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Isabel Laterzo

On the 2023-24 academic job market; graduation expected in the spring of 2024

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The Politics of Public Security: An Analysis of Campaigns and Policy in Brazilian States (Hartlyn, Martínez-Gallardo, Olivella, Huber, García-Ponce – external member). This book-length dissertation examines state-level public security politics, with a predominant focus on Brazil. Past scholarship often relies on a unidimensional concept of public security, in which progressive actors support community-oriented, preventative strategies while conservatives endorse tough-on-crime, repressive approaches. However, there is increasing evidence that this is a misconception. In fact, it is often progressive politicians that are quite “conservative” regarding public security, while conservatives often mix their proposals with “progressive” strategies. I present evidence of this phenomenon and contend that we must re-orient our thinking regarding public security policy. I develop a new way to consider and measure related policy proposals, one that does not assume an ideological link. I build a multidimensional concept of public security policy that focuses on four, non-mutually exclusive policy areas which politicians combine. I employ this concept to investigate the ways in which politicians conceptualize, propose, and pursue these agendas, focusing on state-level candidates and officials who hold significant power in the public security area. I analyze this topic using a mixed methods approach, leveraging an original database of long-form campaign proposals (manifestos), over 100 expert interviews conducted in three Brazilian states, and fine-grained administrative data. My results point to several important nonideological factors which influence politicians’ proposals and actions. For example, I show how law enforcement officers constitute a powerful interest group and can influence politicians to prioritize protecting their autonomy and investing in the force, often at the expense of investment in human rights protections. My work also examines how these findings apply to other contexts, such as Mexico and the United States.

Research Interests

  • Comparative Politics
  • Political Methodology
  • Latin American Politics
  • Comparative Criminal Justice


The Journal of Criminal Justice, The Journal of Politics in Latin America, Revista Latinoamericana de Opinión Pública (The Latin American Journal of Public Opinion). Revise & Resubmit: The Journal of Politics, Comparative Political Studies