the community to take action by reproducing violence and crimes.

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