This article appeared in the Journal of Latin American Studies in March 2017
Organised criminal networks such as those involved in drug trafficking have become a major repressive actor in Latin America. Local news outlets frequently document incidents in which drug traffickers or other types of private armed forces play a role in the harassment, torture and murder of activists, journalists and other citizens.
An astounding silence on the part of local and national state authorities often accompanies these heinous human rights violations. Government actors are ineffectual keepers of public security at best and willing collaborators protecting themselves at the expense of the citizenry at worst. These developments are detrimental to the legitimacy and the effectiveness of governance of many Latin American states.
This article unpacks the effect that the presence of diffuse licit and illicit power structures has on states and citizens in the modern world. It does so by investigating how a drug cartel undermined social movement organisation around electricity provision in the San Marcos province of Guatemala.