Securitization and the Transnational Governing of Central American Gangs

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Since the mid-1990s, Central American street gangs have, in many ways, epitomized the problems – in particular crime and violence – often attributed to transnational street gangs by local and international media, security policy makers and practitioners. In turn, Central American street gangs, like MS-13 or 18th Street, have been targeted by increasingly punitive policies – at home and abroad. The events of 9/11, in particular the rise of homeland security thinking in the United States, as well as growing concerns regarding ‘“unconventional” and security threats’, like street gangs, have aggravated these processes, resulting in efforts to classify transnational Central American street gangs as terrorists. This chapter offers a critical assessment of continuity and change regarding the intermestics of anti-gang policies between Central America and the United States over time. It focuses on processes of transnational knowledge production and policy circulation, as well as the local political context factors that make anti-gang policies travel in the Americas from the 1990s until the present and their penalizing effects, including unintended consequences of strengthening gang cohesion and triggering illegal migration towards Mexico and the United States. In conclusion, the chapter calls for a de-securitization of anti-gang policies (and research) to overcome the punitive paradigm in transnational anti-gang policies in the Americas.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge International Handbook of Critical Gang Studies
EditorsDavid C. Brotherton, Rafael Jose Gude
Number of pages13
Publication date29 Jul 2021
ISBN (Print)9781138616110
ISBN (Electronic)9780429462443
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2021
SeriesRoutledge International Handbooks

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