Security in transition : police reform in El Salvador and South Africa
Desilets-Bixler, Nicole L.
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This thesis studies police reform in El Salvador and South Africa. While both countries differ considerably in geographic size, culture, location, population, and economic and military strength, they share common security concerns. Under authoritarian rule, their primary security concerns were not military threats from other states, but rather internal threats due to economic, political, and social weakness. Civilian police forces became highly politicized and militarized, incapable of controlling crime, lacking accountability and oversight, and exhibiting total disregard for human rights. This thesis compares El Salvador and South Africa, two cases of negotiated war transitions. Although both countries faced similar militarization of internal security forces, South Africa seemed in a much better position to face challenges of consolidation. First, South Africa's military did not pose any opposition to police reform because the military and police had a long history of being organizationally separated. In contrast, El Salvador's police had a history of being controlled and directed by the military and they fell organizationally under the Defense Ministry. Second, in South Africa, the opposition group (ANC) rather than the rightist government won the foundational elections. Increased domestic support for internal security reform is more likely as the previous rightist government is discredited. Conversely, in El Salvador, the rightist ARENA government won the foundational elections indicating that it would more likely lead to lack of domestic support. The continuance of power would likely mean that the government would prefer the continuance of status quo to far-reaching reform. Finally, the international community was available to aid in the implementation and consolidation of reform in both countries. However, because domestic support was likely to be greater in South Africa, the international community's ability to influence the implementation of reform would also be greater. Yet, the outcome of reform efforts in both countries was surprisingly similar. This can best be explained by the overwhelming obstacles to the consolidation of police reform posed by the conditions of post-conflict societies.
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