This thesis studies offender choices associated with extortive offences in El Salvador, Central America. Super gangs like MS-13 and Barrio 18 have turned extortion into one of the most important impediments for economic development in various countries of the isthmus. The control, influence, and prevalence of the illicit organizations found in Latin American contexts such as El Salvador, are rare. Criminal actors take advantage of the state's poor governance to rule over large portions of the territory, sometimes establishing secret deals with official authorities to legitimize their power. Yet, little is known about the impact these circumstances have on offender decision-making. Borrowing from political science, the studies in this thesis turn to the criminal governance framework to capture the conditions faced by extortionists during three separate periods in El Salvador's recent history and examine their impact over offender decisions. The findings suggest that closer partnerships between illicit organizations and state agents remove constraints and add incentives that provide offenders with more options, but that these effects are mediated by features associated with crime groups and the contexts in which they operate. Using these results, this thesis proposes a preliminary conceptual model of offender choices in extortion under criminal governance.
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Thesis advisor: Bouchard, Martin
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