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


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Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs 

Program of Latin American and the Caribbean presents

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

Why did Mexican drug cartels go to war as the country transitioned away from one-party rule? And why have criminal wars proliferated as democracy has consolidated and elections have become more competitive subnationally? In Votes, Drugs, and Violence, Guillermo Trejo and Sandra Ley develop a political theory of criminal violence in weak democracies that elucidates how democratic politics and the fragmentation of power fundamentally shape cartels' incentives for war and peace. Drawing on in-depth case studies and statistical analysis spanning more than two decades and multiple levels of government, Trejo and Ley show that electoral competition and partisan conflict were key drivers of the outbreak of Mexico's crime wars, the intensification of violence, and the expansion of war and violence to the spheres of local politics and civil society.

Sandra Ley

Assistant Professor

Political Studies Division

Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE), Mexico City

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. 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, Politics & Society, 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.

Hosted By:

Gladys McCormick, Jay and Debe Moskowitz Chair in Mexico-US Relations

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