Do Kingpin Removals Cause Violence? Testing Mechanisms and Reassessing Evidence in Mexico.

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Recent empirical work has produced evidence that the forced removal (arrest or killing) of high-ranked members of criminal organizations in Mexico influences subsequent violence, generally finding that it leads to more violence within a year or in the longer term. However, those studies have been limited to a period of five years or less and have not tested the mechanisms through which criminal group “decapitation” is theorized to cause violence. This paper addresses both limitations. I scrutinize theorized mechanisms and test them using panel data regression analysis at both the state and municipal level, with the state level analysis expanding to eight years (2007–2014). I find no evidence for one of the key theorized channels through which kingpin strikes were thought to exacerbate violence—induced violent competition between enemy organizations—or for other testable mechanisms. In line with these findings, I find no relationship between kingpin strikes and subsequent violence in affected areas. The dynamics of leadership removal and subsequent violence are not yet fully understood, and likely evolved.

Last updated on 06/18/2019