In this volume, Latin Americanist scholars explore the recent evidence relating to the ways in which partial state failure in the continent is interacting with new types of organized violence, thereby undermining the process of democratic consolidation that has characterized Latin America over the past two decades. This 'new violence' stems - as this book's case studies from Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil and other countries, including El Salvador, show - from a heterogeneous variety of social actors including drug mafias, peasant militias and urban gangs (collectively referred to as actores armadas), as well as state-related actors like the police, military intelligence agencies and paramilitary forces.
These armed actors are reproducing organized social and political violence beyond the confines of democratic politics and civil society. The results, as the authors warn, include both 'governance voids' - domains where the legitimate state is effectively absent in the face of armed actors prevailing by force - and an erosion of the capacity and willingness of state officials themselves to abide by the rule of law. These tendencies, in turn, pave the way for a possible reinstallation of authoritarian regimes under the control of politicized armies or, at the very least, the spread of state violence in one form or another.
Why these tendencies need to be taken so seriously is, the authors argue, because of the deeper social roots underlying them - notably the failure of neoliberal economic policies and weakened state structures to deliver the jobs, standards of living and social services every democratic citizenry has a right to expect. The Argentinian collapse and persistent Colombian and Venezuelan crises receive special attention in this regard.