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Making Things Stick 

Making Things Stick 

Surveillance Technologies and Mexico’ 
War on Crime 

Keith Guzik 


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Suggested citation: Guzik, Keith. Making Things Stick: 
Surveillance Technologies and Mexico’s War on Crime. 
Oakland: University of California Press, 2016. 
doi: http://dx.doi.0rg/1 o. 1 5 25/luminos. 1 2 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 

Names: Guzik, Keith, author. 

Title: Making things stick : surveillance technologies and Mexico’s war on 
crime / Keith Guzik. 

Description: Oakland, California : University of California Press, [2016] I 
“2016 I Includes bibliographical references and index. 

Identifiers: LCCN 2015040252I ISBN 9780520284043 
(pbk. : alk. paper) I ISBN 9780520959705 (electronic) 

Subjects: LCSH: Crime prevention — Mexico. I Social control — Government 
policy — Mexico. I Electronic surveillance — Mexico. I Security 
systems — Mexico . 

Classification: LCC HV7434.M6 G89 2016 I DDC 363.2/32 — dc23 
LC record available at http://lccn.l0c.g0v/2015040252 

Manufactured in the United States of America 

24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 

10 987654321 

The paper used in this publication meets the minimum 
requirements of ansi/niso Z39. 48-1992 (r 2002) 
(Permanence of Paper). 



List of Illustrations ix 

Acknowledgments xi 

1. Surveillance Technologies and States of Security i 

2. Taming the Tiger 26 

3. Prohesion 56 

4. Ni con goma 99 

5. Statecraft 141 

6. Grasping Surveillance 177 

Notes 207 

Bibliography 225 

Index 247 



1. Hernando Cortes, 1485-1547, Spanish conquistador / 35 

2. Mixity: Of Spain and India, eighteenth century / 39 

3. Map of railway expansion during the Porfiriato / 43 

4. Workers operating machines in the construction of a 
roadway, c. 1925 / 46 

5. Ciudad Administrativa in Zacatecas, 2013 / 58 

6. REPUVE registration site in Zacatecas, 2011 / 59 

7. REPUVE RFID tag / 60 

8. Initial review of documents during REPUVE registration I 61 

9. Photographing vehicle during REPUVE registration / 61 

10. Locating VIN number during REPUVE registration / 61 

11. Recording VIN number during REPUVE registration / 62 

12. Transferring VIN number during REPUVE registration / 62 

13. Inputting driver and vehicle data during REPUVE 
registration / 62 

14. Adhering RFID tag during REPUVE registration / 63 

15. Verifying RFID tag during REPUVE registration / 63 

16. Cosmic Thing, 2002, by Damian Ortega / 69 


x I Illustrations 

17. Arquitectura rustica para carros inseguros, 2003, by Betsabee 
Romero / 69 

18. Yellow Bug, 2004, by Margarita Cabrera / 70 

19. £/ vocbol, 2010, by eight anonymous Huichol artists / 70 

20. Conceptual design of the REPUVE database / 87 

21. Organizational structure of the REPUVE / 88 

22. Governing automobility in Mexico / 93 

23. REPUVE registration site in Sonora / 156 

24. Video screen displaying REPUVE camera feeds at a REPUVE 
national assembly in Tlaxcala / j6o 

25. REPUVE toll lane in Sonora / 169 

26. Values at stake in surveillance politics / 201 


This book is made possible only through the generous support of nu- 
merous organizations and individuals. First among these is the National 
Science Foundation, which funded my research with a grant (no. 
1024469) co-awarded through its Science, Technology, and Society and 
Law and Social Science programs. No less central were state institutions 
and employees in Mexico, including administrators and frontline work- 
ers with the Public Registry of Vehicles in Zacatecas and Sonora and 
their federal counterparts in the Mexico City offices of the Executive 
Secretary of the National System for Public Security. Their cooperation 
was remarkable, and this work would not have been completed without 
it. I owe my thanks as well to the car companies in Mexico that made 
their representatives available for interviews. 

The institutions of higher education where I have worked over the 
past decade were essential to this work too. The administration and 
faculty at Bloomfield College supported my research through a study 
leave in spring 2011 that enabled me to complete the majority of my 
fieldwork, and they also invited me to present preliminary findings at 
faculty forums. Beyond being supportive friends, the faculty at the col- 
lege were an enduring example of striking the proper balance between 
research, teaching, and service in the academy. The University of Col- 
orado, Denver, meanwhile, provided both a nurturing work environ- 
ment that facilitated writing this book and funding to help publish it 
as an open access book. The CU Denver Department of Sociology gave 


xii I Acknowledgments 

generous funding as well for a research assistant, who was critical in 
helping me clear the final hurdles of the research process. And my new 
colleagues in the department and the College of Liberal Arts and Sci- 
ences were wonderfully supportive in welcoming me to my new home 
in the Rocky Mountains. 

I also want to thank the University of California Press, and Maura 
Roessner and Jack Young in particular. Maura is an excellent editor 
to work with. And she made navigating the uncharted terrain of open 
access publishing an exciting and enjoyable experience. I am indebted 
as well to Julie Van Pelt, my copyeditor, who did wonderful work in 
improving the book’s readability. 

Outside the organizations that supported this work, a number of 
people deserve acknowledgment. In Mexico, Daiset Ruiz-Sarquis, 
Armando Lopez Munoz, and Carmen Cebreros Urzaiz provided critical 
insight into the endlessly rich history and culture of the country that 
would have been impossible for me to uncover on my own. But more 
than this, they offered immeasurable warmth and a good dose of mad- 
ness that helped carry me through the drudgiest days of field research. 
I owe thanks as well to Damian Ortega, Betsabee Romero, Margarita 
Cabrera, Kurimanzutto, and the Asociacion de Amigos del Museo del 
Arte Popular for allowing me to use images of their artwork in this 

Two research assistants contributed immensely to this project. At 
Bloomfield College, I was lucky to cross paths with Nora Lopez Matta, 
who skillfully transcribed interviews and coded survey data while bal- 
ancing the financial and familial demands of pursuing her American 
dream. At the University of Colorado, Denver, Heather Worrell gener- 
ously offered the help of her Spread the Word language services com- 
pany to help edit transcriptions and create a nimble digital bibliography 
from the messy mass of sources that I used to put this book together. 

The ideas that eventually resulted from this research were improved 
through the kind, critical feedback of colleagues. Special recognition is 
owed to those who were able to trudge through earlier versions of the 
manuscript at the request of UC Press — Diane Davis, Katja Franko Aas, 
and other anonymous reviewers. I am indebted as well to Gary T. Marx 
and Robert Buffington, who selflessly offered insightful comments on 
the whole manuscript. I also owe thanks to those who provided me 
venues for presenting preliminary findings at professional conferences, 
including Nicholas Rowland and Jan-Hendrick Passoth and their work 
group on science and technology studies (STS) and the state; and Karen 

Acknowledgments I xiii 

Levy and Aaron Smyth and their research network on the intersections 
of STS and sociolegal studies. A number of others — Jon Gilliom, Mary 
Mitchell, William Rose, Margaret Hu, Bryce Newell, Diana Mincyte, 
and Andrzej Nowak — provided helpful comments on conference papers 
and presentations that form the basis of this book’s chapters. Finally, I 
want to especially thank Anna Maria Marshall and Evan Stark. Their 
areas of specialization may lie outside this work, but their continued 
mentorship well past the time when one should require it is a gift I will 
always appreciate. 


Surveillance Technologies and 
States of Security 


Mexico’s Federal Police Intelligence Center (CIPF) was inaugurated on 
November 24, 2009, in a ceremony attended by President Felipe Calde- 
ron and Secretary of Public Security Genaro Garda Luna. The CIPF, a 
subterranean structure colloquially known as El Bunker, serves as the 
command center for the federal government’s War on Crime. 3 It houses 
Plataforma Mexico, a network of advanced telecommunication and 
information technologies receiving data from over six hundred state 
and municipal offices; 169 federal police stations; the national registries 
of people, vehicles, criminal records, fingerprints, and ballistics; and 
video cameras located throughout the country, including those at the 
Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, dedicated to the Virgin of Guada- 
lupe, the patron saint of Mexico. 1 To visualize the data, El Bunker fea- 
tures four video walls, each measuring 65 by 10 feet, displaying eighty 
rear-screen projectors arranged in four 2 by 10 configurations. In his 
remarks, President Calderon claimed that the center would serve as a 

a. The federal government’s security campaign has carried various monikers — la 
Guerra contra el Narco (the War against the Narcos), la Lucha contra la Inseguridad 
(the Fight against Insecurity), la Guerra contra el Crimen (the War against Crime or the 
War on Crime), among others. Of these, the War against the Narcos and the War on 
Crime were the most common during the Calderon administration. I use the term “War 
on Crime” because it captures the fact that the government is targeting forms of illicit 
behavior beyond drug trafficking. 

z I Surveillance Technologies and States of Security 

“computer brain” to keep the federal police “a step ahead of crime.” 
It would allow Mexico to win its War on Crime, he explained, since 
“wars are won with this, with technology, information, intelligence, 
planning, and force.’” With these words, the Mexican leader gave voice 
to his administration’s faith in the power of technology to defeat crime. 

Situated off the southwest corner of Chapultepec Park, Mexico 
City’s verdant oasis, El Bunker’s proximity to the park’s other iconic 
buildings — Chapultepec Castle and Los Pinos — provides a commentary 
on the evolving relationship between governors and the governed in 
Mexico. Chapultepec Castle, located at the highest point of the park, is 
a regal structure that was commissioned by Viceroy Bernardo de Galvez 
in 1775 and given its current appearance by the Austrian-born Emperor 
Maximilian I of Mexico in 1864. Behind the castle in the south-central 
section of the park, the more austere Los Pinos was constructed on 
the order of President Venustiano Carranza in 1917 and has been the 
primary home for Mexico’s heads of state since 1934, when President 
Lazaro Cardenas moved the presidential residence out of Chapultepec 
Castle. El Bunker, meanwhile, with its central conference room that 
seats the president and his security cabinet in the event of a national 
emergency, is a two-story underground structure powered by an inde- 
pendent energy source. If Chapultepec Castle pronounced the pres- 
ence of a royal authority through its privileged position above Mexico 
City, and if Los Pinos symbolized the progressive ideals of Mexico’s 
postrevolutionary government to level the distance between the coun- 
try’s most and least powerful sectors, El Bunker embodies the security 
anxieties of the contemporary government, which would secure society 
by placing its administrative center outside the grasp of the general 
population while maintaining oversight through advanced surveillance 

A solid five years into the intelligence center’s existence, its value 
remains in doubt. Although homicides, robberies, and extortions are 
down in recent years, violent crime remains high throughout the coun- 
try. 4 And the government’s limited capacity to combat criminal wrong- 
doing has been underscored by dramatic events such as the massacre of 
forty-three students of the Raul Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College 
of Ayotzinapa in September 2014 and the escape of Joaquin “El Chapo” 
(Shorty) Guzman from a maximum security prison in July 2015. These 
high-profile crimes, like most delinquency in Mexico, remain unsolved. 
As regards the center itself, it has been dogged by numerous prob- 
lems, including unmanageable historical data, unreliable interagency 

Surveillance Technologies and States of Security I 3 

communications, the reluctance of state agencies to share data, and 
manual processes of information keeping at the local level that slow 
data processing and accuracy . 5 These challenges have not diminished the 
government’s faith in technology. “It is a matter of time,” officials assert, 
when asked about the center’s impact on crime. And additional police 
bunkers have been constructed in Mexico since.' But in Mexico’s War 
on Crime, one wonders whether time and technology will be enough. 


