Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


David Brotherton

Subject Categories

Migration Studies | Race and Ethnicity | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance


Mexico, criminalization, drugs, migration, Mexicans, Chapo Guzman


While it has been established in the academic literature that the War on Drugs is a mechanism deployed by the neoliberal state to control people of color in the United States and justify imperial interventions in Latin America, there's a lack of research on how this approach to the drug problem is legitimized in the public opinion. The 2018-2019 trial in a New York federal court of the drug trafficker Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, considered one of the most notorious criminals in history, was rendered into a spectacle by the media and, thus, provided a prime example of the discourses used by state actors to legitimize the War on Drugs. My analysis is based on the information I gathered after attending every court hearing of Guzmán's judicial process. I also consider the vast amount of evidence used by the case prosecutors, the public information released by the Department of Justice concerning the case, and the trial's coverage by The New York Times' court reporter. Contrary to the common narrative consumed by the public opinion, that Guzman's trial contributed to counter corruption and violence in Mexico and to reduce the drug flow to the United States, I demonstrate that the process had different goals. Guzman's trial was a message-generating spectacle orchestrated by a neoliberal state to legitimize the War on Drugs, a strategy that has utterly failed in reducing drug abuse, and whose real objective is to control people of color by linking them to crime and justify imperial interventions in Mexico by portraying the country as "hopelessly" corrupt.