CDDRL-CISAC Special Seminar: The Logic of Violence in Drug Wars: Cartel-State Conflict in Mexico, Brazil and Colombia

CISAC Conference Room


Why have militarized crackdowns on drug cartels had wildly divergent outcomes, sometimes exacerbating cartel-state conflict, as in Mexico and, for decades, in Brazil, but sometimes reducing violence, as with Rio de Janeiro's new 'Pacification' (UPP) strategy?  CDDRL-CISAC Post Doctoral Fellow Benjamin Lessing will distinguish key logics of violence, focusing on violent corruption--cartels' use of coercive force in the negotiation of bribes. Through this channel, crackdowns can lead to increased fighting unless the intensity of state repression is made conditional on cartels' use of violence--a key difference between Mexico and Brazil.

Speaker Bio:

Benjamin Lessing is a recent Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley. He is a joint postdoctoral fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) and the Center on International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), and will join the Political Science faculty at University of Chicago as assistant professor in 2013.

Lessing studies 'criminal conflict'—organized armed violence involving non-state actors who, unlike revolutionary insurgents, are not trying to topple the state. His doctoral dissertation examines armed conflict between drug trafficking organizations and the state in Colombia, Mexico and Brazil. Additionally, he has studied prison gangs’ pernicious effect on state authority, and the effect of paramilitary groups’ territorial control on electoral outcomes. 

Prior to his graduate work, he conducted field research on the licit and illicit small arms trade in Latin America and the Caribbean for international organizations like Amnesty International, Oxfam, and the Small Arms Survey, as well as Viva Rio, Brazil’s largest NGO, and was a Fulbright Student Grantee in Argentina and Uruguay.