Skip to main content

Fragmentation and cooperation: the evolution of organized crime in Mexico

Abstract

Some researchers suggest that the observed boom in the levels of violence in Mexico since 2008 are a consequence of placing federal military forces in states with a significant organized crime presence. However, little has been said about the role of the changeable, competitive, and violent nature of criminal organizations on this increasing violence. Using the literature on inter- and intra-state conflicts as matter of analogy to explain organized crime developments in Mexico, fragmentation and cooperation seem to be determinant forces that alter the equilibrium within Mexican criminal groups, affecting their territorial control. By using a private dataset gathered by the Drug Policy Program at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE), we examine the evolution of criminal organizations in Mexico by focusing on their different alliances and fragmentations from December 2006 to December 2011. Our analysis suggests that violence is a consequence not only of the law enforcement actions, but also of the fragmentation and cooperation within and between private groups.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10
Fig. 11
Fig. 12
Fig. 13
Fig. 14
Fig. 15
Fig. 16

Notes

  1. 1.

    CIDE is a Mexican center for research and higher education specialized in social sciences. More information at http://www.cide.edu/sobre-el-cide/

  2. 2.

    We are using homicides categorized as “executions” allegedly related to organized crime as proxy for violence. Other indicators of violence can be used (i.e. number of disappearances, extortion, kidnappings, and torture, among others).

  3. 3.

    The number of events related to organized crime gathered in the PPD Database is greater than these numbers. However, a criminal group is not always identified.

  4. 4.

    Alliances and coalitions are not the same. According to Smith (1995), an alliance is a nonbinding agreement between two nations. A coalition is a group of nations that fight together in war, with or without a previous agreement.

  5. 5.

    A unique command allows an organization to be institutionalized, with all factions being represented by the organization (Bakke et al. 2012).

  6. 6.

    The online appendix provides a detailed description of the groups forming alliances and fragmentations, and a brief description of the PPD Dataset information used for this analysis.

  7. 7.

    A more elaborated typology for defining alliances is presented in section 4.

  8. 8.

    El Chapo escaped from jail in 2001, and in 2014, was recaptured. He escaped once again in 2015, and in January 2016 he was captured for the last time.

  9. 9.

    Based on the profile of the OBL developed by InSight Crime (2015b).

  10. 10.

    See more http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2009/12/17/actualidad/1261004404_850215.html.

  11. 11.

    This section is based on Valdés-Castellanos (2013a, b); and the Gulf Cartel profile by InSight Crime (2015c).

  12. 12.

    Los Zetas profile is based on Hernández (2012) and Valdés-Castellanos (2013a, b).

  13. 13.

    The story of criminal groups in Michoacán is based on Valdés-Castellanos (2013a, b) and the profile of La Familia and Los Caballeros Templarios developed by InSight Crime (2015a, 2015d.).

  14. 14.

    The PPD Dataset is comprised of three categories: confrontations (between criminal groups and the government, or within criminal groups); aggressions (from criminal groups to the government); and executions (violent homicides that are allegedly related to organized crime). From the executions category, 11% of the homicides are “labeled,” i.e., events where a message was left with the executed body. From this percentage, approximately 70% of the messages were attributable (either signed by or directed to specific groups; Atuesta(2016)).

References

  1. Astorga L (2005) El siglo de las drogas: el narcotráfico, del Porfiriato al nuevo milenio. Plaza y Janés, México City

    Google Scholar 

  2. Atuesta L (2016) Narcomessages as a way to analyse the evolution of organised crime in Mexico. Global Crime. doi:10.1080/17440572.2016.1248556

    Google Scholar 

  3. Atuesta L, Ponce A (2016) ¿Cómo la Intervención Gubernamental Altera la Violencia? Evidencia del Caso Mexicano. Working paper, Drug Policy Program, CIDE

  4. Atuesta L, Siordia OS, Madrazo A (2016) La ‘guerra contra las drogas’ en México: Registros (oficiales) de eventos durante el período de diciembre 2006 a noviembre 2011. Working paper. Drug Policy Program, CIDE, 2016

  5. Bakke KM, Cunningham KG, Seymour LJ (2012) A plague of initials: fragmentation, cohesion, and infighting in civil wars. Perspect Polit 10(02):265–283

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Calderón G, Robles G, Díaz-Cayeros A, Magaloni B (2015) The beheading of criminal organizations and the dynamics of violence in Mexico. J Confl Resolut 59(8):1455–1485

  7. Cory M, Rios V, Shirk DA (2012) Drug violence in Mexico: data and analysis through 2011. Trans-Border Institute, San Diego

    Google Scholar 

  8. Cunningham DE, Gleditsch KS, Salehyan I (2009) It takes two: a dyadic analysis of civil war duration and outcome. J Confl Resolut. doi:10.1177/0022002709336458

    Google Scholar 

  9. Dudley S (2011) Zetas-La Linea alliance may alter balance of power in Mexico, http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/zetas-la-linea-alliance-may-alter-balance-of-power-in-mexico

  10. Escalante F (2013) Homicidios 2008–2009: La muerte tiene permiso. Nexos, January 1

  11. Findley M, Rudloff P (2012) Combatant fragmentation and the dynamics of civil wars. Br J Polit Sci 42(04):879–901

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Gallagher-Cunningham K (2013) Actor fragmentation and civil war bargaining: how internal divisions generate civil conflict. Am J Polit Sci 57(3):659–672

