Dissertation Project

Message in a Battle: How Public Messages and Violence Impact Society in Mexico

Working Papers

From the Cuartel to the Cartel: Linking Military Origins to Violent Outcomes for Criminal Groups (submitted, under review)

In 2010, the Zetas criminal organization massacred 72 undocumented migrants in Mexico. The Zetas are notorious for their use of indiscriminate violence, yet such behaviour from a criminal group is puzzling, because it offers little economic gain, but risks costly delegitimisation. This study asks: what mechanisms lead armed groups with a primarily economic purpose to pursue a strategy of indiscriminate violence, when opportunities to moderate the use of violence exist? The study argues that groups that first mobilize out of military institutions such as barracks (cuartel in Spanish) generally combine a high capacity for violence with a low capacity for social integration. This primes the group to utilize indiscriminate violence, and to focus on manipulating public perception of that violence instead of moderating its overall use. A case study of the Zetas – utilising primary and secondary documents, including narco-messages attributed to the group – demonstrates the mechanism in action.

Returning to the Battlefield for the First Time: Discipline and Recidivism at Guantánamo Bay