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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: September 2020


from Part IV - The Rise of Criminal Governance: Subverting Local Democracy in War


This chapter discusses the implications of our findings for a new understanding of the drivers of large-scale criminal violence in Mexico, the social scientific study of criminal violence, and the design of security policies in new democracies. The focus on state–criminal collusion in the gray zone of criminality and political-electoral mechanisms as triggers of criminal wars and violence offers a new interpretation of drug wars in Mexico (1990–2012) and provides a tentative interpretation of the exponential growth of violence in the 2012–2018 period. Violence increased because Mexico continued to have intense electoral competition but no rule of law; collusion of state agents with crime expanded; presidents politicized law enforcement for electoral gains; and the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto retained the same policies that originally caused the escalation of violence. Beyond Mexico, we discuss how our theoretical reformulation and our empirical findings contribute to the development of a political science of organized crime and violence. We conclude by considering how this political approach can shape a new understanding of security policies in new democracies.

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