Publication Date




Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


International Studies (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Bruce M. Bagley

Second Committee Member

William C. Smith

Third Committee Member

Laura Gómez Mera

Fourth Committee Member

Lilian E. Yaffe

Fifth Committee Member

Brian J. Phillips


This dissertation examines why certain cities in Mexico experience higher levels of drug-related violence. Traditionally, this kind of violence was thought to be endemic of the border region with the U.S. Nevertheless, since 2007 some cities have experienced an alarming increase in drug-related homicides despite their proximity to the U.S. By employing a quantitative analysis and a small-N comparison across three cities (Monterrey, Veracruz and Cuernavaca), this dissertation addresses two related puzzles: why some cities suddenly experienced a significant increase in drug-related violence; and, why the deployment of military force has been able to successfully mitigate this violence in some cities and not in others. The main argument focuses on the presence of two variables: (1) state capacity understood as military and bureaucratic, and (2) competition among cartels for the illicit drug market. In this sense, the analysis emphasizes how the strength of the local government along with the actions of the army and the navy, and the structure of the illegal market –monopoly, oligopoly or fragmented– interact to produce widely varying levels of violence. The results suggest that municipalities under an oligopolistic market with intermediate state capacity might experience higher levels of violence; whereas, the lowest levels may be found either in the monopolistic or fragmented markets with strong local governments.


Organized Crime; Violence; State Capacity; México