Springe direkt zu Inhalt

German Police Assistance in Latin America (1949 - 1989): Scope, Practices and Transnational Entanglements


Project management:

Prof. Dr. Markus-Michael Müller

Research assistants:

Dra. Mónika Contreras Saiz
Fabian Bennewitz

Student Assistant:

Holle Ameriga Meding

Since the 1990s, foreign police missions have become a central and internationally recognized instrument of international foreign and security policy. The deployment of German police forces abroad also plays an important role in the current security policy of the federal government and is considered a decisive factor in the success of military and civilian strategies for peacekeeping and state stabilization. However, this is not a new phenomenon. Already in the 1950s, within the framework of the so-called police aid (Polizeihilfe), which involves support for the equipping and training of police forces, German police officers were sent abroad as advisers and instructors. Police institutions were equipped, and foreign police officers were trained at police schools in the Federal Republic of Germany and at the Federal Office for Criminal Investigation.

The focus of investigations of foreign police missions by the German police has been almost exclusively on participation in international missions since the first deployment of a Federal Border contingent in Namibia (1989 – 1990), as well as in larger bilateral missions after 1989. The bilateral and less formal forms of cooperation between the West German police and other foreign police organizations prior to 1989 remain largely unknown.  This is the case of Latin America, a region that has hardly been studied, although it played a strategically important role in the context of the Cold War and has a long tradition of economic, migratory and cultural relations with Germany.

The research project “German Police Assistance in Latin America (1949 - 1989): Scope, Practices and Transnational Entanglements” analyses, for the first time, Germany's role in the modernization of Latin American police institutions and its local and transnational consequences during the Cold War. Through both a systematic analysis of documentary collections in various German and Latin American archives, as well as interviews with the actors involved and contemporary witnesses, the aim is to establish the scope of this cooperation, its practices and the processes of transnational location and interlacing of German police assistance in Latin American countries between 1949 and 1989, thus making a fundamental contribution to research on Latin America and to historical police research.

This project examines the extent to which police cooperation between Germany and Latin America existed during the Cold War, how it was carried out, what consequences this type of aid had for Latin American police forces and what transnational interdependencies resulted from it. The study of the historical emergence of the current international police projects of the German police provides knowledge that is of socio-political relevance in the development of contemporary police missions abroad and creates the basis for further research in this area.