The Political Consequences of 'Source Country' Operations: Evidence from Crop Eradication in Mexico

Abstract. When crafting law enforcement policy, drug-producing —or “source”— countries must adjudicate between domestic security priorities and international pressure to curb drug supply. What are the political consequences of prioritizing supply reduction? I analyze the case of illicit crop eradication in Mexico, where the army destroys thousands of fields yearly. While fundamental for ensuring conditional US aid, residents of crop-growing communities understand eradication as an unjust federal policy. I argue that residents negatively update on the trustworthiness of law enforcement after eradication and are discouraged from attempting to change federal policy through electoral means, decreasing turnout. To test, I construct a novel eradication measure using the universe of satellite-detected illicit fields. Using exogenous variation in location and timing, I show eradication depresses turnout in federal elections and trust in the army. Supply reduction might come at the cost of eroding trust in law enforcement and undermining domestic accountability in source countries.

Draft available upon request.