When Mexican President Felipe Caldrón took office in December 2006 he declared a war on the nation’s drug traffic organizations. Violence escalated as criminal organizations became increasingly fragmented and disputed their territories. The main strategy followed by the federal government involved capturing leaders and lieutenants of criminal organizations. This seemed to provoke even more violence, by making the competition over territorial control fiercer and providing incentives for many gangs to make extortion and protection fees (derecho de piso) an additional source of revenue. Given the absence of legal (and peaceful) rules and enforcement mechanisms for competitors in the illegal drug market, disagreements were usually solved violently. Under the pressure of the crackdown by the federal police, the navy and the army, contracts among criminal gangs were often disrupted, leading to even more violence. Competition over the strategic routes towards the market in the United States was settled by literally eliminating rivals.
This chapter explores the connection between police distrust, corruption and extortion. Despite the difficulty in measuring these phenomena through conventional public opinion polls and citizen or firm level surveys, much can be learned from the variation across geographic units in reported victimization and corruption. We use a list experiment collected through the Survey on Public Safety and Governance in Mexico (SPSGM), to study the practices of extortion by both police forces and criminal organizations. Using a Bayesian spatial estimation method, we provide a mapping of the geographic distribution of police extortion.