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In this chapter I develop my argument to explain variation in the processes and mechanisms that lead to distinct strategies of resistance to criminal extortion. I first define the core concepts that readers will encounter throughout the book. Next I explain the logic of the argument to show how the intersection between the time horizons of criminal actors, the nature of local political economies, and whether there is criminal capture of the police shapes the strategies of resistance that victims pursue. I then outline the parameters under which I expect the argument to hold, and discuss how my study builds on insights into existing research. I conclude by discussing the research design, case selection, and the methodologies that I used to collect and analyze data.
This chapter continues the comparative analysis of the two municipalities in Michoacán by leveraging within-case shifts in the availability of police as allies for victims’ resistance efforts. In both cases the variants of collective vigilantism produced “bottom-up” purges of the local police who had been captured by criminal actors. Victims responded to this shift in strategic conditions by pursuing the coproduction of local order. Yet the projects of coproduction varied in their structures and practices in ways that reflected the enduring differences in the nature of the local political economies and the legacies of differing forms of collective vigilantism. Avocado sector victims employed their robust sectoral organization and joined with governing authorities to jointly shape local order, whereas the legacy of decentralized collective vigilantism and weak ties to governing authorities in the berry sector resulted in violent competition between coalitions of armed victims and politicians to obtain political power during elections.
This concluding chapter first briefly summarizes the argument to explain variation in the processes and mechanisms that lead victims to pursue distinct strategies of resistance to criminal extortion. It then identifies the broader implications that follow from the book’s core findings, including the need to bring victims more squarely into our research on the politics of crime, unpack how victims understand and experience criminal victimization, broaden our approach to the political consequences of criminal victimization to include resistance, and complicate the ways in which we think about relations between police and communities. The chapter outlines a future research agenda on the politics of crime that emphasizes greater attention to the intersection between the political economy of development and the politics of crime as well as criminal governance, armed politics, and the ways in which attention to the understandings of victims can help move us beyond a focus on relations between states and criminals as limited to the binary of corruption or conflict. The final part of the chapter discusses a series of policy implications based on the book’s analysis and findings.
This chapter analyzes two cases of collective vigilantism in Michoacán, Mexico, to show why and how variation in the local political economies in which victims operate influences their strategies of resistance to criminal extortion. I first examine a case of resistance in the avocado sector where victims operated in an encompassing political economy with a single robust sectoral organization to coordinate among themselves and between them and governing authorities. This enabled avocado sector victims to pursue centralized collective vigilantism wherein victims carried out a range of extralegal practices closely coordinated by a group of leaders. By contrast, in a case of resistance in the berry sector, victims operated in a segmented political economy with competing sectoral organizations that precluded victims’ abilities to coordinate with each other as part of a unified self-defense group or with local governing authorities. This led to decentralized collective vigilantism in which multiple self-defense groups engaged in a range of both complementary and contradictory practices against criminals and simultaneously jockeyed against each other for power and resources.
This chapter argues that civilian resistance to criminal victimization is a gap in the growing literature on the politics of crime. It contends that much of the existing research on crime focuses on drug-related violence. But most people in Latin America experience organized crime not through spectacular acts of drug violence, but instead through the everyday victimization associated with criminal extortion. The chapter identifies the contributions that the book makes to the literatures on the politics of crime, our understanding of business as a victim of crime, and the need for dialogue between the study of crime and the political of development. The chapter previews the argument to explain variation in the processes and mechanisms that lead to different strategies of resistance. It concludes by outlining the structure of the book.
This chapter traces two pathways to everyday resistance to criminal victimization. The first pathway takes place when criminal actors have long time horizons. The first part of the chapter illustrates this pathway by comparing four empirical cases across El Salvador and Mexico where victims favored everyday resistance because the criminal actors enjoyed positions of strength in the absence of state crackdowns or criminal competition and they provided victims with some goods and services. The second pathway takes place when victims favor ending victimization but lack the organizational capacity to mobilize collectively and face police that are captured by criminals. I illustrate the second pathway using a within-case analysis of resistance by informal vendors in Medellín who faced these conditions and thus pursued everyday resistance to contest the strategies of domination that the criminal actor invoked to enforce extortion, but which could not end victimization.
This chapter analyzes cases of piecemeal vigilantism in El Salvador to show why victims resist extortion through ad hoc and sporadic acts of extralegal violence against criminals in coordination with individual police. I first situate criminal extortion within gang politics in El Salvador before turning to the cases of gang-led extortion of small-scale farmers in two rural localities. The small-scale farmers in these localities lacked preexisting organizations to advance collective resistance and had negligible ties to local governing authorities. But the local police were autonomous from the criminal gangs given the latter’s explicit strategy of targeting police as part of the broader state–criminal conflict. Victims in the two cases thus enlisted individual police as collaborators in occasional acts of piecemeal vigilantism. Over time victims faced pressure to scale up their coercive capacities, territorial reach, and extralegal violence amid their inability to end victimization outright. Efforts by victims to do so ultimately distorted their objectives and contributed to their dismantling by national-level judicial authorities.
Criminal extortion is an understudied, but widespread and severe problem in Latin America. In states that cannot or choose not to uphold the rule of law, victims are often seen as helpless in the face of powerful criminals. However, even under such difficult circumstances, victims resist criminal extortion in surprisingly different ways. Drawing on extensive fieldwork in violent localities in Colombia, El Salvador and Mexico, Moncada weaves together interviews, focus groups, and participatory drawing exercises to explain why victims pursue distinct strategies to resist criminal extortion. The analysis traces and compares processes that lead to individual acts of everyday resistance; sporadic killings by ad hoc groups of victims and police; institutionalized and sustained collective vigilantism; and coordination between victims and states to co-produce order in ways that both strengthen and undermine the rule of law. This book offers valuable new insights into the broader politics of crime and the state.