Narco-Messages: Competition and Public Communication by Criminal Groups

Forthcoming, Latin American Politics and Society

43 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2019

See all articles by Brian J. Phillips

Brian J. Phillips

University of Essex - Department of Government; Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE) - Division of International Studies

Viridiana Ríos

Harvard University

Date Written: May 7, 2019

Abstract

Criminal groups often avoid the limelight, shunning publicity. However, in some instances they overtly communicate, such as through banners or signs. We explain the competition dynamics behind public criminal communication, and provide theory and evidence of the conditions under which it emerges. Relying on a new data set of approximately 1,800 banners publicly deployed by Mexican criminal groups from 2007 to 2010, we identify the conditions behind such messaging. The findings suggest that criminal groups “go public” in the presence of interorganizational contestation, violence from authorities, antagonism toward the local media, local demand for drugs, and local drug production. Some of these factors are only associated with communication toward particular audiences – rivals, the state, or the public. Interestingly, we find that the correlates of criminal propaganda are sometimes distinct from those of criminal violence, suggesting that these phenomena are explained by separate dynamics.

Keywords: organized crime, communication, Mexico

Suggested Citation

Phillips, Brian J. and Ríos, Viridiana, Narco-Messages: Competition and Public Communication by Criminal Groups (May 7, 2019). Forthcoming, Latin American Politics and Society, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3383829

Brian J. Phillips (Contact Author)

University of Essex - Department of Government ( email )

Wivenhoe Park
Colchester CO4 3SQ, CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom

Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE) - Division of International Studies ( email )

Mexico City
Mexico

Viridiana Ríos

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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