Criminal and Insurgent Patterns of Violence are Empirically Equivalent: The Case of Drug Violence in Mexico Open Access

Edwards, Nathan Dwight (2014)

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Are insurgent groups and organized criminal groups distinct? Contemporary research on intrastate conflict suggests they are, by neglecting the subject of organized crime. Qualitative analysis of several groups demonstrates operational and organizational similarities between them. I argue that their macro-level patterns of violence are empirically equivalent. Previous studies have shown that the frequency of violent attacks by insurgencies conform to a power-law distribution based on the notion of interdependent cells aggregating and disaggregating over time. In this study, I find the frequency of violent attacks by organized criminal groups in Mexico from 2006 to 2010 is also well characterized by a power-law distribution at the national level and at the state level where fighting between the groups and the state is particularly fierce. My findings suggest insurgencies and organized criminal groups are part of the same class when analyzed from the perspective of complex systems. Additionally, we must be cautious in using analytical tools associated with central tendencies when analyzing conflict data characterized by a "fat-tailed" distribution of unusually large events.

Table of Contents


Introduction. 1

The Landscape of Violent Non-state Actors. 6

Conceptual Overlap of Violent Non-State Actors. 9

Fat Tails and Violence. 21

Model of Organized Criminal Violence. 27

Research Design. 31

Mexican Government Data. 32

Political Instability Task Force Data. 36

Analysis of Results. 42

Country-Level Analysis of Violence. 42

State-Level Analysis of Violence. 47

Country-Level Analysis Results. 50

Bayesian Hierarchical Analysis Results. 52

Pooled Model 53

Hierarchical Model 55

Discussion. 61

Conclusion. 64

References. 67

Appendix A: Model Derivation for the Distribution of Organized Criminal Violence. 74

Appendix B. Hierarchical Model Results. 81

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