Criminals and Enemies? The Drug Trafficker in Mexico's Political Imaginary

Alejandro Madrazo Lajous

Abstract

This article compares the official and the widely held discourses about drug traffickers in Mexico’s current War against Drugs. The federal government has obliquely distorted the distinction between a criminal and an enemy, dehumanizing drug traffickers and, thus, opening up a spectrum of tolerance for the repressive actions carried out by the authorities against drug traffickers. Inadvertently, however, official discourse has also politicized and empowered drug traffickers, casting them as an enemy. In contrast, popular discourse surrounding drugs and drug trafficking seems to have resisted these disintegrating categories. Using narcocorridos —a popular musical subgenre—, I conclude that criminal and enemy categories when referring to drug traffickers do not merge in the popular imaginary. Nevertheless, younger musicians seem to pick up on the politization of the drug trafficker as the enemy, the risks and implications of which are indicated in this article.

Keywords

War on drugs, sovereignty, law, criminal, enemy, narcocorrido, imaginary

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