A History of Political Murder in Latin America

Killing the Messengers of Change

By W. John Green

Subjects: Latin American Studies, History, Political Science, Anthropology, Sociology
Series: SUNY series in Global Modernity
Paperback : 9781438456645, 382 pages, January 2016
Hardcover : 9781438456638, 382 pages, June 2015

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Table of contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Map of Mexico and Central America
Map of South America
Key Terms and Acronyms by Country
Introduction: A Political Culture of Murder
Part I. The Practice of Political Murder in Latin America
1. Targets and Victims
2. Dirty War Mechanics
3. Bodies of the Slain
Part II. Justifications, Associations, and Consequences

4. Dirty Warriors on Dirty War
5. International Collaborations and the Conflicted Roles of the United States
6. The Enduring Appeal and Continuing Challenge of Political Murder in Latin America and Beyond
Appendix—Political Murder in Latin America: Individual Country Narratives

A sweeping study of political murder in Latin America.


This expansive history depicts Latin America's pan-regional culture of political murder. Unlike typical studies of the region, which often focus on the issues or trends of individual countries, this work focuses thematically on the nature of political murder itself, comparing and contrasting its uses and practices throughout the region. W. John Green examines the entire system of political murder: the methods and justifications the perpetrators employ, the victims, and the consequences for Latin American societies. Green demonstrates that elite and state actors have been responsible for most political murders, assassinating the leaders of popular movements and other messengers of change. Latin American elites have also often targeted the potential audience for these messages through the region's various "dirty wars." In spite of regional differences, elites across the region have displayed considerable uniformity in justifying their use of murder, imagining themselves in a class war with democratic forces. While the United States has often been complicit in such violence, Green notes that this has not been universally true, with US support waxing and waning. A detailed appendix, exploring political murder country by country, provides an additional resource for readers.

W. John Green is the Editor and Director of the Latin American News Digest and the author of Gaitanismo, Left Liberalism, and Popular Mobilization in Colombia.


"...[a] well-researched book … This book is a wealth of information and should be required reading for anyone working in Latin America." — Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books