Skip to main content Accessibility help

‘Public’ Security and Patron–Client Exchanges in Latin America

  • Markus-Michael Müller


Notwithstanding the democratization processes that have taken place since the 1980s, clientelism continues to be an important political practice throughout contemporary Latin America. By offering an analysis of the changing patterns of patron–client exchanges in Mexico City, this article demonstrates how the repercussions of the local democratization process expanded clientelist practices to the realm of public security provision. This expansion, it is argued, is related to efforts of the local government to regain previous levels of political control over the local police forces that had been undermined by the fragmentation of long-standing national patron–client structures under authoritarian rule. Additionally, it is demonstrated that in an increasingly insecure urban environment, local politicians and brokers realized the political gains to be derived from expanding clientelist exchanges to the realm of security provision.



Hide All

Markus-Michael Müller is a senior researcher at the Centre for Area Studies, at the University of Leipzig. Contact email:



Hide All
Alvarado Mendoza, A. (2008), ‘El acceso a la justicia en una sociedad en transición’, in A. Alvarado Mendoza (ed.), La reforma de justicia en México (Mexico City: El Colegio de México): 3194.
Arias, E.D. (2006), Drugs and Democracy in Rio de Janeiro: Trafficking, Social Networks and Public Security (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press).
Arias, E.D.Goldstein, D.E. (2010) (eds), Violent Democracies in Latin America (Durham, NC: Duke University Press).
Auyero, J. (2000), Poor People's Politics: Peronist Survival Networks and the Legacy of Evita (Durham, NC: Duke University Press).
Auyero, J. (2004), Clientelismo político: Las caras ocultas (Buenos Aires: Capital Intelectual).
Auyero, J. (2007), Routine Politics and Violence in Argentina: The Gray Zone of State Power (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Bergman, M. (2007), Seguridad pública y estado en México (Mexico City: Fontamara).
Bruhn, K. (2008), Urban Protest in Mexico and Brazil (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Brusco, V., Nazareno, M.Stokes, S.C. (2004), ‘Vote Buying in Argentina’, Latin American Research Review, 39(2): 6688.
Chevigny, P. (1995), Edge of the Knife: Police Violence in the Americas (New York: Free Press).
Clarke, C. (2006), ‘Politics, Violence and Drugs in Kingston, Jamaica’, Bulletin of Latin American Research, 25(3): 420440.
Cornelius, W.A. (1975), Politics and the Migrant Poor in Mexico City (Stanford: Stanford University Press).
Cornelius, W.A. (1999), ‘Subnational Politics and Democratization: Tensions between Center and Periphery in the Mexican Political System’, in W.A. Cornelius, T.A. Eisenstadt and J. Hindley (eds), Subnational Politics and Democratization in Mexico (La Jolla: Center for U.S.–Mexican Studies): 318.
La Crónica de hoy (2008), ‘Vinculaban al nuevo jefe de la PGJDF con plagiarios’, La Crónica de hoy, 31 July.
Darden, K. (2008), ‘The Integrity of Corrupt States: Graft as an Informal State Institution’, Politics & Society, 36(1): 3559.
Davis, D.E. (2003), ‘Law Enforcement in Mexico: Not Yet Under Control’, NACLA Report on the Americas, 37(2): 1724.
Davis, D.E. (2006), ‘Undermining the Rule of Law: Democratization and the Dark Side of Police Reform in Mexico’, Latin American Politics and Society, 48(1): 5586.
Davis, D.E. (2010a), ‘The Political and Economic Origins of Violence and Insecurity in Contemporary Latin America: Past Trajectories and Future Prospects’, in E.D. Arias and D.E. Goldstein (eds), Violent Democracies in Latin America (Durham, NC: Duke University Press): 3562.
Davis, D.E. (2010b), ‘Policing and Populism in the Cárdenas and Echeverría Administrations’, in A.M. Kiddle and María L.O. Muñoz (eds), Populism in Twentieth Century Mexico: The Presidencies of Lázaro Cárdenas and Luis Echeverría (Tucson: University of Arizona Press): 135158.
Denissen, I. (2007), ‘New Forms of Political Inclusion: Competitive Clientelism: The Case of Iztapalapa, Mexico City’, in Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (ed.), Quality and Effectiveness, a Rich Menu for the Poor: Food for Thought on Effective Aid Policies (The Hague: Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs),
Dewey, M. (2011), Fragile States, Robust Structures: Illegal Police Protection in Buenos Aires, GIGA Working Paper (Hamburg).
