Protest and Power in France

By Brigitte Granville* Project Syndicate

French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to bypass the National Assembly to implement his controversial pension reform arguably fueled the violence that erupted at May Day protests this year. With the government’s legitimacy fraying, the flaws in the political structure of the Fifth Republic have become glaringly apparent.

London – Too much repetition can diminish the impact of even the most dramatic events. Such is the case with mass protests in France, which erupt so often and persist for so long that much of the world hardly takes notice. But the current bout of protests….

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*Brigitte Granville is Professor of International Economics and Economic Policy at the School of Business and Management, Queen Mary, University of London, and the author of What Ails France

What Ails France?

By Brigitte Granville* McGill-Queen’s University Press

Published in 2021, What Ails France? is a provocative but constructive critique of the French model of technocratic, elite leadership. Amidst the ongoing protest over pension law and retirement age in France today, Brigitte Granville’s book remains as relevant as ever.  In What Ails France? Granville views the malaise as a peculiarly French symptom of the difficulties experienced by many advanced industrial democracies in the face of globalization, technology, and mass immigration. Granville brings trenchant criticism to bear in this wide-ranging survey of the political economy of contemporary France, building her case for the prosecution on the self-reinforcing rigidity produced by a narrow Parisian oligarchy that is both entitled and intellectually hidebound….

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*Brigitte Granville is Professor of International Economics and Economic Policy at the School of Business and Management, Queen Mary, University of London, and the author of What Ails France


By Roxana Gutiérrez-Romero

Since 2000, Mexico has experienced over 100,000 disappearances, with 30% of these victims being women. As the figure below shows, the number of disappearances skyrocketed in the country soon after Felipe Calderón launched the War on Drugs. In recent years, during Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) administration, disappearances have continued to grow and reached a historical maximum. The tragic number of disappearances hides the many families left behind struggling to know the whereabouts of their loved ones and calling on the government to take action and bring justice to the victims.

To understand this phenomenon better, as part of the reading activities of the group PEACELA, I recently read the book “Disappearances in Mexico. From the ‘Dirty War’ to the ‘War on Drugs’. The book, edited by Silvana Mandolessi and Katia Olalde Rico, provides a poignant and essential reminder of the ongoing crisis in Mexico. The book is open-access and can be downloaded by clicking here.

Chapter 1, written by Emilio Crenzel, provides an overview of disappearances in Argentina. The chapter discusses that enforced disappearances became a systematic practice during the country’s military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983. According to human rights organisations, more than 30,000 people were forcibly taken by state officials during this ‘dirty war’ period. Many of these individuals were tortured, killed, and illegally buried in unmarked graves. The chapter also discusses how, after the return of democracy, a number of reports, such as the Nunca Más, increased awareness about the direct involvement and responsibility of the dictatorship in the disappearances. Since then, the Argentine government has made efforts to investigate and prosecute those responsible for these crimes. However, many victims’ families are still searching for answers and closure.

Chapter 2, written by Eugenia Allier Montaño, Camilo Vicente Ovalle and Juan Sebastián Granada-Cardona, describes the state violence that took place in Mexico during 1958-2018. The chapter describes that despite some economic progress during the 1950s, there were instances of state violence as those experienced in rural areas in Guerrero in 1967. In 1968 state violence escalated to use political imprisonment and killings to suppress student movements. Crucially, on a peaceful student protest on 2 October 1968, over 300 students were killed by the army in what is known as the Matanza de Tlatelolco, albeit the government alleges that just 30 students were killed. The chapter also describes other popular mobilisations that followed during the 1970s, up to reaching the important period of the tragic war on drugs. The chapter then very quickly describes how disappearances have skyrocketed since 2006, with the explicit involvement of both the state and drug trafficking groups. A clear example of this collaboration is the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinama. On 26 September 2014, these 43 students were victims of enforced disappearance after getting arrested by the municipal police. These students were preparing to take part in a demonstration in Mexico City to commemorate the massacre of students that took place on 2 October 1968. After several years of investigation, all point out that the students seeking to arrive at Mexico City stole several buses. The students did not know that these buses carried a hidden cargo of heroin intended to be smuggled to the USA border, which motivated their arrest being mistaken by rival gangs. With the key distinction that the government’s forces were directly involved in the disappearance and alleged killings of these students.  

Chapter 3, written by Pilar Calveiro, defines the term of enforced disappearances, e.g., an involuntary act where the state is responsible behind. The motives are not necessarily political but might involve revenge, punishment, and drug traffickers and the army making an example of what happens to rivals or those who do not obey orders. Other motives include appropriation of assets, acquiring skills such as disappearing experts or technicians, and dispossession of people as a commodity to get ransom or to use for labour or sexual exploitation. This chapter also describes that several families left behind have found clandestine burials throughout the country. According to the National Search Commission, over 3,631 clandestine graves have been found.

