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Penalizing democracy: punitive politics in neoliberal Mexico

Abstract

During the last two decades Mexico witnessed a hitherto unparalleled increase in its prison population and an outright punitive turn in local politics. In analyzing these developments, the article argues that the latter are inseparable from different securitization processes emerging from the articulation of democratic politics and neoliberal rationalities of economic governance. The article analyzes three key policy areas—as well as the related (in)securitization processes, their legal-institutional manifestations, and the penalizing consequences—which are paradigmatic examples of the growing punitiveness of Mexican politics: (a) the securitization process related to the war on drugs, (b) the securitization of urban space, and (c) the securitization of migration. In analyzing these three instances of (in)securitization, the article stresses that far from being homogenous and even developments, (in)securitization as well as the underlying processes of neoliberalization and democratization are policy- and place-specific phenomena that produce an uneven punitive topography that shapes the neoliberal present in democratic Mexico.

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Notes

  1. To be sure, Mexico’s democratization process was already underway since the 1980s, when opposition parties,—like PAN, the Mexican Democratic Party (PDM) or the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD)—secured electoral victories at the municipal and state levels. In addition, and partly in response, to this, the formal rules of the electoral game in Mexico became more democratic with the creation of the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) in 1990, an institution that is in charge of the organization and oversight of federal elections. For a comprehensive assessment of Mexico’s democratization process, see Eisenstadt [39].

  2. The concept of arraigo first appeared in 1983 with the reform of the Federal Code of Criminal Procedure. In 2006, the practice was declared as unconstitutional, only to be reinstituted in 2008 as part of constitutional changes related to the creation of Mexico’s new criminal justice system. And because the reforms now incorporated arraigo into the Mexican Constitution, “the mechanism could no longer be challenged on grounds of unconstitutionality” ([36]: 3).

  3. Mexican penal law differentiates between crimes that are under the exclusive prosecutorial authority of federal institutions and legislation (fuero federal), and crimes that are investigated and prosecuted by local authorities and according to local laws (fuero común). Drug trafficking and organized crime are defined as federal offenses.

  4. http://www.reclusorios.df.gob.mx

  5. This annihilation of “public” space is also driven by the expanding power of transnational actors. For instance, international rating agencies and consultancies—and their interests in economic profit and security—have fundamentally shaped Mexico City’s urban renewal process and the related redefinition of the “publicness” of urban space (see [70]). Moreover, even seemingly progressive actors—like artists, academics, and young intellectuals, who throughout the last ten years “discovered” and literally “colonized” parts of the “rescued” and “securitized” areas of downtown Mexico City—have played an ambivalent role in the annihilation of the public character of urban space in this part of the city (see [62]).

  6. Mexico’s long and troubled experience with discriminatory and criminalizing US migration policies contributed significantly to this outcome (see [67]).

  7. http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/rpt/pbg/fy2013/206691.htm

  8. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-112shrg71959/html/CHRG-112shrg71959.htm

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Müller, MM. Penalizing democracy: punitive politics in neoliberal Mexico. Crime Law Soc Change 65, 227–249 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10611-015-9582-6

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Keywords

  • Organize Crime
  • Mexico City
  • Urban Space
  • Drug Trafficking
  • Penal Code