This is a book about surveillance technologies and their impact on the 
relationship between authorities and those they govern. Surveillance, 
defined as “any collection or processing of personal data, whether iden- 
tifiable or not, for the purposes of influencing or managing those whose 
data have been garnered,” has become a topic of growing popular and 
scholarly interest the last twenty years. This is reflected in the attention 
paid to it by Hollywood (in films such as The Truman Show, Gattaca, 
Lost Highway, Minority Report, Panic Room) and academia (in the 
journal Surveillance and Society, as well as a number of recent books). 
This growing popularity does not owe to the novelty of surveillance, 
since surveillance is not new. Political authorities have always kept 
track of people, just as parents have always looked after their children, 
teachers tracked their students, doctors monitored their patients, and 
bosses watched over their workers. 

But how we watch has changed, thanks to the proliferation of com- 
puters, mobile devices, CCTV cameras, RFID chips, and other gadgets 
in society today. “Traditional surveillance,” the seminal surveillance 
scholar Gary T. Marx notes, was characterized by “close observation, 
especially of a suspected person.” “New surveillance,” however, is per- 
formed “through the use of technical means to extract or create per- 
sonal or group data, whether from individuals or contexts .” 9 And on 
a daily basis, we come into contact with a host of technologies whose 
surveillant capacities are transforming the contours of social life. “Heli- 
copter parents” wield “electronic leashes” to remain ever present in 
the lives of their children, classrooms are turned “inside out” or made 
into “MOOCs” to accommodate greater numbers of students, doctors 
connect to patients in “elCUs,” and “job spill” and “workweek creep” 
befall greater numbers of workers. 

At the level of national security, networks of computers armed 
with powerful processors and sophisticated software scoop up data 

4 I Surveillance Technologies and States of Security 

transmitted across the Internet and allow governments to track and 
store the content of people’s digital communications. Backscatter X-ray 
imaging devices enable security officers at airports to effortlessly pho- 
tograph travelers through their clothes. The advent of unmanned aerial 
vehicles (UAV) armed with missiles that can be guided by video opera- 
tors has simplified the assassination of suspected terrorists overseas. 
Closed-circuit television (CCTV) and Internet-protocol television cam- 
eras allow dummy police officers to monitor public spaces. Biometric 
technologies such as fingerprinting and iris scans make possible the iden- 
tification of billions of people across the globe. And tracking cars and 
people would be many times more difficult without the radio-frequency 
identification (RFID) chips or global positioning system (GPS) devices 
that can attach to them. 

The ubiquity of surveillance technologies might make us yearn for 
earlier times, when our lives were not shackled by such objects. But we 
should resist such knee-jerk reactions. The sense that privacy is under 
assault today is not imagined. The unsolicited email or phone call speaks 
to the capacity of information systems to link diverse databases. The 
ability of online vendors such as Amazon or Netflix to predict our read- 
ing, listening, or viewing preferences evidences how those watching 
know more about us than we do ourselves . 11 And the requirement that 
we possess a driver’s license in order to board an airplane speaks to 
the propensity of technologies to not only “creep” 1 ' but “surge” 1 ’ into 
applications beyond their original design. But we must weigh these con- 
cerns against considerations of how privacy and personal data are not 
so much invaded by surveillance technologies as willingly offered up by 
people as “tokens of trust ” 14 necessary for social exchanges in today’s 
world. We share the details of our lives on Facebook or with online 
vendors so that we can move more freely and buy more cheaply than if 
constrained to our immediate community. Loss of privacy thus equates 
with greater freedom of movement and other privileges. In addition, 
technologies such as cell phones and encryption programs enhance pri- 
vacy by providing greater anonymity than in the past / 5 Online purchas- 
ing is more or less secure. And encryption and anonymization programs 
such as GnuPG and Tor have proven to be effective enough that the US 
government purposefully retains encrypted or anonymous data in the 
hopes of cracking their codes . 1 

Privacy concerns connect with identity as well. The digital identi- 
ties that people construct on Facebook (or have constructed for them 
based on the digital trails they leave online) serve as “data doubles ,” 17 

Surveillance Technologies and States of Security I 5 

“dividuals ,” 18 or “electronic doppelgangers.” I? At the same time, bio- 
metric technologies such as iris scans and genetic fingerprinting assign 
identity by anchoring it to one’s body. 2 ° In both instances, technologies 
threaten the self , 21 as people find their ability to define who they are 
reduced and the line between the self and other fades.” The ubiquity 
of surveillance technologies affects group identity too. CCTV cam- 
eras installed in housing developments disrupt forms of community as 
people cut the amount of time spent in open areas where community 
engagement traditionally occurs. 2 ’ That said, biometric technologies 
such as those utilized in India’s population registry hold the possibil- 
ity of guaranteeing personal identity and the civic rights and privileges 
that citizenship entails ." 4 Likewise, DNA testing has revolutionized the 
criminal justice system in the United States, helping identify scores of 
individuals wrongfully incarcerated for crimes they did not commit and 
thus bringing some measure of justice to individuals and communities 
wrongfully targeted by law enforcement. 

DNA tests bring to mind the reliability of technical methods of seeing 
and their potential to predict crime" and realize “front end control .” 27 
There is evidence that the innovative use of crime statistics in programs 
such as COMPSTAT is effective in reducing property crime." And gov- 
ernment officials cite the efficacy of surveillance in stopping terrorist 
attacks." ’ But it is of course impossible to know that such malicious plans 
would not have been thwarted by more conventional law-enforcement 
tactics. What is more, these technologies were unable to preempt the 
Boston Marathon bombers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, even 
though surveillance programs “discriminate by design” against foreign 
nationals .’ 0 Also, with relation to ordinary street crime, organizational 
variables impinge on the performance of COMPSTAT’ 1 — police depart- 
ments continue to define policing as patrol work and do not undertake 
the institutional reorganization called for under the program. Surveil- 
lance technologies are additionally challenged by the uncertain nature 
of the phenomena they look to control. The spelling of names and the 
features of faces 33 change over time, and data can be coded in incompat- 
ible formats , 34 duplicate places , 35 or stripped of meaning in the coding 

The uneven performance record of surveillance technologies in pro- 
viding security might give public officials pause in adopting them. But 
this has clearly not been the case. At the time of writing, local, state, 
and federal law-enforcement agencies and local legislatures in the United 
States are exploring the adoption of UAVs or drones to fight crime 3 and 

6 I Surveillance Technologies and States of Security 

combat illegal immigration . 39 This disconnect between actions and out- 
comes speaks to, on the one hand, the influence of “security cultures,” 
or “prevailing understandings of threats and appropriate responses to 
them,” on public policy in the United States . 40 TV shows, movies, and 
news reports disproportionately focus on terrorism and glamorize the 
ability of sophisticated technologies and muscular men using extralegal 
means (James Bond, Ethan Hunt, Jack Bauer) to stop terrorism . 41 The 
September n, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States also intensi- 
fied existing trends of “governing through crime,” 4 ' where authorities 
use crime prevention as a rationale for expanding techniques and tech- 
nologies of social control. The disconnect between the government’s 
increasing adoption of technologies and the lack of evidence for their 
efficacy also speaks to, on the other hand, the influence of the private 
sector over public life. Private companies produce and operate many 
of these technologies . 43 Companies lobby governments to adopt their 
wares 44 and advertise so that individual citizens adopt them to make 
themselves safe. In the United Kingdom, private CCTV operators grad- 
ually assume discretionary power from police officers in deciding whom 
to place under watch . 45 In this sense, instead of Big Brother, it makes 
more sense today to speak of the increasing number of Little Brothers 
who exercise authority over ordinary people. 46 

The growing influence exercised by private actors gives the impres- 
sion that fundamental processes affecting the nature of political life in 
our democratic societies are increasingly out of our hands. Programs of 
surveillance and secret prisons for terrorist suspects operate outside the 
US court system and beyond public oversight . 47 At the theoretical level, 
many scholars have observed that surveillance technologies are part of 
an alteration in the nature of power in society underscored by “social 
sorting .” 48 At national borders, programs like US VISIT sort between 
safe/legitimate and dangerous/illegitimate travelers. On city streets, 
CCTV operators differentiate between desirables and undesirables, 
and intelligent transportation systems (ITS) implement “throughput 
rationality” to prioritize certain mobilities (motor vehicles) over others 
(pedestrians). 5 ” In correctional facilities, good risks for rehabilitation 
are separated from bad risks . 51 Slowly, political philosophies enshrining 
universal rights are yielding to utilitarian technocratic practices dividing 
us between good and bad risks. 

For many, this ongoing advance of surveillance technologies engen- 
ders a breakdown in “institutional trust” and invites resistance . 52 
Resistance can run from the momentous to the mundane. Concerned 

Surveillance Technologies and States of Security I 7 

individuals, such as Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, with 
knowledge of or access to secret government communications and 
programs have leaked information to the public. Concerned organiza- 
tions, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) or Electronic 
Privacy Information Center (EPIC), have brought lawsuits against the 
US government and communication companies for violating privacy 
laws and civil liberties." Meanwhile, individuals confronting drug test- 
ing at work might either directly refuse to participate in testing, avoid 
it by hiding or not attending work, switch clean for tainted samples, 
distort the test by consuming substances to neutralize the evaluation, 
and so on . 54 Those collecting welfare benefits will engage in paid labor 
in violation of state regulations. And people under the watch of CCTV 
monitoring take to playing for the camera 56 or defy the authority of 
watchers by displaying a middle finger . 57 


But how would we react to surveillance if we found ourselves else- 
where? Globally, authorities are exercising novel means for monitor- 
ing people in the name of security. France operates a massive secret 
telecommunications surveillance program designed to identify secu- 
rity threats. 5 * Before the United States and France, the government of 
Nigeria was suspected of operating a program to monitor Internet com- 
munications . 55 India is creating a national registry of people based on 
the fingerprints and iris scans of its over one billion citizens. Thailand 
has begun installing video cameras into the life-sized, fiberglass decoy 
police officers that dot the country in order to combat street crime. 
Brazil has created an electronic vehicle registration program that will 
be able to track motor vehicles by attaching RFID chips to them. And 
the list goes on. 

