Business Extortion and Public Security in Tijuana

Who is protecting who?

This report presents the findings of a research project on commercial extortion and racketeering (cobro de piso) conducted in Tijuana. While this phenomenon can affect any entity that forms part of a value chain, our work focused on large entrepreneurs, small and medium-size businesses, and merchants in the formal and informal sectors of this border city. We conducted immersive fieldwork in various zones of Tijuana, including semi-structured interviews and systematic exercises of observation in which we approached merchants and entrepreneurs who were victims and observers of extortion and/ or racketeering, competent authorities, and other complementary profiles. We found that a central aspect of forging “racketeering-protection” relationships consists in constructing an ambience of violence that foments the need for protection and obliges people to accept an offer from one criminal provider of protection. Thus, we show that racketeering is a crime that escalates, and represents the first step in what may be a long chain of violence, and that failure to attend to this crime nourishes the soil where it grows.