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The effect of leadership decapitation—the capture or killing of the leader of an armed group—on future violence has been studied with competing conclusions. In Mexico, leadership decapitation has been found to increase violence and in-fighting among drug cartels. However, the causal pathways between leadership decapitation and in-fighting are unclear. In this article, it is hypothesized that leadership decapitation will weaken alliances between armed actors, lead to greater preferential attachment in networks of cartels and militias, and result in greater transitive closure as cartels seek to expand their power. These hypotheses are tested with a stochastic actor oriented model on a network dataset of episodes of infighting among cartels and the militias formed to opposed them between the five years before and after Joaquín, “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, the former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, was arrested in 2016. The results show that alliances have virtually no effect on the decision of cartels and militias to fight each other; weaker organizations faced a higher reputational cost after El Chapo’s detention; and post-arrest cartel in-fighting did not increase as a result of uncertainty about the relative balance of power among cartels.

Original Citation

Colby, Darren. “Chaos from Order: a Network Analysis of in-Fight before and after El Chapo's Arrest.” Connections 41, no. 1 (2021): 1–11.