Living in Fear: The Dynamics Of Extortion in Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency
This paper provides an account of the strategies of extortion and co-optation used by drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) toward civil society in Mexico. 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 territorial contestation among rival DTOs has two effects: (1) a non-linear effect on extortion—more extortion occurs in moderately contested municipalities— and (2) a negative linear effect on assistance—DTOs provide assistance mostly in uncontested municipalities. Additionally, we find that extortion is higher in municipalities where DTOs have captured the state. These results suggest that territorial contestation and state capture are important in determining the strategy toward civil society during drug wars.