In This Review

Resisting Extortion: Victims, Criminals, and States in Latin America
Resisting Extortion: Victims, Criminals, and States in Latin America
By Eduardo Moncada
Cambridge University Press, 2022, 300 pp.

Moncada urges his readers to recognize that targets of armed criminal gangs, far from being helpless victims, often summon the courage and power to confront their aggressors. Moncada’s well-chosen, carefully researched case studies compare the ways in which people have resisted the predations of organized crime in Latin America; he looks at the strategies adopted by small businesses in the city of Medellín, in Colombia; subsistence farmers in El Salvador; and industrial-scale producers of avocados and berries in the Mexican state of Michoacán. These resistance strategies include sporadic vigilante killings of gang members, collective paramilitary defense, the formation of opportunistic alliances with trustworthy security forces, and attempts to negotiate or end extortion payments to criminals. Some victims even managed to reclaim a sense of personal dignity through verbal jousting with gang members. The choice of the method of resistance was contingent on a number of factors, such as whether the criminal activity was a one-off or long term, whether victims could organize their own defense, and whether the criminals had co-opted the police. Moncada acknowledges that some of these actions blurred the line between the legal and extralegal realms and between victims and predators.