Narco-Messages: Competition and Public Communication by Criminal Groups
Forthcoming, Latin American Politics and Society
43 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2019
Date Written: May 7, 2019
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
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