Durand Ponte, V.M. (2007), ‘Gobiernos de izquierda y democracia: ciudadanos o clients’, in R. Bartra (ed.), Izquierda, Democracia y Crisis Política en México (Mexico City: Nuevo Horizonte): 153166.
Eckstein, S. (1988), The Poverty of Revolution: The State and the Urban Poor in Mexico (Princeton: Princeton University Press).
Escobar, C. (2002), ‘Clientelism and Citizenship: The Limits of Democratic Reform in Sucre, Colombia’, Latin American Perspectives, 29(5): 2047.
Fischer, B. (2008), Citizenship and Inequality in Twentieth-Century Rio de Janeiro (Stanford: Stanford University Press).
Fox, J. (1994), ‘The Difficult Transition from Clientelism to Citizenship: Lessons from Mexico’, World Politics, 46(2): 151184.
Frankema, E. (2009), Has Latin America Always Been Unequal: A Comparative Study of Asset and Income Inequality in the Long Twentieth Century (Leiden: Brill).
Garcia-Guadilla, M.P.Perez, C. (2002), ‘Democracy, Decentralisation and Clientelism: New Relationships and Old Practices’, Latin American Perspectives, 29(5): 90102.
Gay, R. (1999), ‘The Broker and the Thief: A Parable (Reflections on Popular Politics in Brazil)’, Luso-Brazilian Review, 36(1): 4970.
Grindle, M.S. (1977), Bureaucrats, Politicians, and Peasants in Mexico (Berkeley: University of California Press).
Hilgers, T. (2008), ‘Causes and Consequences of Political Clientelism: Mexico's PRD in Comparative Perspective’, Latin American Politics and Society, 50(4): 123153.
Hilgers, T. (2009), ‘Who is Using Whom? Clientelism from the Client's Perspective’, Journal of Iberian and Latin American Research, 15(1): 5176.
Hilgers, T. (2011), ‘La relation complexe entre clientélisme et démocratie’, Politique et Sociétés, 30(2): 123146.
Hinton, M.S. (2006), The State on the Streets: Police and Politics in Argentina and Brazil (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner).
Instituto Federal Electoral (2011), ‘Political Parties Juridical and Financing and Conditions of Equity in the Electoral Contest’,
La Jornada (2010), ‘Difícil, abatir la corrupción que hay en la SSP-DF: Mondragón’, La Jornada, 25 January.
Kalmanowiecki, L. (2000), ‘Police, Politics, and Repression in Modern Argentina’, in C.A. Aguirre and R. Buffington (eds), Reconstructing Criminality in Latin America (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources): 195218.
Kitschelt, H.Wilkinson, S.I. (2007), ‘Citizen–Politician Linkages: An Introduction’, in H. Kitschelt and S.I. Wilkinson (eds), Patrons, Clients, and Policies: Patterns of Democratic Accountability and Political Competition (New York: Cambridge University Press): 149.
Koonings, K.Kruijt, D. (1999), ‘Introduction: Violence and Fear in Latin America’, in K. Koonings and D. Kruijt (eds), Societies of Fear: The Legacy of Civil War, Violence and Terror in Latin America (London: Zed Books): 130.
Koonings, K.Kruijt, D.(2007), ‘Introduction: The Duality of Latin American Cityspaces’, in K. Koonings and D. Kruijt (eds), Fractured Cities: Social Exclusion, Urban Violence and Contested Spaces in Latin America (London: Zed Books): 1114.
Kruijt, D. (2011), ‘Uncivil Actors and Violence Systems in the Latin American Urban Domain’, Iberoamericana, 41: 8398.
Levitsky, S. (2003), Transforming Labor-based Parties in Latin America. Argentine Peronism in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Loader, I.Walker, N. (2007), Civilizing Security (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Lodola, G. (2010), ‘The Politics of Subnational Coalition Building: Gubernatorial Redistributve Strategies in Argentina and Brazil’, PhD dissertation, University of Pittsburgh.
Lyrintzis, C. (1984), ‘Political Parties in Post-Junta Greece: A Case of “Bureaucratic Clientelism”?’, West European Politics, 7(2): 99118.
Magaloni, B. (2007), Voting for Autocracy: Hegemonic Party Survival and its Demise in Mexico (New York: Cambridge University Press).
Martínez de Murguía, B. (1999), La policía en México: Orden social o criminalidad? (Mexico City: Planeta).
Moreira Alves, M.H.Evanson, P. (2011), Living in the Crossfire: Favela Residents, Drug Dealers, and Police Violence in Rio de Janeiro (Temple, PA: Temple University Press).
Müller, M.-M. (2010), ‘Community Policing in Latin America: Lessons from Mexico City’, European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, 88: 2133.
Müller, M.-M. (2012a), Public Security in the Negotiated State: Policing in Latin America and Beyond (Basinsgtoke: Palgrave Macmillan).