If there are now “eyes everywhere” 6 ’ and surveillance technologies 
are an essential aspect of globalization, this does not mean that they 
always see in the same way. Focal, national, and regional contexts 
shape their distribution and intensity . 64 In Rio de Janeiro, video cameras 
are employed by competing police forces from different levels of gov- 
ernment and by private citizens in pursuit of security against organized 
crime, while in Tokyo they are embraced by civic community groups 
in a highly bureaucratized fashion that is indicative of a “surveillance 
society.” 6 ' Within Fa tin America, countries such as Brazil, Mexico, and 

8 I Surveillance Technologies and States of Security 

Venezuela are outpacing others in their turn to surveillance technolo- 
gies to ensure public security. 

The consideration of surveillance technologies in the Global South is 
timely. In Latin America, violence and security have become dominant 
themes over the last decade, following the processes of democratiza- 
tion from military and authoritative regimes during the 1990s/ 7 While 
organized crime exists in the Global North, with gang violence affecting 
quality of life in neglected urban areas, its scale and intensity are dra- 
matically higher in Latin America. Levels of delinquency have surged 
in many countries, especially Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, and much of 
Central America. Not only have governments been unable to deal 
with the violence, but organized crime now comprises the sociopoliti- 
cal order/ 9 States may use extralegal (or criminal) force against unions, 
gangs, or political opponents, while in other instances elements of the 
state may use organized crime to enrich themselves. Crime syndicates 
may buy off state actors in order to protect their operations, while in 
other instances violence is used as a means of conflict resolution where 
more formal legal channels are not available. These “violent multiplic- 
ities” 71 highlight how the transition to democracy in Latin America has 
not brought a strong rule of law or civilian control of military forces, 
basic elements of democratic rule. 7 ' 

Mexico is very much part of this story. The country has under- 
gone a number of profound changes in recent decades. It experienced 
a progressive opening of its political system, highlighted in 2000 by 
the election of a president (Vicente Fox) from a party (the PAN, or 
National Action Party) other than the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary 
Party), which had dominated political life since the end of the Mexican 
Revolution in the late 1920s. The democratization of Mexico follows 
two decades of economic liberalization begun by President Miguel de 
la Madrid in the 1980s and reinforced with the North American Free 
Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, clear moves away from the pro- 
tectionist, import-substitution economic model embraced by the PRI 
since the Great Depression. The political and economic transformations 
have been accompanied by cultural changes as well, as consumerism 
and globalization have reshaped national identity in the world’s second 
most populous Catholic country. While the consequences of these pro- 
cesses are subject to debate, Mexico’s entry into the twenty-first century 
promised a break from its more immediate past. 

The massive violence of the last decade has cast a shadow over these 
developments, however. Much of the insecurity is of course driven by 

Surveillance Technologies and States of Security I 9 

illicit drug trafficking contested by organized crime syndicates. Sharing 
a long terrestrial border with the United States, Mexico has been the 
preferred point of transit for cocaine shipments from South America 
since increased policing of the Caribbean Sea diminished the lucrative- 
ness of water transits. 73 Since 1997, when Amado Carrillo Fuentes, 
leader of the Juarez cartel, died following plastic surgery intended to 
hide his identity, different cartels have been battling for control of the 
Juarez plaza (territory and supply route). This competition intensified in 
2007 when Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman, leader of the Sinaloa 
cartel, allegedly was unable to come to an agreement with a rival cartel 
about access to Juarez. 74 The battles between the cartels have resulted 
in an increasing number of drug-related murders. 

However, drugs comprise just a portion of the crime problem in 
Mexico. While official crime statistics are unreliable, given the large 
amount of unreported crime (cifra negra), kidnappings, extortions, and 
street robberies have been on the rise. 76 Elevated crime also reflects the 
inefficacy of Mexican federal, state, and local governments to respond 
to delinquency. The country ranks high in international measures of 
impunity, 77 with national surveys indicating that over 93 percent of 
all crimes are either not reported or not investigated by authorities/ 8 
And half of the cases that are investigated do not result in further legal 
action. 79 As a result of insecurity and the state’s inability to confront 
it, Mexicans report low levels of confidence in their police and public 
leaders/ 0 

Upon assuming office in December 2006, President Felipe Calderon 
launched a War on Crime to counter this insecurity. Dropping past 
administrations’ de facto policy of passivity and complicity toward the 
drug cartels, Calderon moved to disrupt their operations by reinventing 
public institutions and crime-fighting strategies. 1 National legislation 
was passed to increase punishments against criminals and to authorize 
the use of the military in fighting crime, 1 police forces were created and 
reorganized to reduce corruption and increase effectiveness, 83 interna- 
tional agreements were struck with neighboring countries to coordi- 
nate anticrime strategies, 84 national agreements were reached with the 
country’s media to manage the content and tone of news reports,* 5 and 

public relations campaigns were launched to increase public confidence 

. ..... 86 
and participation m crime reporting. 

Surveillance technologies have figured centrally in Mexico’s crime 
fight. The Merida Initiative signed by President Calderon and US presi- 
dent George W. Bush in October 2007 provided Mexico $1 billion 

io I Surveillance Technologies and States of Security 

for the purchase of advanced military and surveillance equipment. 87 
Fusion centers have been established at different spots in the country 
to centralize and synthesize the analysis of crime data. And a trio of 
innovative programs were set up during the Calderon sexenio (six-year 
term) with the intention of monitoring people and the things commonly 
used in the commission of crime: the National Registry of Mobile Tele- 
phone Users (RENAUT), a governmental database of cell phone lines 
and their subscribers, which would aid authorities in responding to 
kidnappings and extortion calls; the Citizen Identity Card (CEDI), a 
national identity card featuring biometric data such as fingerprints and 
iris scans, which would increase people’s security from identity theft 
and fraud; and the Public Registry of Vehicles (REPUVE), a centralized 
federal registry of every vehicle in the country, along with attached 
RFID tags, which would combat car thefts, kidnappings, and drug 

The embrace of surveillance technologies to fight organized crime in 
Mexico invites a variety of questions. Have the surveillance technolo- 
gies reduced insecurity? How have the technologies affected the gov- 
ernment’s ability to combat organized crime? How do people react to 
them? And what does the use of surveillance technologies tell us about 
the types of government we can expect in the future, both in Mexico 
and beyond? 


The pages that follow are an effort to answer these questions using a 
case-study methodology — studying particular instances of a phenom- 
enon (in this case, governments’ use of surveillance technologies against 
insecurity) in order to understand it in depth and in context. 89 1 examine 
the three surveillance programs mentioned above: the RENAUT, CEDI, 
and REPUVE, with particular emphasis on the last program. I had orig- 
inally planned to study the REPUVE exclusively, which appealed to 
my interest in cars, governance, and Latin America. Inclusion of the 
RENAUT and CEDI was motivated by what became a central theme 
for the book: the difficulties that authorities encounter in trying to 
implement monitoring programs. Arriving in Mexico in summer 2010 
to begin preliminary research on the REPUVE, I was surprised to find, 
given the fanfare that had accompanied the program’s launch in 2009, 
that few of my friends and acquaintances in Mexico City had heard of it. 

Surveillance Technologies and States of Security I n 

Concerned that a fledgling program might fail to generate an adequate 
amount of data, I elected to research the other two programs as well. 

To examine the programs, I relied on a triangulation of qualitative 
and quantitative methods and collected data over a four-year period, 
from 2010 to 2013. The first source of data were newspaper reports and 
government documents on the three programs that I collected primar- 
ily through the Google Alerts service for gathering Web content. The 
majority of this material came from national newspapers in Mexico, 
such as El Universal, Milenio, and La Jornada, and local papers from 
the areas where the programs were being implemented. I maintained a 
separate electronic file for each program. Altogether, these files com- 
prised over three hundred thousand words. I used content analysis to 
identify key facts and themes. 

A second source of data were observations I completed at two 
REPUVE registration sites in the states of Zacatecas and Sonora. Dur- 
ing these field visits, I spent time with the staff responsible for inspect- 
ing vehicles and registering vehicular data in the REPUVE database 
and focused my attention on how the technologies worked in practice. 
These visits also enabled me to converse with staff and local program 
administrators to learn their opinions of the program and the successes 
and challenges they experienced. I also interviewed drivers who were 
registering their vehicles in order to understand their impressions of 
the REPUVE. These interviews usually lasted between five and fifteen 
minutes, and I interviewed thirty-five drivers in all. 

I also interviewed eight national-level REPUVE administrators work- 
ing at the offices of the Executive Secretariat of the National System 
of Public Security (SESNSP) in Mexico City. During separate visits to 
the SESNSP, I was able to speak with officials working in each of the 
REPUVE’s four directorates: the State and Federal Operations Imple- 
mentation Directorate charged with supervising the program’s adop- 
tion by states (entidades federativas ) and federal agencies (autoridades 
federates); the Relations with Obligated Subjects Directorate respon- 
sible for ensuring the compliance of private-sector businesses (sujetos 
obligados); the Procedures and Citizenry Directorate responsible for 
managing the public’s contact with the program; and the Oversight 
and Verification Directorate charged with technical aspects of vehicle 
inspections. I usually conducted these interviews in small groups, orga- 
nized by directorate, which facilitated scheduling. 

The REPUVE directors at the SESNSP also arranged meetings for 
me with representatives from two automobile companies, which I refer 

iz I Surveillance Technologies and States of Security 

to as Sucaro and the Veloz Motor Company (VMC). b I met with the 
Sucaro representatives at the SESNSP’s Mexico City offices and with 
VMC staffers at the company’s car plant. I also toured the VMC facility 
to better understand its process for complying with the REPUVE. 

In Mexico City, I also visited ten auto dealerships to collect their 
impressions of the REPUVE program. These interviews, like the inter- 
views with drivers, lasted between five and fifteen minutes. In addi- 
tion, I attended a security technology trade show to gather observations 
and discuss the three programs with retailers. I followed this with an 
interview with a representative from a company that had unsuccess- 
fully competed for the contract to supply RFID tags to the REPUVE. I 
conducted all interviews in Spanish, with the exception of that with the 
RFID company representative. Two undergraduate research assistants 
later transcribed the audio files, and I analyzed the transcripts by hand 
to identify key themes. 

