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Organized Crime and Democratic Governability

Organized Crime and Democratic Governability: Mexico and the U.S.-Mexican Borderlands

John Bailey
Roy Godson
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    Organized Crime and Democratic Governability
    Book Description:

    The United States-Mexico border zone is one of the busiest and most dangerous in the world. NAFTA and rapid industrialization on the Mexican side have brought trade, travel, migration, and consequently, organized crime and corruption to the region on an unprecedented scale. Until recently, crime at the border was viewed as a local law enforcement problem with drug trafficking-a matter of "beefing" up police and "hardening" the border. At the turn of the century, that limited perception has changed.The range of criminal activity at the border now extends beyond drugs to include smuggling of arms, people, vehicles, financial instruments, environmentally dangerous substances, endangered species, and archeological objects. Such widespread trafficking involves complex, high-level criminal-political alliances that local lawenforcement alone can't address. Researchers of the region, as well as officials from both capitals, now see the border as a set of systemic problems that threaten the economic, political, and social health of their countries as a whole.

    Organized Crime and Democratic Governabilitybrings together scholars and specialists, including current and former government officials, from both sides of the border to trace the history and define the reality of this situation. Their diverse perspectives place the issue of organized crime in historical, political, economic, and cultural contexts unattainable by single-author studies. Contributors examine broad issues related to the political systems of both countries, as well as the specific actors-crime gangs, government officials, prosecutors, police, and the military-involved in the ongoing drama of the border. Editors Bailey and Godson provide an interpretive frame, a "continuum of governability," that will guide researchers and policymakers toward defining goals and solutions to the complex problem that, along with a border, the United States and Mexico now share.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7229-7
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. List of Tables and Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  2. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-30)
    John Bailey and Roy Godson

    Mexico’s governability has been put to the test at several junctures since the mid-1980s.¹ But for the first time in many decades, there is growing concern about instability in the U.S.-Mexican borderlands. Not since the Mexican Revolution in the early 1900s and potential German threats to the underbelly of the United States in World War I has this sort of attention been focused on the region by observers on both sides of the border and in their respective capital cities. The reasons behind this interest in the region are largely economic and financial. They include the upsurge of bilateral trade...

  3. PART I Crime and Governability in Mexico

    • Chapter 2 The Nexus of Organized Crime and Politics in Mexico
      (pp. 33-57)
      Stanley A. Pimentel

      This chapter examines the associations between organized crime and politics in Mexico from the 1960s to the mid-1990s. In order to understand how this nexus evolved, I must first consider the relevant historical and cultural contexts. Following this, I examine how the organized political and criminal elements came together in the contemporary period to work in a collaborative pattern and how organized crime was, for a period of time, controlled and managed by the political authorities. A theoretical framework developed by Peter A. Lupsha is particularly helpful in interpreting the Mexican case.

      My argument is that three centuries of occupation,...

    • Chapter 3 Organized Crime and the Organization of Crime
      (pp. 58-82)
      Luis Astorga

      As a methodological principle, the study of a subject should begin with critical examination of the sociohistorical origin of inherited categories and patterns of perception. Doing otherwise limits one’s understanding of the subject. In the case of illicit drugs and drug traffickers, the current prevailing discourse can make uncritical thinkers believe that what is said is true and has always been true and that the future is already laid out. People talk about the war on drugs, drug trafficking, drug traffickers, cartels, federation, Colombianization, organized crime, national security, and the like as if these categories had meaning in themselves. All...

    • Chapter 4 Organized Crime and Political Campaign Finance in Mexico
      (pp. 83-102)
      Leonardo Curzio

      One of the most debated topics in modern democracies relates to financing the activities of political parties. In North America, Europe, and Latin America, this issue is high on the political agenda. Furthermore, in some countries, irregular contributions have resulted in widely publicized scandals, and, in others, in intense legal-political controversies in order to establish legal frameworks to promote more equal electoral competition. Restrictive regulations or controls on funding received by political institutions have been modified recently. Countries have undertaken these reforms in order to diminish the bias of illegal or illegitimate funding of political parties.

