Living in Fear: The Dynamics of Extortion in Mexico’s Drug War
54 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2011 Last revised: 24 Jan 2018
Date Written: December 1, 2017
Why do drug trafficking organizations sometimes prey on the communities in which they operate, but sometimes provide assistance to these communities? What explains their strategies of extortion and cooptation toward civil society? We argue that the level of territorial contestation among armed criminal groups explains variation in coopting and coercing civil society. Using new survey data from Mexico, including list experiments to elicit responses about potentially illegal behavior, the paper measures the prevalence of extortion and assistance among drug trafficking organizations. In general, our experiments find higher extortion rates than those reported in national victimization surveys. In support of our theory, then, these data show that territorial contestation among rival organizations produces more extortion, and, in contrast, uncontested municipalities provide the most assistance.
Keywords: Crime; drug-trafficking organizations; extortion; civilian abuse; Mexico; list experiments
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