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Elective: Public Security and the Latin American State


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies who have succesfully completed the second year elective course.
The number of participants is limited to 25.


The central topic for this elective course will be on public security in Latin America. The region is currently one of the most crime-ridden and violent areas in the world, where the high level of insecurity has a profound impact on people’s lives. The state institutions’ difficulty in curving down the violence and crime is negatively affecting their legitimacy and level of trust in the eyes of the electorate. In particular, the countries’ police forces are under much scrutiny. The course analyses the principal challenges the Latin American States face in order to improve the level of security and living conditions for their citizens.
The course will give attention to the historical, political and socioeconomic dynamics influencing the public security sector. In addition to this, attention will be devoted to study the particularities of police reform, the main local challenges that exist in the judicial and penitentiary systems, as well as the difficulties faced by local authorities in the security management scheme.

  • To obtain knowledge and insights about the complex dynamics that are determinant in the current state of the Latin American public security sector;

  • To obtain insights in the principal challenges the Latin American states are confronting in the democratization process and in their crime-fighting strategies.

  • To obtain a better understanding of the political leadership’s influence in public security matters;

  • To obtain a better understanding of police organizations’ challenges and role in society;

  • To obtain knowledge about the role Latin American States have played historically in internal security matters (with particular focus on the Cold War-period).

Course objectives

The elective courses for International Studies are designed to teach students how to deal with state-of-the-art literature and research questions. They are chosen to enhance the students’ learning experience by building on the interdisciplinary perspectives they have developed so far, and to introduce them to the art of academic research. They are characterised by an international or comparative approach.
Academic skills that are trained include:
Oral presentation skills:
1. to explain clear and substantiated research results;
2. to provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course
a. in the form of a clear and well-structured oral presentation;
b. in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;
c. using up-to-date presentation techniques;
d. aimed at a specific audience;
3. to actively participate in a discussion following the presentation.
Collaboration skills:
1. to be socio-communicative in collaborative situations;
2. to provide and receive constructive criticism, and incorporate justified criticism by revising one’s own position;
3. adhere to agreed schedules and priorities.
Basic research skills, including heuristic skills:
1. to collect and select academic literature using traditional and digital methods and techniques;
2. to analyze and assess this literature with regard to quality and reliability;
3. to formulate on this basis a sound research question;
4. to design under supervision a research plan of limited scope, and implement it using the methods and techniques that are appropriate within the discipline involved;
5. to formulate a substantiated conclusion.
Written presentation skills:
1. to explain clear and substantiated research results;
2. to provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course
a. in the form of a clear and well-structured written presentation;
b. in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;
c. using relevant illustration or multimedia techniques;
d. aimed at a specific audience.


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website

Mode of instruction

This course will consist of lectures and self-study.

Course Load

Total course load for the course: 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours, broken down by:

  • Hours spent on attending lectures and seminars: 24 hours

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature: 136 hours

  • Researching and preparation of oral presentation: 60 hours

  • Researching and writing written assignment: 60 hours

Assessment method

Assessment and weighing

The final grade [100%] is composed of 3 parts:
1) Written exam (60 % of the final grade)
2) 1 written assignment (20 % of the final grade)
3) 1 group presentation (20 % of the final grade)

To complete the final mark, please take notice of the following: the final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.

To pass the course, the weighted average has to be 5.5 at least.


Note: There is only a re-sit possible for the written exam, not for the written assignment and the group presentation.

In case of resubmission of the final essay (insufficient grade only) the final grade for the essay will be lowered as a consequence of the longer process of completion. The deadline for resubmission is 10 days after receiving the grade for the final essay.


Blackboard will be used. For tutorial groups: please enroll in blackboard after your enrolment in uSis
Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

Marcelo Bergman and Laurence Whitehead (2009) Criminality, public security, and the challenge to democracy in Latin America. University of Notre Dame Press. ISBN: 9780268022136, and selected articles in Blackboard.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs


H.A.S. Solheim MPhil


The deadline for submission of the final essay is 9 June 2017.