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Ben Smith – The Rise And Fall Of Narcopopulism Notes

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Ben Smith - The Rise and Fall of Narcopopulism: Drugs, Politics, and Society in Sinaloa, 1930-1980

We have to understand politics and the drug trade in Mexico as inextricably linked; messy, multivalent o The idea of separate spheres denies moral ambiguity, but is a false representation, relying on unconvincing models of the state and the Mexican trade
 The model for studying the trade is often that of Colombia, where drugs and politics are mostly separate
 The Mexican state is often understood as static, unified and corporatist, with clear lines of command from the president and party through local governors, down to peasant commissars
 Traffickers are often viewed as powerful, independent criminals: heaving armed, profitmaximizing rational actors To understand the trade and the Mexican state, we need to abandon these reified, self-contained models and explore their interrelations o The Mexican state was never all powerful: rather, stability arose from the government's day-to-day engagements with grassroots society
 The success of these particular bargains was highly specific to the political culture of the region concerned
 Govt control rested not on centralized power but on a series of decentred, interlinking, constantly renegotiated pacts among federal authorities, regional politicians, and various local interest groups
 These arrangements included land, cash crops and state policy, but also illegal activities like the drug trade o In Sinaloa the opium trade played a crucial role in maintaining social equilibrium, appeasing both left and right
 But this system began to fall apart in the 1960s, and the pact between radicals and reactionaries was redrawn
 The drug trade now became an agent of repression, with both the war on drugs and drug traffickers used to persecute student and peasant insurgents o Evidence of ongoing pact between federal govt and drug industry in suppressing dissidents

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