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  1. Changing Strategies of Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) in the Context of Synthetic Opioids

    Tirico, Jordan
    June 28, 2023; June 12, 2023; June 12, 2023

    This thesis examines the relationship between the United States demand for illicit substances and the evolution of Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs), specifically within the context of a shift from heroin to synthetic opioids. A history of these interdependent actors provides a contextual understanding of Mexico’s current criminal landscape, where DTOs employ adaptive strategies to account for shifts in supply and demand. I also examine the distinctions between the supply chains for heroin and those for synthetic opioids, interpreting the possible implications for DTO strategies. Then, I conduct a regression analysis using a carefully curated set of violent event data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) to test whether the shift from heroin production to synthetic opioid production by DTOs led to a parallel shift in their presence and violence. My findings challenge the initial hypothesis that a decreasing rate of violence in heroin-producing regions is associated with an increasing rate of violence in Mexico’s Pacific ports - the primary node in the synthetic opioid supply chain. Further examination of the data provides valuable detail on the actions and strategies of Mexican DTOs from 2018 to the present day. I conclude by discussing the potential of event data to aid political violence research and explore possible policy solutions for both the U.S. opioid epidemic and drug violence in Mexico.  

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