Müller, M.-M. (2012b), ‘Transformaciones del clientelismo: Democratización, (in)seguridad y políticas urbanas en el Distrito Federal’, Foro Internacional, 52(4): 836863.
Müller, M.-M. (2012c), ‘Addressing an Ambivalent Relationship: Policing and the Urban Poor in Mexico City’, Journal of Latin American Studies, 44(2): 319345.
Penfold-Becerra, M. (2007), ‘Clientelism and Social Funds: Evidence from Chávez's Misiones’, Latin American Politics and Society, 49(4): 6384.
Perlman, J. (2010), Favela: Four Decades of Living on the Edge in Rio de Janeiro (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Piccato, P. (2001), City of Suspects: Crime in Mexico City, 1900–1931 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press).
Pimentel, S.A. (2000), ‘The Nexus of Organized Crime and the Organization of Crime in Mexico’, in J. Bailey and R. Godson (eds), Organized Crime and Democratic Governability: Mexico and the U.S.–Mexican Borderlands (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press): 3357.
Quintana Taborga, J.R. (2003), Policía y democracia en Bolivia: Una política institucional pendiente. Resultados preliminares (La Paz: Programa de investigación estratégica en Bolivia).
La Razón (2011), ‘Opera en tepito jefe policiaco que estuvo preso’, La Razón, 10 January.
Reiner, R. (2010), The Politics of the Police (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Reveles Vázquez, F. (2004) (ed.), Partido de la Revolución Democrática: Los problemas de la institucionalización (Mexico City: Ediciones Gernika).
Rodríguez Alosno, J.A. (2011), Entre el cártel y la democracia. Los partidos políticos en México (Ciudad Juárez: Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez).
Roldán, M. (2002), Blood and Fire: La Violencia in Antioquia, Colombia, 1946–1953 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press).
Saín, M. (2002), Seguridad, democracia y reforma del sistema policial en Argentina (Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica).
Saín, M. (2004), Política, policía y delito: La red bonarense (Buenos Aires: Capital intelectual).
Saín, M. (2008), El Leviatán azul (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI).
Saín, M. (2010), Reforma policial en América Latina: Una mirada crítica desde el progresismo (Buenos Aires: Prometeo).
Scherlis, G. (2008), ‘Machine Politics and Democracy: The Deinstitutionalization of the Argentine Party System’, Government and Opposition, 43(4): 579598.
Schütze, S. (2005), Die andere Seite der Demokratisierung: Die Veränderungen von politischer Kultur aus der Perspektive der sozialen Bewegung der Siedlerinnen von Santo Domingo, Mexiko-Stadt (Berlin: Tranvía).
Scott, J. (1972), ‘Patron–Client Politics and Political Change in Southeast Asia’, American Political Science Review, 66(1): 91113.
Scott, J. (1990), Domination and the Art of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press).
SSPDF (Secretary of Public Security of the Federal District) (2009), ‘Seguridad: A TU ALCANCE’, leaflet distributed by local police department, Mexico City.
Stokes, S.C. (2005), ‘Perverse Accountability: A Formal Model of Machine Politics with Evidence from Argentina’, American Political Science Review, 99(3): 315325.
Stokes, S.C. (2009), ‘Political Clientelism’, in S. Stokes and B. Carles (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Political Science (Oxford: Oxford University Press): 604627.
Tello, N. (2012), ‘Police Reforms: The Voice of Police and Residents in Mexico City’, Policing and Society, 22(1): 1427.
Uildriks, N. (2010), Mexico's Unrule of Law: Implementing Human Rights in Police and Judicial Reform under Democratization (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books).
El Universal (2007), ‘Consignan a comandante judicial por presunta extorsión’, El Universal, 22 March.
Ward, P. (1990), Mexico City: The Production and Reproduction of an Urban Environment (London: Belhaven Press).
Zárate Hernández, J.E.J. (2005), ‘Caciques and Leaders in the Era of Democracy’, in A. Knight and W. Pansters (eds), Caciquismo in Twentieth-Century Mexico (London: Institute for the Study of the Americas): 249271.
Znoj, H. (2008), ‘Deep Corruption in Indonesia: Discourses, Practices, Histories’, in M Nuijten and G Anders (eds), Corruption and the Secret of Law (Aldershot: Ashgate): 5374.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Government and Opposition
  • ISSN: 0017-257X
  • EISSN: 1477-7053
  • URL: /core/journals/government-and-opposition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed