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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Beyond Cartels and Kingpins: A Theory on Behavioral Patterns of Drug Trafficking Organizations

  • Author(s): Farfan-Mendez, Cecilia
  • Advisor(s): Bruhn, Kathleen
  • et al.
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This dissertation proposes a typological theory that identifies more contingent and specific behavioral patterns of DTOs. I identify subtypes of structures of DTOs—hierarchies and wheel networks—and conditions under which diversification of criminal activities occurs. I show that DTOs with hierarchical structures emerge in supply chains of imported illicit drugs engage in risk-averse behavior for laundering money and punish shirkers without resorting to extreme violence. In contrast, DTOs with wheel network structures emerge in supply chains of locally produced illicit drugs, engage in risk-tolerant money laundering activities and punish shirkers using all types of violence. These differences have implications for law enforcement strategies to track and limit DTO activity. Furthermore, I show that targeting kingpins prior to the declaration on the war on crime combined with the later deployment armed forces against the drug trade had the unintended consequence of expanding a market for protection. This market for protection generated opportunities for diversifying criminal activities, such as kidnapping, extortion, and trafficking of illegal goods other than drugs. Wheel network structures enter this market for protection while hierarchical structures generally abstain from diversifying their criminal portfolio. The interaction of structure with the market for protection partially accounts for the diverse levels of violence observed across the country.

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This item is under embargo until September 6, 2020.