Traficante de droga

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Who becomes a drug dealer and why?
Profiling the Mexican drug trafficker

by Viridiana Rios
English translation by Stephanie Delgado-Garcia


“This job is nice (…) but dangerous”
Self-identified drug dealer

Drug trafficking is the fifth largest employer in the country. Recent estimates show that in Mexico, there are 468,000 people who work in the drug industry (Rios and Sabet 2008);this is five times as many than in the Mexican wood industry and tree time as many personnel than Pemex, the oil company with the largest number of employees in the world. Peasants, killer, vigilantes, dealers, lawyers, doctors, secretaries; drug trafficking need all and employs everyone.



Source: Legal manufacture workers were reported by Aregional 2007 as part of the national economiccensus. Number of employees dedicated to drug production corresponds to the official agricultural data reported by the Mexican Office of the General Attorney (PGR as cited by Andreas 1998) plus author’s estimation of other drug-related employments. Author’s estimation is based in Lee 1989. The last official report of drug agricultural employment comes from the nineties, therefore the number ofemployees of other industries were extracted to match such data (July 1995).


The success of the drug trafficker in terms of hiring is based at least partially, in the economic prospectives the business offers. In the end, getting involved with drug trafficker requires certain character or as “El Cholo” --a drug dealer and self-proclaimed inventor f the “style of killing and covering”-- says: “Iam very violent and I like killing (Emeequis 2008).”

The truth of the matter is that other than economic variables, individual preferences play an important role/factor in the decision to join organized crime. The drug trafficker likes his job and he likes it more than any other job he could obtain in the legal realm.
With just a quick look at the drug dealer potential labor market oneunderstands his choice. Drug traffickers are young men with little formal education and from under privileged economic backgrounds with an average age of 18 years, and having dropped out during middle school (Farilie 2002), the prototype drug dealer has high economic aspirations that the legality cannot satisfy.

Going into illegality would be less attractive if the potential drug traffickers remainedin school long enough to acquire the necessary abilities to obtain a better legal job. However, and besides the obvious economic reasons, going to school requires a simple characteristic that the drug traffickers lack: patience.

Criminals are impatient. To educate themselves for years before obtaining a degree that may or may not represent a better quality of life seems too far and/orforeign to them. Additionally, recent studies in criminology have shown that the drug trafficker dislikes being employed (Farilie 2002). About 75% of all convicted criminals express high interest in creating their own businesses and a strong disdain for paid employment (Balkin 1993). Interestingly, another common profession for people that place a high value on professional autonomy and posses fewformal qualifications is prostitution (Venkatesh 2008).

The preference for autonomy can be satisfied by self-employment, or put differently, with informal employment. That is the road the majority of people take. It is no coincidence that Mexico is the country with the largest number of entrepreneurs and self-employed people in the OED. When the labor markets offer few solutions and educationis low, informal business becomes very relevant. 25.8% of men and 17% of women in Mexico are self-employed (Farilie and Woodruff 2004).

In fact, the informal market would be a very fruitful profession for these drug traffickers. Criminologists have shown that drug traffickers possess part psychological characteristics that suit them for the business; for example, they like risk, they...
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