The Logic of Drug-Related Violence : A Case Study of Mexico from 2006 to 2011

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Mexico has experienced a dramatic escalation of drug-related violence under Mexican President Calderón which has reached a level of intensity and atrocity transcending previous periods of drug-related violence. How to explain the dramatic rise of drug-related violence since 2006? Why are some states plagued with extremely high levels of drug-related violence, whereas others remain largely unaffected? The thesis seeks to explain the variation of drug related violence across time and space by using Stathis Kalyvas’ theory of selective violence. The central propositions and hypotheses of Kalyvas’ theory will be tested by using data on the Mexican case in general and Michoacán in 2009 in particular. The aim is to show whether or not the theory correctly predicts drug-related violence in Mexico. However, there have been some major impediments that complicated the use of Kalyvas theoretical model on the Mexican case: (1) data is often lacking and incomplete; (2) the Mexican “conflict” is a mixture of irregular and conventional warfare; (3) there is more than one conflict, namely one between the Mexican government and the DTOs, and various other conflicts among the different DTOs themselves; and (4) the relationship between DTOs and state officials cannot be compared with the one that exists between incumbents and insurgents in a classical sense. Although only a plausibility probe, the case of Mexico between 2006 and 2011 and of Michoacán in 2009 in particular, provides strong evidence that Kalyvas’ theoretical model can even be applied on this case: (1) civilian support matters for the outcome of the conflict and the actors involved are eager to obtain it; (2) violence plays a key role in obtaining control and collaboration; (3) Mexican DTOs use both types of violence, though selective violence seems to be the predominant type of violence. A shift from indiscriminate violence to more selective violence within the process of the conflict does not seem to conform to the empirical reality. The measurement of territorial control on the case of Michoacán turned out to be difficult; in some cases impossible. Furthermore, there was only little empirical evidence. It was therefore not possible to make rigorous hypotheses testing. Despite these limitations there was evidence that: (1) zone 1 and zone 5 are affected by low levels of violence; (2) zone 2 and 4 are affected by high levels of violence; and (3) Kalyvas’ last hypothesis for zones of parity could neither be confirmed nor denied because of the lack of empirical evidence. However, I assume that the internal logic of DTOs must contradict this hypothesis. Instead I argue that they are equally affected by violence like zone 2 and 4. The following recommendations can be made: (1) the Mexican government has to put more efforts to obtain civilian support which implies combating corruption, regaining trust of the civilian population and winning the “war of perceptions” by preventing DTOs from spreading their propaganda; (2) active or passive collaboration with a DTO does not necessarily mean sympathy, it might also be the result of lacking alternatives and a will to survive; (3) the mere reliance on the Mexican armed forces is counterproductive and has contributed to the escalating levels in violence; as a result (4) Kalyvas’ theory of selective violence should be integrated into the policy process. This bears practical contributions, namely to better interpret the varying patterns of drug-related violence which could help to produce more subtle approaches how to cope with DTOs.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen