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ECPR Journals Virtual Special Issue

Governing Legitimacy: Third-Order Territorial Fragmentation and the Changing Nature of Mexico’s 'Drug-Fuelled' Conflict

Falko Ernst
University of Essex
Falko Ernst
University of Essex

Mexican organized crime has undergone a mutation. Following an operational turn to the local, striving for legitimacy has become a central feature among Mexican criminal organizations’ modes of survival. Criminal organization-environment interactions of unprecedented intensity have emerged and triggered far-reaching consequences. Redefining the country’s internal conflict, an increasingly complex set of (non-state) armed actors – recently enriched by auto-defense groups – competes over locally rooted resources qua opposing legitimacy strategies. To examine this reconfiguration of Mexico’s security landscape, I depart from the in-depth description of the emblematic case of Los Caballeros Templarios (LCT), developed through exclusive first-hand data gathered within LCT’s core operational territory through interviews with its leaders and participant observation amongst local civilian populations. I unveil how licit-illicit-complicities and thus both criminal organizations’ and (rogue) state actors’ continued access to resources vital for their permanence have become fundamentally dependent upon how the question of legitimacy is governed.
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