Finally, to better understand the public’s reaction to the three pro- 
grams, I created a sixty-item survey on the programs and insecurity 
in Mexico more generally. The survey provided respondents a descrip- 
tion of each program culled from newspaper accounts and asked their 
opinions of them. Friends in Mexico helped me refine the instrument 
to improve readability. To gather data, I used snowball sampling with 
acquaintances in Mexico via Qualtrics and employed a data-collection 
company, Indagaciones y Soluciones Avanzadas, to distribute the sur- 
vey in two sites that I could not access on my own — a working-class 
neighborhood in Mexico City and a rural community in Zacatecas. This 
purposive availability sample consisted of ninety-eight people. The data 
was coded into a SPSS file with the assistance of my research assistants. 

These methods are not without their problems. An initial concern is 
the selection of Mexico as a site for studying surveillance technologies 
in the first place. Readers, especially Mexico scholars, might object that 
the country’s unique historical and political development — for instance, 
the Spanish conquest and the lingering inequalities between European, 
mestizo, and indigenous populations; the Mexican Revolution’s legacy 
of dislocating the country’s elite and remaking the armed forces; and 

b. Throughout, I use pseudonyms for the individuals and car companies I interviewed 
or observed. Providing research participants anonymity facilitated their participation and 
protected them from any possible reprisals their critical assessments of the programs or 
the government might risk. For individuals and companies mentioned in publicly avail- 
able news reports, I used their true names. 

Surveillance Technologies and States of Security I 13 

the revolutionary state’s corporatist framework and land redistribution 
program — limit its value as a case from which larger trends concerning 
surveillance technologies can be generalized. But a similar argument 
could be made about nearly any country — the peculiar longevity of the 
US Constitution, the history of slavery and racial inequality, the politi- 
cal and cultural legacy of the Civil War, the experience of westward 
expansion, and the unique geopolitical consequences of serving as a 
superpower have not prevented scholars from conducting research in 
the United States that informs social science more generally. What is 
more, as noted earlier, the insecurity and organized crime currently 
afflicting Mexico and the political strategies that authorities use to 
address it are very much regional and global trends. Thus, rather than 
limiting ourselves from making larger statements on the basis of case- 
study methodology, I find it more useful to acknowledge the specificities 
of the settings studied, reflecting on how they affect the generalizability 
of a study’s findings. 

Beyond this, each of the methods utilized in this work possesses its 
own limitations. Media coverage is not the most reliable data source, 
given the political and financial concerns that inform coverage. While 
I acknowledge this, my research relies on mainstream media sources that 
are generally viewed as reputable in Mexico, such as the newspapers El 
Universal, Milenio, and the current events weekly Proceso. In terms of 
both the observations and interviews, a main concern is the quantity 
of data. I focus on the REPUVE rather than the RENAUT and CEDI; 
my observations are limited to two field sites; and my interviews are 
with a select group of public administrators, workers, businesses, and 
users. I have little doubt that extending the interviews and observations 
to the RENAUT and CEDI would have yielded important insights on 
these programs and that conducting observations of the REPUVE in 
additional sites and interviews with more officials, businesses (such as 
insurance companies), and users would have produced distinct data. 
Nevertheless, the information collected does provide a robust view of 
the three programs, especially the challenges faced by the REPUVE. And 
the interviews produced common themes that, if not capturing the whole 
story of the REPUVE, represent key points for understanding its history. 

c. To underscore this point for research on Mexico, in March 2011, representatives 
from various news outlets signed an accord with the federal government agreeing not to 
circulate stories that would threaten state operations against crime groups or cast the 
government in a negative light. 

i4 I Surveillance Technologies and States of Security 

Finally, the survey instrument itself is limited because I did not dis- 
tribute it to a random sample of Mexicans, it included a low number of 
respondents, and it lacked sophisticated measures of question reliability 
prior to circulation. Thus, the survey is not representative of Mexicans’ 
thinking about the three programs and insecurity. But the survey results 
still provide rare insight into the thoughts of the public on the use of 
surveillance technologies in Mexico’s War on Crime. 

In sum, the methods used in this study possess not insignificant limi- 
tations that restrict the quantity and quality of the information exam- 
ined. However, the variety of data examined here is a strength. And 
it proves adequate for discerning the histories of the three monitoring 
programs launched by the Calderon administration and reflecting on 
their significance for understanding the impact of surveillance technolo- 
gies on contemporary governance more generally. 


This book’s main argument is twofold. First, while surveillance technol- 
ogies adopted in the name of security are generally understood as tools 
used by state authorities to monitor individuals, they are also used to 
monitor the things (automobiles, telephones, etc.) thought to underlie 
the commission of crime. It is not simply the individual driver, phone 
user, or name bearer that the REPUVE, RENAUT, and CEDI target, 
but the broader activities of automobility, mobile telephony, and per- 
sonal identification in general. By adhering RFID tags to vehicles, hav- 
ing people register their phones, and creating identity cards based on 
biometric data, the state looks to gain purchase on the material basis of 
everyday life. 

Monitoring mobility, communication, and identification are not 
new concerns for the state. Rather, they are inherent to “seeing like a 
state,” 52 strategies of governance that have been central to the forma- 
tion of the state in Mexico over the course of its history. The Span- 
iards’ military conquest of the Mixteca kingdom ruling the Valley of 
Mexico, the imposition of the Spanish language and naming practices 
on indigenous populations, the registration of individual citizens for 
the purposes of democratic elections following independence, the con- 
struction and securitization of roadways during colonial times, and the 
construction and securitization of railways during early modern times, 
among other examples, all represented efforts by authorities to control 

Surveillance Technologies and States of Security I 15 

mobility, communication, and/or identification in order to realize social 
control. And such efforts were significant to the evolution of the state 
in Mexico. 

But the creation of the REPUVE, RENAUT, and CEDI in the current 
day speaks to a crisis of governance — born of a society that has become 
increasingly difficult to administer over the past thirty years and a state 
apparatus that has become increasingly unable to govern society — that 
surveillance technologies are intended to address. In Mexico, law- 
enforcement officers and agencies are often corrupt; the data that the 
state generates on people and things are often inaccurate; and multiple 
agencies at local, state, and federal levels of government are often dedi- 
cated to the same task. Such obstacles within the state make governance 
challenging. Programs like the the REPUVE, RENAUT, and CEDI, by 
routing the information that RFID tags, mobile devices, and electronic 
identity cards produce through centralized databases, would enable the 
federal government to reduce its reliance on officers and agencies at the 
state and local levels that are seen to have become ineffective in the task 
of governance. These programs would reform the state. 

The surveillance technologies employed in the REPUVE, RENAUT, 
and CEDI possess, then, a dual purpose. They are intended to increase 
the federal government’s grip over the mundane objects of everyday 
life, and they are intended to consolidate governmental authority over 
the administration of these things. I refer to this novel approach to gov- 
erning as prohesion, a neologism formed from the Latin root, baereo, 
which means “to hang or hold fast, to hang, stick, cleave, cling, adhere, 
be fixed, sit fast, remain close.” It is the root of the words “adhesion” 
and “cohesion,” “adherence” and “coherence.” And I use it in an allu- 
sive attempt to describe the efforts of authorities to make the materi- 
ality of social life more “adhesive” and the diverse organizations of 
government more “cohesive” to the state. To explain the title of the 
book, the surveillance technologies studied in this work are designed to 
“make things stick.” 

That is the first part of the argument. The second part is that the 
vision of state authorities in Mexico to “make things stick” has largely 
failed. Today, none of the three programs operates in the manner state 
planners had intended. To most Mexicans, this does not come as a sur- 
prise. While I was conducting research, many people I spoke with — 
whether they supported the programs or not — had a hunch that these 
programs would fail, like so many past efforts by the state. 

1 6 I Surveillance Technologies and States of Security 

But if failure is not surprising, one goal of this book is to try to 
bring the reasons for it to light. They are multiple. Ordinary people 
either refuse to register for programs or register using false information. 
Businesses push back against regulations that require them to add new 
procedures for complying with the law. Technologies fail to work in 
the manner expected. Resources are insufficient to successfully imple- 
ment the programs on the scale desired. Political intrigue affects elected 
officials’ willingness to follow the federal government’s lead on secu- 
rity programs. States neglect to implement programs as they hold out 
for increased resources from the federal government. Thus, multiple 
points of resistance operate to weaken the federal government’s efforts 
to remake the state through prohesion. 

But weakness cannot be mistaken for absence. While the automo- 
bile registry, mobile phone registry, and personal identity card launched 
during the Calderon administration do not work in the way they were 
imagined, the programs, the ideas that inspired them, and the technolo- 
gies that embody them operate in modified form. That they operate at 
all owes in good measure to the political acumen of program admin- 
istrators to respond to the resistance the programs encounter and find 
points of connection with the individuals, groups, businesses, politi- 
cians, and things that oppose them. Programs are added onto existing 
state infrastructures in order to reduce costs, or they are reframed as 
intended for vulnerable populations in order to increase the programs’ 
legitimacy, or they are eliminated altogether to allow the state to pursue 
alternative methods of managing mobility, communication, and identi- 
fication. Such improvisational practices, which I refer to as statecraft, 
lend state formation an emergent quality, unknowable in advance but 
taking shape through practices and patterns of rule inherited from the 
past. If the fickle nature of statecraft proves discouraging for those in 
search of definite answers to how surveillance technologies will affect 
relations between governors and the governed in Mexico, it also ensures 
that a space for meaningful political action will continue to exist in our 
technological future. 


In this work, the academic field I am in closest dialogue with is surveil- 
lance studies, and here, the points of connection are multiple. First, this 

Surveillance Technologies and States of Security I 17 

work provides a more robust understanding of surveillance technologies 
by emphasizing dimensions of their operation beyond sight and vision. 
Our thinking on surveillance has been dominated by sight as a human 
sense. If cover art on leading social science books about surveillance 
is any measure, surveillance brings to mind CCTV cameras, computer 
monitors, magnifying glasses, X-ray images, and other devices designed 
to promote visibility. This emphasis prevails in the way surveillance 
gets discussed as well, as evidenced by such terms as “Supervision ,” 94 
“stretched screens ,” 95 or “visible war .” 96 These images and this termi- 
nology communicate the idea that surveillance technologies increase the 
ability of authorities to watch over their subjects. 

