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The Human Costs of the War on Drugs: Attitudes towards Militarization of Security in Mexico

Juan Masullo J., Leiden University

31 March 2023, 15.30-17.00

Venue: CEDLA, Roetersstraat 33 | 1018 WB Amsterdam - 2nd Floor

Activity: CEDLA Lecture



The militarization of security enjoys strong popular support in various crime-ridden countries, particularly in Latin America. Yet, we know little about the determinants of such support. Do people support militarization even in the face of human fatalities? We tackle this question in the context of Mexico's "war on drugs". In three experimental studies, we assess the presence of human costs in a military operation against a drug lord and present arguments either justifying or condemning these costs. We consistently find that, even in successful operations, Mexicans’ support for militarization decreases when military operations involve civilian casualties, but not when casualties are cartel-related. This finding holds both for victims and non-victims of cartel-related violence. These and other findings shed light on the public opinion side of the militarization of security debate, with important implications for security policy reform and democratic politics in Latin America and beyond.


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