      Recent practices of political...

    • Chapter 5 Scope and Limits of an Act of Good Faith: The PANʹs Experience at the Head of the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic
      (pp. 103-125)
      Sigrid Arzt

      The purpose of this chapter is to identify the challenges that the PAN (National Action Party) administration confronted in the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic from December 1994 to December 1996. The chapter consists of three main sections. The first part provides a brief sketch of the country’s political context in early 1995, in which there were expectations of change when, for the first time in Mexico’s postrevolutionary history, a member of the opposition was appointed to a cabinet post. The job, however, was to head up the most discredited institution in the political system—the Office...

    • Chapter 6 Containing Armed Groups, Drug Trafficking, and Organized Crime in Mexico: The Role of the Military
      (pp. 126-158)
      Raúl Benítez Manaut

      The mexican transition taking place at the end of the twentieth century and into the new millennium has deeply altered economic, social, political, and international relations at all levels. Both in civil society and in state and government structures, these changes have shifted the position of key actors in national life. In civil society, businesspeople, union leaders, merchants, intellectuals, and journalists have a new role. Some are becoming stronger in society and in relation to the state; others are seeing their position diminished. Within the state and the political system, the actors who traditionally played key roles in the years...

  4. PART II Crime and Governability in the U.S.-Mexican Borderlands

    • Chapter 7 The Historical Dynamics of Smuggling in the U.S.-Mexican Border Region, 1550–1998: Reflections on Markets, Cultures, and Bureaucracies
      (pp. 161-176)
      Louis R. Sadler

      Smuggling along the borders of the sovereign nations of the world is an ancient and almost honorable occupation. Indeed, if prostitution is the world’s oldest profession, then smuggling and espionage most certainly run a close race for second place. From the cigarette smugglers of Andorra—with their backpacks loaded with cartons of cigarettes, humping their loads over the Pyrenees Mountains and evading Spanish customs guards—who are virtually legendary;¹ to the famed rumrunners of the Prohibition era evading U.S. Coast Guard cutters to bring hard liquor to thirsty Americans;² to gunrunners like the legendary “Earthquake McGoon” (real name: Captain James...

    • Chapter 8 Organized Crime and Democratic Governability at the U.S.-Mexico Border: Border Zone Dynamics
      (pp. 177-198)
      Francisco Javier Molina Ruiz

      Probably nowhere in the world do two countries as different as Mexico and the United States live side by side. As one crosses the border into Mexico from, say, El Paso, the contrast is shocking—from wealth to poverty, from organization to improvisation, from artificial flavoring to pungent spices. But the physical differences are least important. Probably nowhere in the world do two neighbors understand each other so little, with differences in language, religion, race, philosophy, and history. The United States is barely two hundred years old and jumping wholeheartedly into the twenty-first century. Mexico is several thousand years old...

    • Chapter 9 Mexican Drug Syndicates in California
      (pp. 199-216)
      Elias Castillo and Peter Unsinger

      For more than three-quarters of a century, Mexican drug syndicates have been growing in power, size, and influence, fueled by their production of illicit narcotics and the smuggling and sale of those drugs into the United States. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has described these syndicates as a serious threat to the security of the United States. This chapter examines the organization and methods used by Mexican drug syndicates to smuggle, sell narcotics, and collect and return to Mexico profits gained from the sale of drugs within the United States. The chapter concludes that Mexican drug syndicates, because...

    • Chapter 10 Conclusion
      (pp. 217-224)
      John Bailey and Roy Godson

      Governability, as we have used the term, refers to the ability of a government to allocate values over its society, to exercise ultimate authority in the context of generally accepted rules and procedures. In the Introduction we offered a set of criteria for governability: monopoly of legal coercion, administration of justice, administrative capacity, provision of minimum public goods, and conflict management.Democraticgovernability adds the notion of procedures and guarantees: freely contested, periodic elections, with maximum feasible participation of the citizenry, who enjoy basic rights including freedom of speech and of assembly. In addition to the standard procedural notions, our...