Besides being reasonable, this stress on visibility is important for 
understanding the shifting nature of power brought forth by surveil- 
lance technologies. CCTV cameras have become ubiquitous in the con- 
temporary world, with Great Britain notoriously leading the charge 
with some six million devices for a population of sixty million people . 97 
Cameras in mobile devices have increased imagery in the world, pre- 
senting new dilemmas for concerned parents of teens who share explicit 
images of themselves as well as new opportunities for “sousveillance,” 
or the watching of authorities by those below them . 98 

But there are also reasons to be skeptical about the power of sight 
and our emphasis on it. Jean Baudrillard introduced the concepts of 
“simulacra” and “simulation” to comment critically on the changing 
relationship between image and reality in society. Today, we find our- 
selves moving “from a capitalist-productivist society to neo-capitalist 
cybernetic order that aims now at total control” through “the minute 
duplication of the real, preferably on the basis of another reproduc- 
tive medium — advertising, photo, etc .” 99 William Bogard has integrated 
these ideas into his work on surveillance, arguing that simulation “func- 
tions in ways that are totally contradictory to surveillance — not as a 
method of exposure or unconcealing, but the fabrication of completely 
original scenes, pure fictions that bear absolutely no relation to ‘reality’ 
at all, not even as a signified absence.” 

Beyond the reality of digital imagery, a range of information tech- 
nologies such as RFID tags, biometric cards, mobile devices, personal 
computers, and the networks that link these devices have transformed 
the nature of surveillance. Sensitivity to how the technical means of sur- 
veillance have transformed the nature of monitoring is captured well in 
the disparate definitions of surveillance offered by prominent scholars 

1 8 I Surveillance Technologies and States of Security 

in the field/ Common to each is surveillance as the processing and anal- 
ysis of data, or “dataveillance.” 

With this broader field of surveillance studies in mind, the RENAUT, 
the CEDI, and the REPUVE in Mexico serve as detailed case studies of 
the technical and administrative operations required to erect a “surveil- 
lant assemblage” that collects data on telecommunications, personal 
identification, and automobility. These cases support the development 
of what can be thought of as a “material perspective” of surveillance 
technologies. IO ‘ To create an electronic identity card based on biometric 
data, the human body is probed in different ways. Fingers are touched 
and recorded, irises are scanned and logged, and that data is encoded 
into barcodes and other formats stored in the card as well as govern- 
ment databases. To create an automobile registry, the body of the car is 
inspected and touched in order to record multiple instances of a vehicle 
identification number, and that data is then inscribed into government 
databases and RFID tags applied directly to vehicles’ windshields. With 
these technologies, authorities seize directly on the body or materiality 
of the agencies of communications, identification, and mobility. This 
emphasis on touch and adhesion is why it is meaningful to speak of 
prohesion. If surveillance is understood as “watching over people” for 
the sake of affecting their behavior, the histories of surveillance tech- 
nologies in Mexico reveal an operation in which authorities through 
technological means attempt to get and keep a hold upon the things 
that energize social life. Taken a step further, if the eighteenth and nine- 
teenth centuries witnessed a “slackening of the hold of the body ” 103 by 
authorities, who turned their focus to the soul, the contemporary world 
finds authorities renewing their interest in seizing upon the body . 104 

d. Gary T. Marx defines this new surveillance as “scrutiny through the use of techni- 
cal means to extract or create personal or group data, whether from individuals or con- 
texts,” carefully choosing “the verb ‘scrutinize’ rather than ‘observe’ [to] call attention 
to the fact that contemporary forms often go beyond the visual image to involve sound, 
smell, motion, numbers, and words” (Marx, “Surveillance and Society,” 2). David Lyon 
defines the new surveillance as “any collection or processing of personal data, whether 
identifiable or not, for the purposes of influencing or managing those whose data have 
been garnered” (Lyon, Surveillance Society , 2). Torin Monahan, for his part, studies “sur- 
veillance systems . . . that afford control of people through the identification, tracking, 
monitoring, or analysis of individuals, data, or systems” (Monahan, Surveillance in the 
Time of Insecurity, 8). And Kevin Haggerty and Richard Ericson describe a “surveillant 
assemblage” that “operates by abstracting human bodies from their territorial settings, 
and separating them into a series of discrete flows. . . . These flows are then reassembled 
in different locations as discrete and virtual ‘data doubles’” (Haggerty and Ericson, “Sur- 
veillant Assemblage,” 605). 

Surveillance Technologies and States of Security I 19 

A second point of engagement with surveillance studies concerns the 
state. Although policing, national security, and border control — activi- 
ties where state authorities exercise legitimate force over populations — 
are common topics within surveillance studies, the state often only lies 
in the background. On the one hand, reflecting their debt to Michel 
Foucault and poststructuralist perspectives more generally, many stud- 
ies view the adoption of surveillance technologies as indications of 
modes of thinking and acting — referred to variably as “governmental- 
ity ,” 105 “technostalgia ,” 107 and so forth — that operate behind 

the backs of authorities. On the other hand, some studies make refer- 
ence to the state through the legislation (USA Patriot Act, US “Real ID” 
Act, Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act, etc.) and 
institutions (Department of Elomeland Security, Transportation Secu- 
rity Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, etc.) that autho- 
rize and employ the surveillance technologies in policing and national 
security work. 

These approaches are not without their strengths. The governmen- 
tality perspective identifies operations of power beyond particular 
institutional contexts and in seemingly benevolent actions undertaken 
by state authorities. And the legislation and institutions utilizing sur- 
veillance technologies are undoubtedly a central part of the story. I use 
these perspectives to describe the REPUVE, RENAUT, and CEDI in the 
following chapters. 

However, these approaches also have their limitations. As other 
works have shown and the latter chapters of this book illustrate, what 
surveillance technologies do in practice vary from what they were 
designed to do . 10 And these divergences are very much tied to the struc- 
ture and organization of the state and its relationship to society over 
time. State officials and federal agencies may have interests separate 
from national administrators charged with implementing monitoring 
programs. Inadequate resources can affect which elements of a pro- 
gram get implemented. And prior administrations’ efforts to implement 
monitoring programs can make people mistrust current administra- 
tions’ endeavors. By being sensitive to the complexity and dynamism 
of state forms and their relationship to society over time, this work 
looks to account for the role of the state in the outcomes of surveillance 

With the previous point in mind, a third contribution of this work 
is to counter the dystopian normative stance of much of the surveil- 
lance studies literature. Often, scholars in the field hold the view that 

20 I Surveillance Technologies and States of Security 

surveillance technologies will provide state authorities, and the private 
companies that work with them, increased control over people and will 
heighten stratification between different groups in society. In highlight- 
ing the struggles experienced by the RENAUT, REPUVE, and CEDI, 
this work challenges such assumptions. The federal government in 
Mexico consistently comes across as weak in this work, as companies 
oppose surveillance measures for the costs they add and people mobilize 
to block measures. The point is not that scholars should be cheerier 
about surveillance technologies. Rather, it is that the role of surveil- 
lance technologies in mediating our relationship with state authorities 
can only take shape through the messy operations of statecraft, making 
both negative and positive outcomes possible. As Gary T. Marx notes, 
“Perhaps then a nuanced perhapsicon model better captures our situa- 
tion than either a panopticon or an utopicon model.” 109 

Beyond surveillance studies, this work also speaks to research on state 
formation. Recent years have seen a number of excellent works inspired 
by science and technologies studies (STS) that illuminate how techno- 
science is implicated in state formation. The application of statistics, 
cartography, sanitary engineering, and the like in colonial Ireland trans- 
formed the island into a laboratory of English science and government 
and laid the foundation for the emergence of modern government. 110 
Scientists and engineers, through agricultural, environmental, and mili- 
tary planning that helped exploit Saudi Arabia’s vital nonpetroleum 
natural resources, gave shape to the basic institutions of that country’s 
political system. 111 The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline through Azerbai- 
jan, Georgia, and Turkey is central to the construction of geopolitical 
order in the region and occasions new relations between nature, cor- 
porations, and publics. 111 And Stafford Beer’s failure to cybernetize the 
socialist economy of Chile in the early 1970s was central to the inabil- 
ity of the Salvador Allende administration to build a lasting socialist 
state as an alternative to the international capitalist order. 11 ’ Each in its 
own way, these examples illustrate that scientific knowledge and tech- 
nological artifacts, in addition to coercion and capital,” 4 are intimately 
involved in the “co-production”” 5 of the state and social order. 

This investigation into authorities’ efforts to manage mobility, com- 
munication, and personal identification over the course of Mexican his- 
tory contributes to this trend. The colonial government’s attempts to 
secure roadways buttressing the extraction of silver and other natural 
resources gave birth to the Tribuna de la Acordada, a policing orga- 
nization charged with protecting roadways from bandits. Efforts to 

Surveillance Technologies and States of Security I 21 

implement voting procedures in the country following independence 
from Spain led to the creation of both mailed ballots — de facto identity 
cards for individual voters — and governmental agencies to administer 
them. And interest in bolstering support for the postrevolutionary state 
in Mexico led authorities to construct schools throughout rural Mexico 
that would combat the hold of the Catholic Church on the Mexican 
worldview. Material artifacts, in brief, have served to co-produce the 
Mexican state. 

But this study also provides deeper insight into the processes of 
state formation. Older forms of state organization and practice that 
first emerged to manage social activities such as interpersonal commu- 
nication — a state telephone monopoly, for instance — can lose their grip 
on society as new technologies (e.g., the mobile phone) transform the 
practice of communication. This leads state authorities to consider new 
tactics — the surveillance technologies of the RENAUT, the CEDI, and 
the REPUVE — to regain their grip on the social order. But older forms 
of government do not simply wither away as their utility diminishes. 
Aging institutions, bureaucracies, offices, actors, and patterns of behav- 
ior present a counterweight to new ways of governing. Thus, state forms 
and practices must continually be negotiated by administrators through 
the practice of statecraft, which gives the state a dynamic, indeterminate 
quality. The state is continually being remade, built on infrastructures 
and patterns of interaction inherited from the past. 

This emphasis on the evolutionary indeterminacy of state forms con- 
tributes to theorizing on social order more generally. In recent years, the 
social sciences have shown heightened interest in incorporating what 
has been referred to as posthumanist thought from STS as a way of 
moving beyond the discursive focus of poststructuralism and social con- 
structivism. Posthumanist thinking, or “assemblage theory ,” 11 empha- 
sizes the materiality of the social world, the distribution of agency 
between human and nonhuman actors, and the emergent nature of 
social order . 117 

This theoretical current informs the present work in multiple ways. 
For instance, the primary object of the surveillance programs studied 
here are the material things (automobiles, mobile devices, and body) 
through which distributions of agency (mobility, communication, and 
identification) circulate in society. Prohesion is designed to make these 
things stick. The durability of social assemblages is vital as well, as 
past forms of governance can resist the efforts of government leaders to 
adopt new ways of administering the world. And, as noted above, the 

22 I Surveillance Technologies and States of Security 

form of the state emerges in time through the statecraft of administra- 
tors and bureaucrats in countering the resistance to their efforts. 

