Explaining Variation in the Apprehension of Mexican Drug Trafficking Cartel Leaders   [open pdf - 609KB]

"Successive Mexican administrations have turned to the deployment of military and federal law enforcement agencies to respond to crises, recently focusing in particular on targeting the leaders of major drug cartels in their counternarcotics efforts. However, since 2000, Mexico's government's efforts to control criminal activities in these cities have met with varying success. During that period, the Mexican federal government has apprehended ten leading members of the Arellano-Felix Organization (AFO), one of the most prolific drug trafficking organizations. In contrast, only three major cartel leaders have been apprehended from the Carrillo Fuentes Organization, (CFO), another enduring drug trafficking organization. This thesis draws upon theories of organization and path dependence to explain variation in the Mexican government's success in arresting major cartel leaders. It argues that variation between the AFO and CFO in their internal structures--in particular, the AFO's low level of professionalism relative to that of the CFO--has facilitated the apprehension of the AFO leadership. In terms of path dependence, the thesis finds that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's focus on the AFO is due to the legacy of a random event, the AFO predecessor's role in the 1985 kidnapping and murder of DEA Special Agent Enrique Camarena. The DEA has clung to this case across twenty-five years and therefore has remained focused on the AFO, in order to justify U.S. counterdrug efforts in Mexico. Changing U.S.-Mexico relations have facilitated the DEA's focus on the AFO, particularly since 2000."

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