Research

Working Papers

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“Reelection Reform and Removing Rivals in Mexico.”

Abstract In 2018, mayors in some states in Mexico became eligible for reelection, while others could only hold a single term. These individuals may also face violence and coercion from organized criminal groups who seek to influence the decisions made by local offices. This paper examines the effect of the introduction of reelection on violence against local politicians in Mexico. I argue that lengthening political horizons, by increasing the number of terms an individual holds, raises the value of capturing office for a criminal group. They will be more willing to spend resources and use violence against rival politicians. This increases the probability that their preferred candidate wins and their investment is profitable, and this is more likely to occur when criminal groups are competing for control of a municipality. To test this theory, I exploit the staggered implementation of an electoral reform in Mexico, which allowed state legislators to decide if mayors would be eligible for reelection. Using a difference-in-differences design with an original data set of attacks on local politicians built from newspaper articles, I find that reelection had an insignificant effect on violence on the whole, but that this effect was positive and significant the year the reform was past and the year after. Further, in places that are valuable to criminal groups – proxied by presence of poppy fields – the effect is much larger. This paper contributes to the larger literature which seeks to understand the interaction of organized crime, politics, and institutional reform.
  • Keywords: reelection; institutional reform; organized crime; criminal violence; elections

“Criminal Police? Analyzing the formalization of Enforcement Units in Criminal Groups”

Abstract When and why do criminal organizations formalize an armed enforcement unit within their ranks? Criminal groups are no strangers to using violence, and officially delegating power and authority to a unit may split payoffs and increase the risks of fragmentation. At the same time, I argue, formalizing these coercive institutions can play two roles. First, for groups that share power with the state, these units can serve as a commitment device between the two players, outlining expectations and benefits. Second, as criminal groups compete with others who are armed with enforcement units, they may build their own institutions as a form of self-protection in a security dilemma. To evaluate this, I employ a mixed-method approach. First, I use process tracing to outline the creation of the first paramilitary enforcement unit in Mexico, formed as a commitment device between the Gulf Cartel and the state. Second, I use a network model to show the interaction of competing criminal groups, and when they developed coercive institutions. This paper provides a further understanding of criminal governance, how it functions, and how it engages with state governance.
  • Keywords: criminal governance; enforcement units; institutions; security dilemma; Mexico

“A Tale of Two Masters”

Abstract How do criminal groups shape the behaviors and preferences of the state, and how does the state influence the behavior of criminal groups? This formal model seeks to clarify the influences that each has on each other in decentralized systems, where both criminal groups and leaders of the state seek to control the enforcement of policy by the agent. However, in doing so, they create incentives for the other to take control. This paper presents a moral hazard problem with multiple principals to examine this relationship. The model shows the effect of criminal groups on the wages and incentives offered by the executive to the agent and the effect of the state on the strategies used by the criminal group to capture the agent. This findings present new implications for empirical studies of the interactions of organized crime and politics.
  • Keywords: organized crime; state governance; moral hazard; multiple principals; delegation

Data Collection

“Mapping Criminal Governance”

Abstract How do criminal groups govern? While our understanding of governance by criminal organizations has grown, there is little systematic data to map it. This project seeks to address this gap. Using newspaper articles from _The New York Times_ containing the names of more than 50 randomly selected groups from across Latin America, this project implements a supervised machine learning approach to code more than thirty indicators of criminal governance. This indicators include who is governing (what group or groups), how they are governing (enforcing rules, collecting taxes, distributing goods), and who they are governing (civilians, other criminals, or the state). This project seeks to expand our understanding of criminal governance across the globe.
  • Keywords: criminal governance; Latin America; Natural Language Processing; supervised machine learning