But this work also cautions against overemphasizing the nonhu- 
man in the emergence of social order. Studies adopting the language 
of STS and assemblage theory often approach social formations as 
self-organizing systems, a view perhaps nourished by the fact that the 
natural world has often served as a muse in key texts in the field. 11 But 
if agency in the world is distributed between humans and nonhumans, 
this invariably means that cultural beliefs, skills, and practices are still 
central to social outcomes. In the case of the REPUVE, RENAUT, and 
CEDI, it is the program directors and administrators working behind 
the scenes who help determine which pieces of old programs and infra- 
structures can be repurposed for integration with new ones, which busi- 
nesses can be persuaded to be early adopters of new programs, which 
state actors can be negotiated with and convinced to implement them, 
which technical problems can be fixed and which cannot, and so forth. 
The word “statecraft,” like “bricolage” 119 and “metis,” 120 is intended 
to highlight this practical aspect of social order. And these examples 
encourage us to remain attentive to the potential of human action to 
influence and remake the world. 

Finally, this work is also in dialogue with research on politics 
and insecurity in Latin America. As noted earlier, following a period 
of democratization in the 1980s and 1990s, the liberalization of the 
region’s economies, the accompanying retreat and contraction of the 
state, and the integration with the global economic order have provided 
fertile ground for the intensification of illicit drug and human traffick- 
ing by organized crime syndicates. 121 These criminal organizations have 
penetrated the state to become integrated elements of the social order. 122 
Security has as a result becomes a key policy focus for governments 
in the region, defined by an increasing militarization of police forces, 
the adoption of legal reforms that expand the coercive power of the 
state at the expense of civil liberties and protections, and regional col- 
laborations with neighboring governments to coordinate crime-fighting 
efforts. 12 ’ 

The present work adds to that literature by emphasizing the role of 
technology in both the creation and response to insecurity. The growing 
use of mobile devices, automobiles, and online identities by large num- 
bers of people in Mexico presents new challenges to state authorities 
looking to combat crime amid institutional corruption and in a neolib- 
eral era of reduced budgets. And surveillance technologies such as RFID 

Surveillance Technologies and States of Security I 23 

tags, GPS devices, biometrics, and computer networks are embraced as 
a way to reshape the state to meet the security challenges of the day. 
Thus, to better understand security measures in contemporary Latin 
America, we must squarely focus attention on the technologies and 
material things of modern life and governance. 

In addition, to the extent that we scholars who study Latin America 
are invested in social outcomes in the region, this work provides some 
measure of hope. While some studies exhibit a measure of skepticism or 
uneasiness about Latin American governments’ adoption of surveillance 
technologies, 1 " 4 stances that simulate the dystopian trends of surveil- 
lance scholarship more generally, this work illustrates how surveillance 
technologies can bring about a remaking of the state that requires the 
participation of ordinary citizens. In this sense, surveillance technolo- 
gies can serve as an opportunity for people to engage with the state and, 
in the process, strengthen democracy and the rule of law. 


Over the next five chapters, I develop these ideas in greater depth. 
Chapter z, “Taming the Tiger,” begins with a description of the Reg- 
istry of Mobile Telephone Users, Citizen Identity Card, and Public 
Registry of Vehicles and then considers them in light of larger histori- 
cal trends in Mexican history. It argues that while the RENAUT, the 
CEDI, and the REPUVE resemble programs described by surveillance 
scholars elsewhere, they are most noteworthy for their focus on the 
materiality of communication, identification, and mobility. Authorities’ 
efforts to administer these activities are not new; rather they date back 
to the Spanish conquest and have over the course of Mexican history 
“co-produced” the state. The launching of the RENAUT, CEDI, and 
REPUVE in Mexico today, however, speaks to a crisis of governance 
that the democratization of the country’s political system, liberalization 
of its economy, and transnationalization of its culture — all aspects of 
globalization — have brought about. 

Chapter 3, “Prohesion,” delves into the operation of surveillance 
technologies by locating the REPUVE within the history of automotive 
governance in Mexico. This chapter argues that the REPUVE evidences 
a third historical approach to governing the insecurity of automobil- 
ity. Discipline was first pursued to increase the safety of road travel by 
making drivers responsible. Risk management later emerged to reduce 
the environmental harm of automobility by monitoring car emissions. 

24 I Surveillance Technologies and States of Security 

The third phase, which I term “prohesion,” operates not by targeting 
the subjectivity of drivers or the invisible emissions of vehicles, but by 
gaining a hold of the materiality of vehicles in order to achieve “legal 
certainty” about automobiles. The bodies of vehicles are inspected and 
registered into the registry, while RFID tags are adhered to their wind- 
shields in order to provide the state a constant presence or hold on vehi- 
cles. Through prohesion, the federal government in Mexico attempts to 
respond to the challenges of globalization by making the material things 
of society and the administrative agencies of the state stickier and more 

Chapters 4 and 5, “Ni Con Goma” and “Statecraft,” examine the 
difficulties inherent in trying to make things stick. Chapter 4 reviews the 
different points of resistance encountered by the REPUVE, RENAUT, 
and CEDI programs in Mexico. As noted above, ordinary people, cor- 
porate actors, technological artifacts, and state entities all in their own 
way defy the federal government’s efforts to gain a grip over mobile 
telephony, personal identification, and automobility. Thus, resistance is 
inherent in prohesion and threatens state designs to control these col- 
lective activities. But more than this, opposition to the programs dem- 
onstrates the force of history in Mexico, where particular formations or 
“assemblages” 1 " 5 of personal identification, mobility, and communica- 
tion and their governance forged during earlier periods persist in the 
face of official efforts to reshape them. Taking these lessons to heart, the 
chapter seeks to broaden our conception of resistance in sociopolitical 
contexts to explain the weakness of surveillance technologies as tools 
of governance. 

In response to such resistance, authorities in Mexico have needed 
to make various alterations to the RENAUT, CEDI, and REPUVE. To 
reduce popular resistance, administrators tie theses initiative to existing 
programs and institutions that ordinary Mexicans already deem legiti- 
mate. To overcome private-sector resistance, the federal government 
does not penalize companies that at least show good faith in imple- 
menting the programs. To overcome state resistance, federal authorities 
allow local government to charge people for enrolling in the registries, 
seemingly in violation of the law. In brief, prohesion, or making agencies 
stick, requires authorities to engage in statecraft, modifying program 
requirements and operations on the fly. Administrators who are able to 
put surveillance programs into action in Mexico through statecraft alter 
the programs’ function and meaning, giving the state an emergent qual- 
ity. While such accommodations might seem to evidence the chaotic 

Surveillance Technologies and States of Security I 25 

nature of the Mexican state, they are better considered as signs of a 
collaborative impulse that bode well for Mexico’s democratic future. 

As these summaries suggest, this work offers a different conception 
of surveillance technologies than that generally encountered, one that is 
wider in scope and hopefully better suited to comprehending the work- 
ings of governance in global society. In the Chapter 6, “Grasping Sur- 
veillance,” I reflect on the theoretical lessons of this study in terms of 
four themes: tactility, weakness, emergence, and engagement. These are 
meant as conceptual counterweights to tendencies that often frame our 
thinking on surveillance: visibility, strength, determinism, and fatalism. 
While the tactility of prohesion as a security strategy provides an omi- 
nous vision of a future that surveillance technologies could usher in, 
these technologies’ weakness provides the solace of knowing that politi- 
cal engagement will remain central to whatever outcomes emerge. With 
these lessons in mind, the work finishes by considering what courses of 
action subjects in the surveillance society might meaningfully take to 
help create more democratic futures. 


Taming the Tiger 

Madero has unleashed the tiger, let’s see if he can tame it. 
— Porfirio Diaz 


Mexico’s first Citizen Identity Card (CEDI) was issued on January 
24, 2011, to Leslie Garcia Rodriguez, an eleven-year-old student at 
the Miguel Hidalgo Elementary School in Tijuana, Mexico. To mark 
the event, an energetic crowd assembled outside the school — named 
for the revolutionary priest whose call for independence from Spain 
two hundred years earlier had given birth to the Mexican independence 
movement. One by one, students, teachers, civic activists, and public 
officials took to the microphone to extoll the virtues of the identity card. 
By housing young people’s biometric identifiers — iris scans, fingerprints 
of all ten fingers, and a photograph — in a single card, the CEDI would 
“guarantee the identity” of each young person in the country and serve 
as a vital tool against the trafficking of minors. The city mayor noted 
the symbolism of launching the program in Tijuana, a major migration 
conduit to the United States especially susceptible to such trafficking. 
Secretary of the Interior Francisco Blake, the highest-ranking federal 
official at the event, explained that with the card, “you can be assured 
that the right of each of you to an identity, a name, a family, and a 
country is fully guaranteed.” 1 

Surveillance technologies have been growing steadily in Mexico, 
paralleling their spread across the world. Market dynamics here, as 


Taming the Tiger I 27 

elsewhere, have helped drive the expansion. Private firms specializing 
in security services have exploded on the national scene. In 1989, 210 
companies were registered in the area of protection; by 2004, there 
were 2,126. These firms generally specialize in three security sectors: 
information security; access to shops, homes, and factories; and vehi- 
cle reinforcement.' But if the private sector has been driving growth in 
security technologies, the public sector has laid the groundwork. Vari- 
ous municipalities have constructed “command centers” ( centros de 
mando) that provide surveillance of city locations through closed-circuit 
television (CCTV) cameras. ’ Often installed to facilitate the flow of traf- 
fic, these technologies lend themselves to security operations because 
both emergency-response workers and the police find them essential to 
their work. 4 Police will force their way onto traffic-monitoring systems 
in order to track not only criminal suspects but also street protesters, 
while traffic operators use the cameras to detect and report pickpockets. 

As noted in the introductory chapter, surveillance technologies have 
featured centrally in the War on Crime launched by President Felipe 
Calderon. The Merida Initiative, signed by Calderon and US president 
George W. Bush in October 2007 provided $1 billion for the purchase 
of eight Bell transport helicopters, two surveillance planes, inspection 
equipment such as X-ray scanners, and modernized communications 
and information technology. 5 The Obama administration later extended 
the funding, set to expire in 2010, through 2012 at some $300 million 
per year.’ Reflecting the increasing security cooperation between the 
two countries, US drones now fly over Mexico to collect data on drug 
cartel activities, 7 while Mexican drones fly (and crash) over the United 
States in similar intelligence-gathering operations. The two countries 
have also established at least two fusion centers in Mexico that allow 
for the integration and analysis of diverse types of data related to drug 
trafficking. It was as part of this push to combat organized crime that 
President Calderon launched the Citizen Identity Card (CEDI), National 
Registry of Mobile Telephone Users (RENAUT), and Public Registry of 
Vehicles (REPUVE). 

