Votes, Drugs, and Violence- The Political Logic of Criminal Wars in Mexico

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Votes, Drugs, and Violence- The Political Logic of Criminal Wars in Mexico

Lecture description: One of the most surprising developments in Mexico's transition to democracy is the outbreak of criminal wars and large-scale criminal violence. Why did Mexican drug cartels go to war as the country transitioned away from one-party rule? And why have criminal wars proliferated as electoral competition has become more intense? Sandra Ley will present an overview of the book "Votes, Drugs, and Violence," coauthored with Guillermo Trejo, in which they develop a political theory of criminal violence that elucidates how the continual reallocation and fragmentation of political power through multiparty elections can become a source of uncertainty in the criminal underworld and a trigger of violence, particularly in new democracies in which elites fail to reform the authoritarian security and judicial systems and dismantle state-criminal collusion networks previously forged in autocracy – as happened in Mexico. Drawing on in-depth case studies and statistical analysis spanning more than two decades and multiple levels of government, Trejo and Ley show that subnational party alternation and intergovernmental partisan conflict in Mexico were key drivers of the outbreak of drug wars, the intensification of violence, and the rise of cartels as local de facto rulers in a significant part of the country.

Sandra Ley is Assistant Professor at the Political Studies Division at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE), where she also coordinates the Program for the Study of Violence. Prior to her arrival at CIDE, she was a visiting fellow at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Sandra studies criminal violence and political behavior. Her research focuses on the political consequences of criminal activity. Her most recent work examines how violence affects the activation of civil society, political participation and accountability. Sandra’s work includes several sources of information. She conducted extensive fieldwork in the north and south of Mexico; she designed an original post-election survey and built a unique database on protests against crime and insecurity in Mexico. Together with Guillermo Trejo, Associate Professor at the University of Notre Dame, she is the coauthor of the book Votes, Drugs, and Violence. The Political Logic of Criminal Wars in Mexico (Cambridge University Press, 2020). Her work has been published in British Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Latin American Politics and Society, Latin American Research Review, among other international academic journals. Sandra received her Ph.D. in Political Science from Duke University in 2014.

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