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Gallagher-Cunningham K, Bakke KM, Seymour LJ (2012) Shirts today, skins tomorrow dual contests and the effects of fragmentation in self-determination disputes. J Confl Resolut 56(1):67–93

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Grayson GW (2011) Mexico: narco-violence and a failed state? Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick

    Google Scholar 

  15. Guerrero-Gutiérrez E (2012) La estrategia fallida. Nexos, December

  16. Guerrero-Gutiérrez E (2011) Security, drugs, and violence in Mexico: a survey. Lantia Consultores, México

    Google Scholar 

  17. Hernández A (2012) Los señores del narco. Grijalbo, Mexico

    Google Scholar 

  18. Hope A (2014) Las trampas del centralismo. Nexos, July 1

  19. Hope A 2013) Violencia 2007–2011. La tormenta perfecta. Nexos, November 1

  20. Hugh-Jones D (2013) Reputation and cooperation in defense. J Confl Resolut 57(2):327–355

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Human Security Report Project Definitions. http://www.hsrgroup.org/our-work/security-stats/Definitions.aspx

  22. InSight Crime (2015a) Familia Michoacana. http://es.insightcrime.org/noticias-sobre-crimen-organizado-en-mexico/familia-michoacana-perfil

  23. InSight Crime (2015b) BLO. http://www.insightcrime.org/mexico-organized-crime-news/beltran-leyva-mexico

  24. InSight Crime (2015c) Cartel del Golfo. http://es.insightcrime.org/noticias-sobre-crimen-organizado-en-mexico/cartel-del-golfo-perfil

  25. InSight Crime (2015d) Caballeros Templarios http://es.insightcrime.org/noticias-sobre-crimen-organizado-en-mexico/caballeros-templarios-perfil

  26. Leeson, P.T. (2006). Cooperation and conflict. Am J Econ Sociol, 65(4), 891–907.

  27. Levy JS (1981) Alliance formation and war behavior: an analysis of the great powers, 1495-1975. J Confl Resolut 25(4):581–613

  28. Merino J (2011) Los operativos conjuntos y la tasa de homicidios: Una medición. Nexos, June 1

  29. Mosso R (2013) Cae Alberto Carrillo, lider del Nuevo Cartel de Juarez. Milenio.com. Retrieved May 13, 2015, from http://www.milenio.com/policia/Alberto-Carrillo-Nuevo-Cartel-Juarez_0_146385597.html

  30. Osorio J (2015) The contagion of drug violence spatiotemporal dynamics of the Mexican war on drugs. J Confl Resolut 59(8):1403–1432

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Pearlman W, Gallagher-Cunningham K (2012) Nonstate actors, fragmentation, and conflict processes. J Confl Resolut 56(1):3–15

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Phillips B (2015) How does leadership decapitation affect violence? The case of drug trafficking organizations in Mexico. J Polit 77:2

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Polo M (1995) Internal cohesion and competition among criminal organizations. Econ Organised Crime, 87–108

  34. Powell B, Stringham EP (2009) Public choice and the economic analysis of anarchy: a survey. Public Choice 140(3–4):503–538

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. PGR (2013) Células delictivas con presencia en el país. PGR, Mexico

    Google Scholar 

  36. Rios V, Shirk DA (2011) Drug violence in Mexico: Data analysis through 2010. Trans-Border Institute, University of San Diego, https://justiceinmexico.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/2011-tbi-drugviolence.pdf

  37. Rudloff P, Findley MG (2016) The downstream effects of combatant fragmentation on civil war recurrence. J Peace Res 53(1):19–32

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Scott WR (2013) Institutions and organizations: ideas, interests, and identities. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks

    Google Scholar 

  39. Sambanis N (2004) What is civil war? Conceptual and empirical complexities of an operational definition. J Confl Resolut 48(6):814–858

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Smith A (1995) Alliance formation and war. Int Stud Q 39(4):405–425

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Snyder R, Duran-Martinez A (2009) Does illegality breed violence? Drug trafficking and state-sponsored protection rackets. Crime Law Soc Chang 52(3):253–273

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Staniland P (2012) Between a rock and a hard place insurgent fratricide, ethnic defection, and the rise of pro-state paramilitaries. J Confl Resolut 56(1):16–40

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Valdés-Castellanos G (2013a) Historia del narcotráfico en México. Aguilar

  44. Valdés-Castellanos G (2013b) El nacimiento de un ejército criminal. Nexos

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yocelyn Samantha Pérez-Dávila.

Ethics declarations

Funding

This study did not receive any funding.

Conflict of interest

Author A declares that he/she has no conflict of interest. Author B declares that he/she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Not Applicable.

Electronic supplementary material

ESM 1

(DOCX 109 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Atuesta, L.H., Pérez-Dávila, Y.S. Fragmentation and cooperation: the evolution of organized crime in Mexico. Trends Organ Crim 21, 235–261 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12117-017-9301-z

Download citation

Keywords

  • Organized crime
  • Instra-state conflicts
  • Fragmentation
  • Cooperation: criminal groups