Despite the general belief that Mexican criminal organizations do not have political interests, research suggests that they have used violence for political purposes to protect their interests, particularly at the local level.
Quantitative and qualitative evidence shows that criminal organizations strategically use violence to capture local governments and ensure control of territories across municipalities, and targeted opposition politicians who lacked federal government support. It is also theorized that democratization led to a breakdown of patronage networks between governments and criminal organizations in the 1990s due to the rise of political alternation.
Of particular significance is the impact of violence on Mexico’s democracy. Studies have found that approaching elections may trigger intense competition between criminal groups, and that this often puts electoral competitiveness at risk.
As a result, the most violent Mexican municipalities have a reduced number of candidates in local elections, as well as lower electoral turnout, suggesting that the strategic use of violence can significantly demobilize voters.
Author: Claudia Fernandez
Researcher, Mexico Violence Resource Project