Why Mexico Drug Gangs Have Growing Stake in Elections

InSight Crime, 6/11/12

In a recent piece for Nexos,  security analyst Eduardo Guerrero Gutierrez pointed out that while  criminal groups have long had an interest in building links with the different levels of government, recent developments have made  them focus on elections all the more.  One is that gangs today earn more money  from extortion and from retail drug trafficking, which is known in Mexico as “narcomenudeo.” Unlike international drug trafficking, which can be  carried out without much involvement from the authorities, the police are far more  likely to be aware of extortion and retail drug sales. Government tolerance — or better still, collusion — is needed.

Another  issue is the democratic opening in Mexico: unlike 20 years ago,  when the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had ruled  Mexico for six unbroken decades, today criminal groups have to deal with  the three major parties contending for political posts. That means that  profitable and long-standing relationships between a group and a  political party in a given area can be rendered useless with a single election, which is a grave setback to a gang’s interests.

In  this sense, meddling in elections is a logical policy for gangs,  not unlike private-sector campaign donations to candidates promising a  lower corporate tax rate.

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