These three programs serve as this work’s case studies, and this 
chapter connects them both to prevailing theories of surveillance and 
broader trends in Mexican history. First, while the RENAUT, CEDI, 
and REPUVE bear a clear resemblance to operations described by 
surveillance scholars elsewhere, these programs are most noteworthy 
for their focus on communication, identification, and mobility, col- 
lective activities central to the operation of society. Thus, rather than 

28 I Taming the Tiger 

simply targeting individuals, the programs also attempt to monitor the 
things — phones, bodies, and cars — through which agency is exercised 
in society. Second, while the technologies involved in the three pro- 
grams are novel, authorities’ concern with controlling these dimen- 
sions of social life is not. Rather, such efforts date back to the Spanish 
conquest of Mexico and have served over the course of Mexican his- 
tory to help “co-produce” 10 the state. Third, if authorities’ efforts to 
administer communications, identification, and mobility have helped 
form the Mexican state, the appearance of the RENAUT, CEDI, and 
REPUVE today speaks to a crisis of governance in the country, whereby 
the “vibrancy” 11 of society has outgrown the state’s ability to manage 
it, resulting in increased levels of insecurity. These programs featuring 
surveillance technologies thus represent a concerted attempt to remake 
the state. 


Of the three programs examined, the National Registry of Mobile Tele- 
phone Users was the first to come to the public’s attention. Created in 
August zoo 8 through an omnibus security law, the National Agreement 
on Security, 1 ' the RENAUT called for the creation of a governmen- 
tal database of cell phone lines and their subscribers and required cell 
service providers to maintain their own databases to store subscrib- 
ers’ names, addresses, fingerprints, and photographs and to provide 
geolocalization of individual calls, all of which would aid authorities 
in responding to kidnappings and extortions. 1 ’ As well, the program 
demanded that service providers cancel service for phones reported sto- 
len, thereby denying kidnappers the tools — stolen phones — regularly 
used in their crimes. 

The idea for a national cell phone registry emerged following a pair 
of high-profile kidnapping-murders. In September 2007, nineteen-year- 
old Silvia Vargas, daughter of Nelson Vargas, former director of the 
National Sports Commission, was seized and, following failed negotia- 
tions, found dead over a year later in the basement of a Mexico City 
home. In June 2008, fourteen-year-old Fernando Marti, son of Alejan- 
dro Marti, a sports-apparel mogul, was kidnapped while being driven 
to school and later found dead in the trunk of an abandoned car after 
two months of confused negotiations. 1 Alejandro Marti subsequently 
founded the civic group Mexico SOS (Public Security Observation 

Taming the Tiger I 29 

System), which has played a prominent role in critiquing government 
security efforts and has worked to reform justice administration in 
Mexico. Increased vigilance over cell phones was an idea promoted by 
the organization from its founding/ 7 

To implement the program, the Secretariat of the Interior (SEGOB) 
required cell users to register their phones with the RENAUT. Users 
could register either by sending a text message with their names and 
date of birth or Unique Population Registry Code (CURP), Mexico’s 
equivalent of a national identification number, or by going to a service- 
provider center to have their data entered/ In February 2009, the gov- 
ernment announced that cell users would have until April 10, 2010, to 
register their phones or have their service cut. 

The Citizen Identity Card, meanwhile, was announced in July 2009. 
The CEDI is a 34-by-2.i-inch plastic card containing the following 
information: two photographs (one embossed using the person’s CURP 
or national identification number), name, birth date, bar code contain- 
ing the person’s CURP, and double bar code containing the person’s 
. . 20 
ins scans. 

The card, supporters argued, would hold multiple benefits for 
Mexicans. First, it would facilitate daily transactions by providing 
a single form of identification to replace the innumerable forms that 
Mexicans currently possess — birth certificate, driver’s license, voter 
card, advanced electronic signature for tax payments, military service 
card, and so on. Second, it would increase people’s security from iden- 
tity theft and fraud by providing a more sophisticated technological 
basis for establishing identity/ 1 

The legal basis for the identity card derives from reforms made in 
1990 and 1992 to the country’s Population Law, in which the Salinas 
administration, in the context of rising migration to the United States, 
called for the creation of a National Population Registry (RENAPO) and 
the distribution of Citizen Identity Cards for those registered/ 2 Similar 
to the RENAUT, participation in the CEDI program was obligatory. 
Mexicans would attend service centers where an array of technological 
devices provided by the Smartmatic Corporation 23 — computer laptop 
with Ethernet interface, fingerprint capture device, signature capture 
device, iris capture device, document scanner, bar code reader, among 
other things — would record biometric measures and legal identity. The 
cards themselves would be distributed later. 

The third program — the Public Registry of Vehicles — received 
much less attention in the media. The REPUVE possessed three 

30 I Taming the Tiger 

objectives: (i) to create a centralized federal registry of all cars circulat- 
ing in the country, including vehicle identification number, registration 
information, physical description, and the name and address of owners; 
(2) to attach 18000-6C radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to 
vehicles containing the unit’s registration details; and (3) to install RFID 
readers and license plate recognition cameras at tollbooths and other 
transit points to verify the status of passing vehicles. 14 First announced 
on March 3, 2008, by the head of Mexico’s Secretariat of Public Secu- 
rity, Genaro Garda Luna, the technology utilized in the registry was to 
serve as a tool to combat crimes involving automobiles, including car 
thefts, kidnappings, and drug trafficking." 5 Enrollment, as in the cases 
of the RENAUT and CEDI, was mandatory." 6 

President Calderon placed the first RFID sticker on the inside wind- 
shield of a Chevrolet Suburban at the Puente de Ixtla tollbooth on the 
Cuernavaca- Acapulco Highway outside Mexico City in June 2009. 17 In 
the following months, several states began installing tags on their public 
vehicle fleets. And a few states, Zacatecas and South Baja California 
among them, soon extended the provision to private vehicles as well. 

At first blush, the RENAUT, CEDI, and REPUVE appear to share 
much in common with surveillance technologies described elsewhere. 
The programs involve a variety of technological devices: identification 
technologies such as documents, numbers, RFID stickers, and biometric 
registers that affix identities to people, phones, and vehicles; informa- 
tion technologies in the form of integrated databases that store and 
share these identifying data along with geographic location; imaging 
technologies — video cameras — that read license plates and verify identi- 
ties; and monitoring technologies, including RFID readers and phone 
logs, that track people and their things. The function of this techno- 
logical assemblage is to monitor. These are surveillance systems, then, 
but with a high level of sophistication. They are not mere tools — such 
as thermal-imaging technologies" 9 or crime-analysis software’ 0 — that 
security agents deploy to see things that otherwise would not be seen. 
Rather, they are examples of the “new surveillance” 31 or “dataveil- 
lance” 3 " that, through the extraction and management of data about 
people and things, allows for constant, automated monitoring and iden- 
tification across multiple physical, analog, and digital spaces. 

The goal of this surveillance is to recognize and disable phones, cars, 
and people that carry suspect identities. In this respect, the programs 
share an affinity with surveillance projects described elsewhere, such as 
the NEXUS 33 and US VISIT 34 programs at the US border that seek to 

Taming the Tiger I 31 

distinguish suspicious people who would harm the country from trusted 
global or “neoliberal citizens” who would contribute to the country’s 
prosperity. The governmentality at work in the programs is thus similar 
as well. Matching Michel Foucault’s description of the “double system” 
at work in “security,” where the state deploys “great mechanisms of 
incentive-regulation” to ensure “the security of the natural phenomena 
of economic processes or processes intrinsic to population” together 
with “simply negative functions” to suppresses elements of disorder 
and illegality, these programs aim to separate out trustworthy callers 
from those who would use phones to extort money, trustworthy car 
sellers and buyers from those who would deal in stolen vehicles, and 
trustworthy people from those who would nab others or their identities 
for illicit ends. 3 ' This is surveillance for the sake of security, then, which 
aspires to the “social sort” 3 * 5 of citizens, phones, and cars to create a 
vibrant social environment secure from the specter of criminal activ- 
ity. In sum, the adoption of surveillance technologies in Mexico could 
be read as part of a more general global shift to security governance, 
whereby public and private authorities adopt advanced technologies in 
order to sort flows of people and things and better control society.’ 7 
While such an interpretation is not wrong, a simple application of 
the surveillance literature, which is largely based on empirical research 
in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, to the Mexican context 
risks overlooking other dimensions of the technologies central to under- 
standing their adoption in Mexico and more generally.’ As a first step, 
for instance, we can observe that the RENAUT, CEDI, and REPUVE 
target fundamental aspects of social life tied to insecurity and organized 
crime. The national cell phone registry responds to the fact that govern- 
ment possesses no reliable way to track the communications of kidnap- 
pers, who use either victims’ phones or units purchased on the black 
market to negotiate ransoms. The national identity card addresses the 
considerable difficulties the Mexican state has encountered in identify- 
ing persons. In early 2013, it was reported that some fifteen thousand 
corpses had been encountered during the Calderon sexenio that were 
never identified before being buried in common graves.’ 9 The car regis- 
try, meanwhile, is meant to tackle the mobility of crime, both the high 
number of auto thefts and the central role of automobility in the kid- 
nappings and drug trafficking. In seeking to increase the government’s 
control over mobile communication, personal identification, and auto- 
mobility, the programs can be read as attempts to order the collective 
agency of society, or those practices that make collective life possible. 

