How Does Leadership Decapitation Affect Violence? The Case of Drug Trafficking Organizations in Mexico

Journal of Politics 77 (2): 324-336, 2015

13 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2013 Last revised: 26 May 2016

Brian J. Phillips

Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE)

Date Written: March 1, 2015

Abstract

Many governments target leaders of violent groups, but consequences of this strategy are unclear. Additionally, most studies examine political groups such as terrorists, ignoring criminal organizations – even though they can represent serious threats to security. This article presents a theoretical framework for how political and criminal groups differ, and uses the framework to explain how group type should condition leadership removal’s effects. Decapitation should weaken criminal organizations, temporarily reducing violence. However, as groups fragment and newer groups emerge to address market demands, violence increases in the longer term. Empirical analysis using original data on Mexican criminal organizations generally supports the argument. Interestingly, the short-term violence reduction is only associated with leaders arrested (not killed), and the reduction is more robust when the target is a mid-level leader, as opposed to the top leader. These results differ markedly from those found in studies of political groups.

Suggested Citation

Phillips, Brian J., How Does Leadership Decapitation Affect Violence? The Case of Drug Trafficking Organizations in Mexico (March 1, 2015). Journal of Politics 77 (2): 324-336, 2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2294822 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2294822

Brian J. Phillips (Contact Author)

Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE) ( email )

Carretera Mexico Toluca 3655
Col. Lomas de Santa Fe
Mexico City, Mexico 01210
Mexico

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
591
rank
40,362
Abstract Views
3,663
PlumX