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Drawing on extensive interviews with subnational elites and focusing on six Mexican states (Baja California, Chihuahua, Jalisco, Nuevo León, Michoacán, and Guerrero), this chapter analyzes how party alternation and opposition governors’ decisions to remove top- and mid-level officials in the state attorneys’ offices and the state judicial police led to the breakdown of informal government protection networks for drug cartels in the 1990s and early 2000s. Cartels created private militias in response to this political uncertainty in Mexico’s gray zone of criminality, which allowed drug lords to defend their turf and challenge rival territory. Using a sequential analysis, we show how every new party alternation, starting in Baja California in 1989 up to Guerrero in 2005, stimulated an arms race among cartels and led to the proliferation of increasingly lethal dyadic conflicts in the northwest, northeast, and south of the country. By 2006, Mexico’s drug trafficking industry had experienced dramatic transformations: cartels used powerful private militias to settle disputes and the death toll surpassed the 1,000 murders threshold used to classify a conflict as a civil war.
This chapter presents new evidence showing how drug cartels and their associates attacked municipal party candidates and mayors to take control over local elections, penetrated municipal governments, and subdued local economies, populations, and territories. Extensive interviews with former local officials, local economic actors, and local human rights activists show the development of subnational criminal governance regimes in Michoacán and Guerrero – two states ruled by leftist governors, where subnational authorities were purposefully unprotected by the conservative federal government. Cartels inflitrated local campaigns and municipal governments, established themselves as monopolists of violence and criminal taxation, and regulated economic activities in key economic areas. But they failed to do this in Baja California, where the federal government protected the president’s subnational co-partisan rulers. We discuss why, in a context of competition for turf, and state-cartel and inter-cartel conflict, drug lords and their associates developed highly coercive and predatory governance regimes, subverting local democracy, and opening a new era of intense civilian victimization.
This chapter analyzes a surprising wave of 311 lethal attacks by drug cartels against local elected officials and party candidates in Mexico (2007–2012). As the War on Drugs intensified, competition for turf increased and drug lords expanded their range of actions into new illicit markets – including extortion, kidnapping, and the extraction of natural resources. Cartels attacked mayors and local party candidates to develop subnational governance regimes as part of their new strategy. We use time-series cross-sectional analyses to show that attacks took place in subnational regions where intergovernmental partisan conflict between Right and Left was more intense and mayors and local party candidates were unprotected and vulnerable. Attacks took place disproportionately during subnational election cycles, when new governments were elected and new appointments were made. Two natural experiments, contrasting municipalities along the Michoacán–Guerrero and Michoacán–Guanajuato borders, show that political vulnerability and political opportunity are causally related to the probability of attacks against mayors and party candidates.
This chapter explores the popular organizing that arose in Mexico’s southwest state of Guerrero during the Cold War. It concludes that the movement’s identification with the language of nationalism and economic and social expectations that arose with the revolution of 1910 distinguishes it from many of the contemporary Marxist-inspired movements in Latin America. Following a series of government assaults on peaceful protesters demanding democratic inclusion, the teacher-activists who had led the initial opposition – Genaro Vázquez Rojas and Lucio Cabañas – each founded an armed guerrilla movement. While these both remained small, the chapter argues that they enjoyed the support of a broader base that hid them, fed them, and suffered the consequences of unrestrained government violence. Guerrero was, ultimately, the site of Mexico’s guerra sucia. This history also helps us understand the disappearance of Ayotzinapa’s teachers-in-training in 2014. Those students attended a school distinguished for producing radical opposition leaders since its post-revolutionary inception, including, during the Cold War, Lucio Cabañas.
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