By Alejandro Hope for El Daily Post. Chopping heads. Whenever a Mexican capo is captured or killed, many make a futility argument: kingpins are promptly replaced, drugs keep on flowing, violence continues unabated. Others wring their hands at the prospect of incremental violence, brought by wars of succession and power vacuums in the criminal underworld. Both claims are correct to some extent. Drug trafficking (and organized crime more broadly) is indeed driven by structural factors, not by the presence or absence of any specific capo. Similarly, there is strong empirical evidence that bringing down a capo can unleash more violence in the short term. But, even after conceding those arguments, I believe there is a good case for a so-called “kingpin strategy” (i.e., going after the heads of major criminal organizations)

High value targets. So what could possibly be the case for a strategy that does not significantly alter criminal markets and can produce massive amounts of additional violence? Here it goes:

1. There is an ethical imperative. Kingpins are horrible human beings that deserve punishment for their deeds. They are responsible for the torture, degradation and death of thousands of people. I find it morally inconceivable to not try to bring them to justice. Yes, the potential consequences must be included in the moral calculus, but it still seems a fundamental duty of the state to prosecute individuals that kidnap, extort, torture, and kill. Criminal justice is not only for deterrence purposes: it is also a tool to express values

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