Torture as a method of criminal prosecution: Democratization, Criminal Justice Reform, and the Mexican Drug War


Tuesday, November 12, 2019, 12:00pm


CGIS South, S250

Speaker: Beatriz Magaloni, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University
Moderator: Fernando Bizzarro, PhD student, Department of Government; Graduate Student Associate, DRCLAS

A criminal trial is likely the most signicant interaction a citizen will ever have with the state; its conduct and adherence to norms of fairness bear directly on the quality of government, extent of democratic consolidation, and human rights. While theories of repression tend to focus on the political incentives to transgress against human rights, we examine a case in which the institutionalization of such violations follows an organizational logic rather than the political logic of regime survival or consolidation. We exploit a survey of the Mexican prison population and the implementation of reforms of the justice system to assess how reforms to criminal procedure reduce torture. We demonstrate that democratization produced a temporary decline in torture which then increased with the onset of the Drug War and militarization of security. Results show that democracy alone is insufficient to restrain torture unless it is accompanied by institutionalized protections.

Beatriz Magaloni is a Professor in the Department of Political Science, Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI), and affiliated faculty at the Center on Global Poverty and Development at Stanford University. 

Her first book, Voting for Autocracy: Hegemonic Party Survival and its Demise in Mexico (Cambridge University Press, 2006), won the Best Book Award from the Comparative Democratization Section of the American Political Science Association and the 2007 Leon Epstein Award for the Best Book published in the previous two years in the area of political parties and organizations. Her second book, Strategies of Vote Buying: Democracy, Clientelism, and Poverty Relief in Mexico (co-authored with Alberto Diaz Cayeros and Federico Estévez), studies the politics of poverty relief. Why clientelism is such a prevalent form of electoral exchange, how it distorts policies aimed at aiding the poor, and when it can be superseded by more democratic and accountable forms of electoral exchange are some of the central questions that the book addresses.

In 2010 she founded the Poverty, Violence and and Governance Laboratory (POVGOV). There she pursues a research agenda focused on violence, human rights and poverty reduction. The mission of  POVGOV is to develop action-oriented research through the elaboration of scientific knowledge that is anchored on state-of-the-art methodologies, multidisciplinary work, and innovative on-the-ground research and training. The Lab regularly incorporates undergraduate, masters, Ph.D. and post-doctoral students to pilot and evaluate interventions to reduce violence, combat human rights abuses and improve the accountability of law enforcement and justice sytems.

Her work has appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, World Development, Comparative Political Studies, Annual Review of Political Science, Latin American Research Review, Journal of Theoretical Politics and other journals.

Prior to joining Stanford in 2001, Professor Magaloni was a visiting professor at UCLA and a professor of Political Science at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM). She earned a Ph.D. in Political Science from Duke University. She also holds a law degree from ITAM.

Fernando Bizzarro is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Government at Harvard and a Graduate Student Associate to the DRCLAS. A political scientist from Brazil, he researches the nature, causes, and consequences of democracy and political parties in Latin America.

The Tuesday Seminar Series is a bring your own brown bag lunch series. Please feel free to enjoy your lunch at the lecture, drinks will be provided.