Chapter 4, written by Karina Ansolabehere and Alvaro Martos, attempts to provide an analytical, theoretical framework to understand the logic of disappearances and the actors involved. Their analysis suggests that disappearances have a logic in terms of where they occur and who are the typical victims in terms of age and social status. In their case study, three northern states of the country (Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas) show 50% of the disappearances involve the government at the municipality level, 25% at the state level and 25% at the federal level. Also, the characteristics of the victims might be used to re-victimise and blame them for their disappearance and avoid the state’s responsibility.

Chapter 5, written by Lene Guercke, questions whether the Mexican state could be held accountable and responsible for the disappearances committed by non-state actors. This is an important question since impunity has been the leading factor in criminal actors using violence and disappearance not only to inflict harm on the direct victims. It is also a form of psychological torture for the families left behind. The author concludes that it is unlikely that impunity itself can be used for such legal purposes.

Chapter 6, written by Rainer Huhle, explains that it is difficult to separate the right to truth and the obligation to investigate. To clarify this point, the chapter discusses the ‘Guiding Principles for the Search of the Disappeared Persons’ which the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearance adopted in 2019.

Chapter 7, written by Carolina Robledo Silvestre, reminds the reader that a disappearance is a form of dispossession that destroys lives and offers a harrowing look at the issue from the perspective of their families and other victims, migrants. Migrants in Mexico are being targeted by organised crime groups who kidnap them for ransom or forcibly recruit them into their ranks. In addition, migrants often face violence and exploitation at the hands of corrupt officials, who may detain or extort them for money. As a result, many migrants go missing along the journey, and their families, in despair, travel miles to search for their whereabouts and justice.

Chapter 8, written by Jorge Verástegui González, brilliantly describes that searching for disappeared people is a fundamental human right enshrined in international law. According to the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, everyone has the right to know the truth about the circumstances of an enforced disappearance and the fate of the disappeared person. In addition, the government is responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases of enforced disappearances. This includes conducting thorough and impartial investigations, providing support and assistance to the families of the disappeared, and ensuring that those responsible are brought to justice. However, in many cases, governments fail to fulfil this responsibility. In some instances, state officials may be involved in enforced disappearances or fail to investigate cases adequately. In other cases, governments may be overwhelmed by the scale of the problem or may lack the resources and capacity to address it effectively. This chapter also analyses the various social movement of relatives of the disappeared searching for their loved ones and pushing for the recognition and advancement of this human right.

Chapter 9, written by María de Vecchi Gerli, explains how art can help immortalise those who have disappeared and the struggle for justice. The chapter contrasts two memorials, the Museo Casa de la Memoria Indómita in Mexico City and the memorial in Allende, Coahuila. The first one provides a vivid memory of both tragic periods, the ‘dirty war’ and the ‘war on drugs’. In the second, the Allende memorial it is unveiled how the government washes its hands by shifting the blame on the war on drugs and on organised crime.

Overall, the book left me wanting to know more about the multiple problems described. In my recent research on migration from Central America to Mexico, a problem I have encountered is the growing number of extorsions that migrants suffer. Similarly, in my ongoing analysis of drug-related violence in Mexico, I have also come across that homicides are not the only weapons drug traffickers use to silence. Intimidation and disappearances are other commonly used strategies, and thus far less analysed.

It is clear that the Mexican government must uphold its legal obligations and take the steps needed to investigate and prosecute cases of enforced disappearances.

This blog was written by Roxana Gutiérrez-Romero. She is an Economist and Professor of Policy and Quantitative Methods at the School of Business and Management, Queen Mary, University of London. Roxana is the author of several articles that analyse the causes and effects of conflict and underdevelopment. She can be contacted at or twitter @Roxanagutz.  

The blog was originally posted in PEACELA Blog.


The reading group From Violence to Peace in Latin America (PEACELA) reads weekly literature on four types of violence affecting the region: political, gender, environmental and non-state armed violence. In this blog, we share our analysis and reflections on these readings.

The Sanctions Trap

By Brigitte Granville* Project Syndicate


Forged in the crucible of World War I, modern economic sanctions have long been regarded as tools for preventing shooting wars and deterring international bad actors. But a closer look at the history suggests that such punitive measures amount to war by other means.

London – The point of historical study is to improve our understanding of ourselves and our world. Some histories – especially those concerning remote times or narrow specialist topics – may seem relevant to our current concerns only as food for thought about the human condition. But others, like Cornell University historian….

