Barbara Walter and Alberto Díaz-Cayeros argue at The Monkey Cage that Mexican DTOs constitute an insurgency. Or sort of.
The violence in Mexico may not be a classic insurgency , but it is certainly being fought like one. Like other insurgencies, the violence in Mexico – especially the brutal killings of government officials and civilians – is being used to intimidate local populations and control territory.
I don't really understand this argument. The main problem is that they do not define insurgency. Many types of political violence--civil war and terrorism come to mind--are used to intimidate local populations and to control territory. In other words, intimidation may be a necessary condition, but it is definitely not sufficient.
Interestingly, the three studies they cite--Ken Eaton, Matt Ingram & David Shirk, and John Bailey & Lucia Dammert--are focused on crime and police reform, not insurgency, which they don't even mention. The question that arises, then, is whether DTOs should be treated like insurgents or like criminals. The two are very different.