Exportation of the Carceral State

An Analysis of US Aid Securitisation in Central America

  • James Victor Gibson University of Guelph
Keywords: Foucault, Carceral state, Central America, US foreign policy, humanitarian aid, Security aid, mano dura, gang violence


This article inquires as to the extent that United States (US) security aid in Central serves US interests and worsens humanitarian crises. Employing Foucaultian political theory, the author asserts that a “carceral state” has appeared in various Central American countries, as a consequence of US foreign policy. In several Central American countries, the carceral state is exemplified by mano dura (“heavy hand”, or, also, zero-tolerance) crime policies, which are manifest in the extrajudicial killing of suspected gang members. Scholars hypothesize that such policies exacerbate existing problems by raising the price of illicit substances on underground markets, and prevent the rehabilitation of gang members. Moreover, expansive military and police spending in Central American countries is compounded upon by security aid transfers from the US and other multilateral entities; as per the quantitative analysis of other researchers. Thus, aforementioned trends create an equilibrium whereby some Central American states continue to pursue mano dura policies.