CDDRL Working Papers, page(s): 47
This paper provides an account of the strategies of extortion and co-optation used by drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) toward civil society in Mexico. Drawing on the civil war and mafia crime literatures, our theoretical approach focuses on levels of territorial contestation among armed actors, as well as state capture by DTOs, to explain variation in co-opting or coercing civil society. Through the use of list experiments in a nationally representative survey, the paper measures extortion and assistance by DTOs in Mexico. We find that the effect of territorial contestation among rival DTOs has two effects. The effect on extortion is non-linear: highly contested places and non-contested places, controlled by a single DTO, show significantly less extortion than moderately contested places. The effect on assistance is negative: DTOs provide assistance mostly in non-contested places. Additionally, using areas of governance by the former ruling party, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), as a proxy for state capture by DTOs, we find that both DTO and police extortion is higher in municipalities where the state has been captured. These results suggest that territorial contestation and state capture are important in determining the choice of tactics toward civil society during drug wars.