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*Brigitte Granville is Professor of International Economics and Economic Policy at the School of Business and Management, Queen Mary, University of London, and the author of What Ails France

What Does India Want from Russia?

By Brigitte Granville* & Sushanta Mallick – Project Syndicate


As the Ukraine war continues, India’s quest for self-reliance increasingly entails multidimensional international engagement. Its skillful approach means that the forthcoming 75th anniversary of Indian independence will coincide with the country achieving significant – and advantageous – geopolitical autonomy.

LONDON – If there was a prize for the most quotable comment on international relations so far in 2022, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar would be in the running. Responding to criticism of his country’s neutral stance on the Russia-Ukraine war at a security forum in Slovakia in June, Jaishankar said that “Europe has to grow out of the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems, but the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems.” ……………

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*Brigitte Granville is Professor of International Economics and Economic Policy at the School of Business and Management, Queen Mary, University of London, and the author of What Ails France

Are Major Central Banks Doing Enough to Fight Inflation?

By Brigitte Granville* – Project Syndicate


The Big Question is a new feature in which Project Syndicate commentators provide compelling answers to a timely question.

Rising price pressures have reemerged as a central concern for policymakers in many advanced economies. But with US and eurozone inflation accelerating to 8.5% and 7.5%, respectively, in March – the highest levels in decades – many are worried that central banks are not tackling the problem aggressively enough.

In this Big Question, we ask Hippolyte FofackJames K. GalbraithBrigitte Granville, and Stephen S. Roach to assess monetary policymakers’……….

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*Brigitte Granville is Professor of International Economics and Economic Policy at the School of Business and Management, Queen Mary, University of London, and the author of What Ails France


By Roxana Gutiérrez-Romero

Gang violence is a major problem across many countries. Gangs are a reflection of institutional failings that allow criminal organisations to recruit young people, including children and adolescents, with the purpose of profiteering and controlling territory with the use of violence.

Gangs are an important entry point for a career in crime where the exit available for many of its members is often prison or death.  A clear example of the risk of gang violence is El Salvador. The country recently experienced the highest number of killings in over 30 years, which the government attributed to the MS-13 gang and declared in response a state of emergency.

Despite the recognised phenomena, there is substantial disagreement in the literature on how to define what a ‘gang’ is, how to capture in surveys ‘gang membership’ and what sort of questions could be used to study gangs within and across cultures.

Different cultures have different understandings of gangs, pandillas, bandas, maras and other youth criminal organisations. These groups have a wide range of criminal activities, various forms of displaying violence, and with different purposes. 

For instance, in Kenya, my survey research has documented that gangs are hired by political actors to intimidate voters during elections (Gutiérrez-Romero, 2014). This type of electoral violence affects turnout and voting choice (Gutiérrez-Romero & LeBas, 2020). More recently, I have evaluated the impact of the violence and insecurity created by maras and other criminal groups on the emigration of young men and children from Central America to Mexico and the USA.

What did I read recently?

In this blog, I share my reflections on one of the articles that PEACELA read recently on the challenges of analysing gangs using surveys.


Rodríguez et al. (2017) remind us of the Eurogang indicators that were developed to measure gang membership across European countries using surveys. These indicators use six dimensions to capture whether survey respondents belong to a group, of young people, for how long, are active on the street, dedicated to illegal activity, and identify as a gang. The authors suggest these dimensions are incomplete to fully capture the role of gangs and are difficult to implement across different cultures such as in Latin America.

Suggestions on alternative indicators

Rodríguez et al. (2017) show there is a low correlation between the Eurogang indicators and other measures intended to capture delinquency in surveys. These authors propose to use alternative survey questions in other cultural settings. For instance, in their research in Venezuela they suggest asking respondents whether they belong to a group of young people, probing whether they hang out together, on the street, with a defined name, and a purpose for crime and use of violence. This use can include fighting with other groups, using or selling drugs, stealing, and damaging property.

Reflections: Five ways to improve research on gangs

There is a rich literature on gangs in Latin America, including various notable ethnographic studies. Rodgers and Baird (2016) provide an excellent review of this literature. My reflections from that extensive literature review and other readings are that gang research can improve in at least five ways.

