The Contemporary Criminalisation of Activists: Insights from Latin America

Roxana Pessoa Cavalcanti, Israel Celi, Simone da Silva Ribeiro Gomes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapterpeer-review


The criminalisation of activists and social movements poses concrete challenges to the exercise of democratic rights and the manifestation of demands for social justice. This chapter aims to engage with a number of research questions relating to the modalities and forms of contemporary criminalisation of activists in Latin America. Utilising findings from qualitative research in Mexico, Brazil and Ecuador, in combination with theoretical inputs from literature on social movements in Latin America, the chapter explores how legislation and the criminal justice system have been used to quash dissent, demobilise and criminalise activists. In particular, stigmatising discourses and terminology referring to criminals, terrorists and communists have been used to delegitimise activists and justify the repression of social movements and protests. Paradoxically, there has also been an expansion of the number and range of protagonists responding to and resisting political turmoil. This chapter draws lessons from these new developments to expand our understanding of the structural and historical relationships between the state and civil society in post-colonial contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSouthern and Postcolonial Perspectives on Policing, Security, and Social Order
EditorsRoxana Cavalcanti, Peter Squires, Zoha Waseem
PublisherBristol Policy Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9781529223668
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2023


  • Criminalisation
  • Latin America
  • Activism
  • Social Movements
  • Mexico
  • Ecuador
  • Brazil


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