Mano Dura: The Politics of Gang Control in El Salvador By Sonja Wolf Cover Image
NOT IN STOCK - Usually arrives in 7 - 14 business days


In 1992, at the end of a twelve-year civil war, El Salvador was poised for a transition to democracy. Yet, after longstanding dominance by a small oligarchy that continually used violence to repress popular resistance, El Salvador’s democracy has proven to be a fragile one, as social ills (poverty chief among them) have given rise to neighborhoods where gang activity now thrives. Mano Dura examines the ways in which the ruling ARENA party used gang violence to solidify political power in the hands of the elite—culminating in draconian “iron fist” antigang policies that undermine human rights while ultimately doing little to address the roots of gang membership.

Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork and policy analysis, Mano Dura examines the activities of three nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that have advocated for more nuanced policies to eradicate gangs and the societal issues that are both a cause and an effect of gang proliferation. While other studies of street gangs have focused on relatively distant countries such as Colombia, Argentina, and Jamaica, Sonja Wolf’s research takes us to a country closer to the United States, where forced deportation has brought with it US gang culture. Charting the limited success of NGOs in influencing El Salvador’s security policies, the book brings to light key contextual aspects—including myopic media coverage and the ironic populist support for ARENA, despite the party’s protection of the elite at the expense of the greater society.

About the Author

Sonja Wolf is a CONACYT research fellow with the Drug Policy Program at the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas.

Praise For…

Wolf utilizes her vast experience and research to provide a comprehensive account of gang violence and state policy in El Salvador. In her rich, qualitative analysis, Wolf does an excellent job of contextualizing contemporary crime control policy against a broader historical backdrop.
— Choice Reviews

Well-researched, well-written and comprehensive; a measured piece of scholarship, robust and calibrated…It [takes] a quietly devastating approach, unspairing in its critique, unflinching in its analysis and unadorned in its appraisal. After working through these chapters, there are few stones left unturned.
— British Journal of Criminology

[Wolf's] insights will help connect internal and external understandings of criminal group behavior, disabuse scholars and policymakers of their biased analyses, and, ultimately, unlock a vast new area of research.
— Latin American Research Review

Mano Dura demonstrates the merits of an engaged social science. It is a timely study, especially as we continue to observe the dynamic formation of populist authoritarian regimes of various kinds across the Americas – regimes that seem apt to endorse militarized, repressive policies as the preferred means of 'addressing' social problems.
— Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology

Mano Dura makes an important contribution to discourse on contemporary El Salvador and its failure to adopt comprehensive gang policy reform. The book also acts as a point of entry for newcomers to Central American studies who are interested in media analysis and public policy, given that Wolf devotes the first half of the book to analyzing El Salvador’s economic history and the media bias in newspaper coverage of gangs...Mano Dura offers critical insight into the enduring legacy of gang policy that fuels government and elite class interests in El Salvador and offers suggestions for how structural issues can begin to be addressed by NGOs and the public.
— Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies

Product Details
ISBN: 9781477311660
ISBN-10: 1477311661
Publisher: University of Texas Press
Publication Date: January 31st, 2017
Pages: 322
Language: English