1. Broaden gang membership analysis

Survey research and ethnographic work could include other questions to bridge gaps in our understanding of gangs that could help authorities and researchers to categorise these groups better. How gangs recruit, how they generate their income, when do they use violence, and how they pay their members. Thus surveys could ask questions such as:

  • What recruiting techniques do gangs use?
  • What rituals and norms do gangs follow to recruit women and men?
  • What are the motivations and aspirations of people joining gangs?
  • What sort of crimes do gangs commit and how do they evolve over time?
  • When do gangs get involved in local drug trafficking?
  • Where do they buy their weapons?
  • Where do they operate, only locally, nationally, or transnationally?
  • Do all gangs become more violent over time?
  • How often are they are hired by political actors and large criminal organisations to commit other crimes?
  • What is the relationship between gangs and other important actors such as the police?
  • What sort of payments and rewards do gangs offer to their members?
  • What sort of threats and intimidations prevent people from leaving gangs?
  • How is their family relationship transformed after joining gangs?
  • What strategies are effective for enabling people to leave gangs?

2. Collect data on the number of active gangs and their illicit activities

Data on gangs could be compiled with better coordination among the police. Independent scholars could also collect such information by relying on victimisation surveys, network analysis and machine learning algorithms. This data could help law enforcement better understand the extent and nature of gang activity, to develop more effective strategies for prevention and intervention. Better data could also help identify trends in gang behaviour, which could lead to the development of new methods for combating gangs.

3. Evaluate the relationship between local gangs and other criminal actors

Most empirical studies analysing gangs tend to focus on a specific community ignoring how gang violence is a wider phenomenon and how it might evolve over time. Gangs have been very active in the region for several decades, since the 1940s when urbanisation accelerated.

The professionalisation of gangs and use of violence has in some cases been linked to drug trafficking. This is an aspect that deserves further attention. We know that drugs trafficking has had a vital role in the dynamics of violence in the region. Nearly 90% of all cocaine produced in Colombia is trafficked through Central America. Transnational criminal organisations lead large scale drug trafficking by infiltrating institutions and governments. But also some local gangs protect the transporting and selling of illicit drugs to regular citizens.

4. Design and evaluate effective policies

To date, there is little evidence to suggest that a strong repression approach, a so-called mano dura, can be effective in demobilising gangs. A repressive strategy might actually increase the number of young people who might join gangs out of frustration with not being able to get legitimate jobs or opportunities. It could also lead to increased levels of violence as gangs might attempt to protect their territory and activities.

An alternative way to reduce gang violence is through prevention and intervention programs that address the underlying issues that drive young people into criminal activity. These programmes could include economic opportunities, education and training, and support for at-risk youth

5. Adopt randomised control trial research

Randomised control trials (RCT) are considered by many the gold standard when it comes to evaluating which policies are most effective in for instance tackling poverty, improving education, and health.

RCT can also be used to evaluate policies aimed at disarming gangs and enabling their members to escape from poverty and illegality. For example, this type of study can provide education, training, and job opportunities to current or former gang members to assess its impact on the probability of re-offending. This just goes to show that RCT should not be limited to just the traditional areas of policy evaluation – it also has the potential to help us design a wide range of public policy.

This PEACELA blog was written by:

Roxana Gutiérrez-Romero @Roxanagutz is an Economist and Professor of Policy and Quantitative Methods at Queen Mary University of London,


Gutiérrez-Romero, Roxana (2014) An Inquiry into the Use of Illegal Electoral Practices and Effects of Political Violence and Vote-buying. Journal of Conflict Resolution 58(8): 1500–1527

Gutiérrez-Romero, Roxana & Adrienne LeBas (2020) Does electoral violence affect vote choice and willingness to vote? Conjoint analysis of a vignette experiment. Journal of Peace Research 57(1): 77–92

Rodgers, Dennis. & Adam Baird. (2016). Entender a las pandillas en América Latina: una revisión de la literatura. Estudios Socio-Jurídicos18(1), 13-53. 

Rodríguez, Juan Antonio, Neelie Pérez Santiago, Christopher H Birkbeck, Freddy Crespo & Solbey Morillo (2017) Internationalizing the Study of Gang Membership: Validation Issues from Latin America. The British Journal of Criminology 57(5): 1165–1184.

Political violence against women and possible solutions

By Roxana Gutiérrez-Romero and Nayely Iturbe

Being a woman in Mexico is a danger. Every day eleven women are murdered simply because of their gender. This is just one more statistic that reflects the degree of systemic violence that women experience every day in the country. Despite the enormous progress that Mexico, and Latin America in general, has made in the economic, educational and political spheres, there is still an important gap to close.

Mexico is a violent country because it tolerates it. It is a violent country because violence is normalized. It is a violent country because its institutions allow it. Violence is so systemic that it affects children, women and men from all walks of life. We must change the rules of the game, from the home, from business, from politics. No type of violence should be tolerated, regardless of gender. Our institutions must make it much more difficult for violence to be exercised against citizens and women and men working in politics.

