Living in Fear: The Dynamics of Extortion in Mexico’s Drug War

54 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2011 Last revised: 24 Jan 2018

See all articles by Beatriz Magaloni

Beatriz Magaloni

Stanford University - Department of Political Science

Gustavo Robles

Stanford University

Aila M. Matanock

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science

Vidal Romero

Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM)

Alberto Diaz-Cayeros

Stanford University

Date Written: December 1, 2017

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Magaloni, Beatriz and Robles, Gustavo and Matanock, Aila M. and Romero, Vidal and Diaz-Cayeros, Alberto, Living in Fear: The Dynamics of Extortion in Mexico’s Drug War (December 1, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1963836 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1963836

Beatriz Magaloni

Stanford University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States
650-724-7481 (Phone)

Gustavo Robles (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Aila M. Matanock

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science ( email )

210 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Vidal Romero

Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) ( email )

Av. Camino a Sta. Teresa 930
Col. Héroes de Padierna
Mexico City, D.F. 01000, Federal District 01080
Mexico

Alberto Diaz-Cayeros

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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