Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

Votes, Drugs, and Violence
The Political Logic of Criminal Wars in Mexico

$34.99 (P)

Part of Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics

  • Date Published: September 2020
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108795272

$ 34.99 (P)

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Hardback, eBook

Looking for an examination copy?

If you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • One of the most surprising developments in Mexico's transition to democracy is the outbreak of criminal wars and large-scale criminal violence. Why did Mexican drug cartels go to war as the country transitioned away from one-party rule? And why have criminal wars proliferated as democracy has consolidated and elections have become more competitive subnationally? In Votes, Drugs, and Violence, Guillermo Trejo and Sandra Ley develop a political theory of criminal violence in weak democracies that elucidates how democratic politics and the fragmentation of power fundamentally shape cartels' incentives for war and peace. Drawing on in-depth case studies and statistical analysis spanning more than two decades and multiple levels of government, Trejo and Ley show that electoral competition and partisan conflict were key drivers of the outbreak of Mexico's crime wars, the intensification of violence, and the expansion of war and violence to the spheres of local politics and civil society.

    • Develops a political theory of peace and violence in the criminal underworld to explain the outbreak of criminal wars in new democracies
    • Provides the first complete scholarly account of the outbreak and intensification of Mexico's narco wars over the previous decades
    • Uses a multi-method approach, combining extensive statistical analyses and case studies, to assess the causal impact of political variables on the dynamics of criminal violence while also testing rival economic and social explanations
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    'This brilliant book offers a novel and needed theory of criminal violence that emphasizes the crucial role of politics. The authors explain why transitions from authoritarianism to democracy often lead to high levels of criminal violence, and identify the conditions for the onset and escalation of criminal wars as well as for the victimization of local authorities and politicians. The empirical chapters, which combine statistical analyses and case studies, offer compelling evidence of the effects of political change on criminal violence. At the same time, the book is a profound analysis of the devastating criminal wars that Mexico has endured over the previous decades.' Ana Arjona, Northwestern University

    'Trejo and Ley have crafted a sophisticated theory that stands out for its clarity, careful construction of arguments, vast data collected, and variety of research methods employed. By focusing on the role of violent specialists and on the gray zone of criminality, Votes, Drugs, and Violence not only provides a comprehensive narrative about the tragic escalation of violence in Mexico since 2006, but also expands our understanding of how criminals and states interact.' Angélica Durán-Martínez, University of Massachusetts, Lowell

    'Trejo and Ley’s Votes, Drugs, and Violence provides critical new insights into the phenomenon of criminal governance. The authors offer a rich and compelling account of how interactions between criminal groups and the state promote varied patterns of violence in Mexico. The book is an essential addition to the literature on criminal violence and conflict in Latin America.' Desmond Arias, Baruch College, CUNY

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2020
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108795272
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.54kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. A Political Theory of Criminal Violence:
    1. The political foundations of peace and war in the gray zone of criminality
    Part II. The Outbreak of Inter-cartel Wars:
    2. Why cartels went to war: subnational party alternation, the breakdown of criminal protection, and the onset of inter-cartel wars
    3. Fighting turf wars: cartels, militias, and the struggle for drug trafficking corridors
    Part III. The State's War Against the Cartels:
    4. Why the state's war against the cartels intensified violence: political polarization, intergovernmental partisan conflict, and the escalation of violence
    5. Unpacking the war against the cartels: presidents, governors, and large-scale narco violence
    Part IV. The Rise of Criminal Governance: Subverting Local Democracy in War:
    6. Why cartels murder mayors and local party candidates: subnational political vulnerability and political opportunities to become local rulers
    7. Seizing local power: developing subnational criminal governance regimes.

  • Resources for

    Votes, Drugs, and Violence

    Guillermo Trejo, Sandra Ley

    General Resources

    Find resources associated with this title

    Type Name Unlocked * Format Size

    Showing of

    Back to top

    This title is supported by one or more locked resources. Access to locked resources is granted exclusively by Cambridge University Press to instructors whose faculty status has been verified. To gain access to locked resources, instructors should sign in to or register for a Cambridge user account.

    Please use locked resources responsibly and exercise your professional discretion when choosing how you share these materials with your students. Other instructors may wish to use locked resources for assessment purposes and their usefulness is undermined when the source files (for example, solution manuals or test banks) are shared online or via social networks.

    Supplementary resources are subject to copyright. Instructors are permitted to view, print or download these resources for use in their teaching, but may not change them or use them for commercial gain.

    If you are having problems accessing these resources please contact

  • Authors

    Guillermo Trejo, University of Notre Dame, Indiana
    Guillermo Trejo is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame and Director of the Violence and Transitional Justice Lab at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies. He studies political and criminal violence, social movements, and human rights. He is the author of Popular Movements in Autocracies: Religion, Repression, and Indigenous Collective Action in Mexico (2012).

    Sandra Ley, CIDE, Mexico
    Sandra Ley is Assistant Professor at CIDE's Political Studies Division in Mexico City. She studies criminal violence and political behavior.

Sign In

Please sign in to access your account


Not already registered? Create an account now. ×

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.