According to our ongoing research, 91 incumbent mayors and 148 former mayors have been assassinated in Mexico during 2000-2022 (Gutiérrez-Romero and Iturbe, 2022).  Most of these murdered mayors have been men (99%). Men are more likely to run for mayor and to be elected in electoral processes, and therefore have a higher risk of being assassinated. However, such high levels of political violence undoubtedly truncate the political aspirations of several groups, including women, to run for elected office.

In this blog we share our reflection on one of the articles we recently read in PEACELA, written by Krook and Restrepo Sanín (2016) on political violence against women. The article does not focus on explaining the great advances that women in Latin America have had in terms of voting rights, being able to run for elected office, or reducing educational disparities between men and women.


Krook and Restrepo Sanín (2016) instead focus on explaining how political violence affects women and propose some solutions. They explain that political violence is used to prevent women’s participation in the political sphere before, during and after elections.  They propose a new definition of gender-based political violence. So far, the literature has focused on studying the physical, sexual, and psychological violence that women face in politics. They suggest including two categories of political violence: economic and symbolic.

New concepts

Economic violence against women is the restriction of economic resources used in the political arena that are guaranteed for men. An example of this is the restriction of political campaign financing, the failure to provide offices, telephones and essential resources even after women have been elected. This type of violence can also be committed by family members or the community.

Symbolic violence refers to the limitation of women’s participation in political life because of their gender. This type of violence delegitimizes women’s political profile and performance.  The community and the media can contribute to this type of violence by referring to women in politics as incompetent, and they are reprimanded for their physical appearance.

Proposals to reduce political violence against women

– Introduce electoral gender quotas.

– Encourage the media and journalists to take training on gender equality reporting.

– Awareness campaigns to support the election of women.

– Introduce legislation against political violence and with a gender perspective.

– Use inclusive gender language to recognize the role of women.

Our reflections

Democracy requires the participation of women, not only as passive voters but also as leaders.

In addition to introducing adequate legislation that criminalizes political and gender-sensitive assassinations, it is vital to reduce impunity and tolerance of crime. Just changing laws does not work if it does not change the whole machinery around it in terms of exercising the law and providing equal opportunities.

We need more data and transparency to reveal the scale of violence. Unfortunately, there are no official sources on political assassinations or the level of intimidation that women and men suffer on a daily basis in the political arena. It is critical that candidates running for and elected to office receive adequate security.  This is an issue that requires urgent attention.  The future of democracy depends on it.

This blog, originally published in Spanish by PEACELA blog here, was written by:

Roxana Gutiérrez-Romero @Roxanagutz is an Economist and Professor of Policy and Quantitative Methods at Queen Mary University of London.

Nayely Iturbe @nayiturbel is a Sociologist and Consultant on Femicide and Gender-based Violence.


Krook, Mona Lena and Juliana Restrepo Sanín (2016) Gender and political violence in Latin America Concepts, debates and solutions, Politics and Government, 23(1): 125-157.

Gutiérrez-Romero, Roxana and Nayely Iturbe. 2022. Assassination and Intimidation of Politicians, a new database for Mexico 2000-2022, working paper.

Growth and the Migration Factor

By Brigitte Granville* – Project Syndicate


Wars and natural disasters have always forced people to cross political borders to seek safety and a better life. But whether they are well-received when they reach their destination depends on a confluence of political, social, economic, and geographic factors.

LONDON – Forced to choose a single factor driving the development of human societies, students of world history would be hard pressed to find a better candidate than migration. In The Unsettling of Europe, the University of Manchester historian Peter Gatrell suggests that the periods when societies have not been “unsettled” by migration are even shorter and rarer than the intervals between wars. Of course war itself…..

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*Brigitte Granville is Professor of International Economics and Economic Policy at the School of Business and Management, Queen Mary, University of London, and the author of What Ails France

Inflation will probably melt away in 2022 – central banks will do far more harm trying to tackle it

By Brigitte Granville* – The Conversation


It remains to be seen whether the omicron variant will shift Sars-CoV-2 towards becoming manageably endemic. But as and when this happens, there will still be “long COVID” to contend with. The latest headlines about inflation – a 7% annual rise in the US and more tough talk from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell about bringing it down – confirm that something similar is happening with the global economy: it will be shaped by the after-effects of the pandemic even when all restrictions have been lifted.

To understand how this overhang effect may play out in 2022 requires looking back at how the pandemic has affected growth and inflation. The key lies in …….

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*Brigitte Granville is Professor of International Economics and Economic Policy at the School of Business and Management, Queen Mary, University of London, and the author of What Ails France