Author Biography

Shawn T. Flanigan is an associate professor at San Diego State University. She researches nonstate organizations as health and social service providers, and has a specific interest in the role of power and potential coercion in service provision to vulnerable populations. She has examined this dynamic in faith-based service providers, providers involved in electoral politics, and providers affiliated with groups that use violence (such as insurgent and terrorist organizations).



Subject Area Keywords

Gangs and criminal organizations, Governance and rule of law, Human security, Humanitarian assistance, Mexico, Narcotics trafficking, Nonstate actors


Research demonstrates that service provision by violent organizations can be an effective strategy for coercing the local community to accept and conceal a group’s violent activities, and for creating loyalty to these groups. This has been most frequently explored among political organizations such as terrorist groups, with organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas very visibly engaged in providing social welfare in addition to their violent activities. Recent reports indicate that criminal organizations in Mexico also are involved in instances of public service provision in local communities. This article explores the extent to which drug cartels operating in Mexico are involved in public service provision to members of communities where they operate, and considers possible motivations and implications for public service provision by these criminal organizations, with specific attention to the organization La Familia Michoacána/ Knights Templar. The article also gives attention to the consequences to citizenship and government of service provision by violent nonstate actors, and the ways such service provision may disrupt the social contract between the citizen and the state.