3Z I Taming the Tiger 

The concern with monitoring communication, identifying persons, 
and tracking mobility is not specific to the modern Mexican state. As 
James Scott explains in his seminal book, Seeing Like a State, states have 
always sought to control these human capacities. Scott writes, “Nomads 
and pastoralists (such as Berbers and Bedouins), hunter-gatherers, gyp- 
sies, vagrants, homeless people, itinerants, run-away slaves, and serfs,” 
people whose mobility and means of subsistence make it difficult to 
tax, “have always been a thorn in the side of states .” 41 As a result, 
“the precolonial state was . . . vitally interested in the sedentarization 
of its population — in the creation of permanent, fixed settlements.” 4 " 
The ability to order populations, in turn, rests on “state simplifica- 
tion,” schemes for making people’s daily lives legible to the state and 
open to intercession. Of these schemes, the most central perhaps is “the 
imposition of a single, official language,” which standardizes modes of 
communication in a given territory . 43 Critical, too, are the methods by 
which people identify themselves. “The assigning of patronyms by fam- 
ily,” Scott observes, “was integral to state policy promoting the status 
of (male) family heads, giving them legal jurisdiction over their wives, 
children and juniors and, not incidentally, holding them accountable 
for the fiscal obligations of the entire family .” 44 

Connected to these efforts is a concern with the materiality of collective 
agency. Communication in contemporary society is increasingly predi- 
cated on “mobile telephony,” which requires mobile devices linked by 
radio frequency to a larger technological infrastructure of cell phone 
towers, telephone exchanges, and fiber cables. Similarly, movement in 
modern society is based disproportionately on “automobility ,” 46 which 
requires less the capacity to move oneself than the dexterity to oper- 
ate a complexly simple machine that will do so in one’s place. Finally, 
identification is carried out not so much by naming practices as through 
numbers and biometric data inscribed on “national identity cards” and 
documents that, like a common, national language in prior ages, can 
meet the “need for universally acceptable tokens of identification .” 47 
These examples illustrate the point that people’s ability to partake 
in the tasks of collective life — communication, mobility, and self- 
identification — is mediated in nearly every instance by technology. This 
understanding is a point of departure for science and technology studies 
(STS) scholars who have produced a robust collection of work evidenc- 
ing how society consists of “actor networks” involving both human and 
nonhuman actors . 48 Automobility requires both the driver and car, not 
to mention the enormous assemblage of people and things needed to 

Taming the Tiger I 33 

train drivers, manufacture vehicles, and keep both in functioning order. 
In short, the capacity to communicate, move, or identify oneself is no 
longer inherent or exclusive to the individual person. Rather, agency in 
society is “distributed” across an architecture of material things that 
gives agency to those connected to it . 49 

In their focus on cell phones, motor vehicles, and human biology, 
the RENAUT, REPUVE, and CEDI, respectively, reveal the sensitiv- 
ity of governmental authorities to the importance of materiality within 
collective agency. In order to get a grasp on communications in con- 
temporary society needed to combat the kidnapping of people, in order 
to take hold of mobility to stop the transportation of illicit drugs and 
weapons, in order to account for the identification of people to inves- 
tigate crime, the RENAUT, REPUVE, and CEDI target the materiality 
of these activities. 


While the significance of materiality to projects of social ordering has 
only more recently become apparent in the social sciences, political 
authorities have long been aware of it. Indeed, as this section empha- 
sizes, efforts to control communication, identification, and mobility can 
be found throughout Mexico’s history. And these efforts to capture and 
control agency in society have played a key role in the “co-production” 
of the Mexican state. 

2.3.1 The Conquest of the Mexica 

It is accepted today that the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire 
(more accurately called the Triple Alliance of the Mexica, Texcoco, 
and Tlacopan peoples, or the Mexica empire, since the Mexica held the 
most influence in the alliance) by Elernan Cortes and his expedition of 
six hundred men owed primarily to the power of smallpox, which the 
Spanish carried with them from the European continent, and politi- 
cal alliances, which Cortes struck with rivals, such as the Tlaxcalteca, 
whom the Triple Alliance had subjugated. Without the force of disease 
and the vast numbers of warriors offered to the Spaniards, it is improb- 
able that Cortes would have been able to fell the mighty Mexica empire. 

But underpinning this history as well was the expedition’s abil- 
ity to penetrate the Mexican system of communication and mobility. 

34 I Taming the Tiger 

Communication was particularly vital to the Spanish cause. The Span- 
ish had no knowledge of the major language groups spoken in Meso- 
america — Nahuatl in the Valley of Mexico and Mayan on the Yucatan 
Peninsula. And this would have hampered their ability to negotiate alli- 
ances to conquer the Mexica had it not been for their chance encounter 
with two extraordinary historical figures — La Malinche and Geronimo 
de Aguilar. 

La Malinche was an indigenous woman born into a noble family but 
later given away to a community in Tabasco once her father died and 
her mother remarried. The unfortunate circumstance left her knowl- 
edgeable of both Mayan and Nahuatl dialects. When the Cortes expe- 
dition defeated the Tabascans, the Tabascan cacique, or chief, offered 
Cortes twenty slave women as a peace offering, a group that included 
La Malinche. Geronimo de Aguilar, meanwhile, was a Spaniard who 
was part of an earlier expedition of the Yucatan Peninsula that had 
shipwrecked. Most on board were enslaved by a local indigenous group 
and perished either through hard labor or human sacrifice. De Aguilar 
escaped his captors and took refuge with another community of natives 
inhabiting lands near the island of Cozumel. Through his ordeal, de 
Aguilar learned the local Mayan dialect and thus could communicate 
between the Spanish and Mayans. When he learned of the arrival of 
the Spanish at Cozumel, de Aguilar and a group of natives raced out 
in canoes to meet them and the Spaniard joined Cortes’s company. 
Together, Dona Marina, the name under which La Malinche was bap- 
tized, and Geronimo de Aguilar enabled Cortes to communicate and 
negotiate with the native groups he encountered on the way to Tenoch- 
titlan, the capital of the Mexica empire. 

The importance of the translators was lost on neither the Spanish 
nor the peoples they came into contact with. Dona Marina formed such 
a vital part of the Spanish company that the Mexica actually referred 
to Cortes as Malinche, revealing how they saw Cortes and Marina as a 
single, unified being (fig. i). Bernal Diaz del Castillo, chronicler of the 
campaign, held no reservations in assessing La Malinche’s contribution. 
“This woman was a valuable instrument to us in the conquest of New 
Spain. It was, through her only, under the protection of the Almighty, 
that many things were accomplished by us,” he wrote. “Without her 
we never should have understood the Mexican language, and, upon the 
whole, have been unable to surmount many difficulties .” 51 

The Spaniards’ ability to overcome the mobility of the Mexica 
was also central to the conquest. In obvious ways, the Spanish, with 

Taming the Tiger I 35 

figure 1. Hernando Cortes, 1485-1547, Spanish conquistador, with the Indian 
interpreter Marina, or the Malinche, and Aztecs. From copy of 1632 Codex Tlaxcala, 
National History Museum, Mexico City. Photo by Gianni Dagli Orti/The Art Archive at 
Art Resource, NY. 

their massive sea vessels armed with cannons and horses that could 
be mounted for combat, enjoyed clear advantages in terms of mobil- 
ity. That said, those central components of European warcraft proved 
of marginal utility to Spanish attempts to conquer Tenochtitlan. Con- 
structed on an island in Lake Texcoco, the Mexica capital was adjoined 
to land by three major causeways. The Spanish were famously awestruck 
upon first seeing the city. “When we gazed upon all this splendour at 
once, we scarcely knew what to think,” Bernal Diaz remembered, “and 
we doubted whether all that we beheld was real. A series of large towns 
stretched themselves along the banks of the lake, out of which still 
larger ones rose magnificently above the waters. Innumerable crowds 
of canoes were plying everywhere around us; at regular distances we 
continually passed over new bridges, and before us lay the great city of 
Mexico in all its splendor.” 5Z The aquatic location could be defended by 
thousands of warriors patrolling the lake with canoes. While the Tlax- 
calteca and other groups allied with the Spanish had their own canoes, 

3 6 I Taming the Tiger 

the numbers were unfavorable. The physical layout of the city thus ren- 
dered useless the Spaniards’ ostensible advantage in mobility. And dur- 
ing Cortes’s first advance on the city, the vast numbers of Mexica and 
allied warriors were able to stymie the Spanish. 

In an attempt to change the balance of power, Cortes decided to lay 
siege to the city by destroying the aqueducts that brought fresh water, 
negotiating alliances with the other peoples residing near the lake and 
mounting a blockade aimed at depriving the city of provisions. To carry 
out the siege, Cortes ordered the construction of twelve brigantines, 
small fortified ships. The brigantines were constructed in Tlaxcala and 
outfitted with gear and weaponry from the Spanish fleet, which Cortes 
had disassembled to disabuse his company of any thought of abandon- 
ing the mission. Once launched on Lake Texcoco, the ships enabled 
Cortes to patrol the waters to prevent food and water from arriving and 
giving cover to Spanish and Tlaxcalan troops approaching on Tenoch- 
titlan’s causeways. With the mobility of the Mexica neutralized, Cortes 
was able to advance on and eventually seize their capital. 

2.3.2 Ordering Colonial Life in New Spain 

The Spanish conquest of Mexico was thus based in large measure on 
the ability of the invaders to seize the communications and mobility 
that made the Mexica and Triple Alliance dominant in the Valley of 
Mexico. Generally speaking, the conquistadors did not concern them- 
selves with modes of personal identification among the peoples they 
conquered/ This began to change, however, with the establishment of 
colonial order in the land the Spanish coined New Spain. 

a. The Catholic Church was in a different position, however, its function in the 
conquest the conversion of souls. The clergy did stand alongside conquistadors when 
subjugating native peoples, reading the Requirement that announced Spain’s divine right 
to conquest for the purposes of evangelization. But the salvation of souls, as per Christian 
tradition, also required baptism. And to complete and keep records of baptisms, the 
church assigned individual identities to the native population. Individuals were usually 
given two names, both first names, an accommodation to the fact that last names were 
not a convention in pre-Hispanic Mexico. The first name was almost exclusively Spanish, 
following the most popular saints. Second names were more varied: Spanish names (Juan 
Diego), Nahuatl names (Juana Quautzontecontzin), and other designations announc- 
ing social position (Dona Maria Xalatlauhco) or devotion (de la Cruz, “of the Cross”). 
Nahuatl men usually possessed more distinction in their second names than women, 
which reflected that they could hold local political office. Names thus not only served the 
administrative purposes of the church but also inscribed the unequal social order enforced 
by the Spanish (Horn, “Gender and Social Identity,” 119-22). 

Taming the Tiger I 37 

The political economy of the Spanish empire was based on the 
extraction of precious metals from its colonial holdings. Internally, the 
colonies required agriculture and livestock to subsist. Both activities 
required a sizable workforce. And in New Spain, the conquered peoples 
would presumably provide this labor. 

In subjugating the native groups of New Spain within the colonial 
order, the Spanish relied on existing structures of indigenous social 
hierarchy. The conquistadors, initially with the blessing of the Crown, 
established the encomienda system, a feudal structure under which vast 
tracts of land and the peoples living on them came into the possession 
of individual members of Cortes’s expedition. Indigenous villages were 
ruled by local chiefs, caciques, who were responsible for collecting trib- 
ute from their subjects, which included forced labor in the mines. 53 In 
political terms then, “things did not change as much as one would have 
thought” for the ordinary indio in Mexico, as systems of tribute and 
hierarchies remained the same, save for compulsory military service and 
human sacrifices. 54 

The boundaries between these two societies quickly broke down, 
however. The paucity of Spanish women in New Spain resulted in 
unions between Spanish men and indigenous women, resulting in mes- 
tizo children. 55 Disease and hard labor also decimated the indigenous 
populations, 56 which led to a labor shortage and the introduction of 
African slaves to the colony. 57 The eventual and ongoing mixing of 
people “produced a tertiary, intermediate people identified as castas” in 
Mexico. 5S Already in the 1540s, the ruling elite in New Spain identified 
castas as a threat to the social order, “the colony’s foremost partisans 
of insurrection.” 59 

In response to the perceived menace of mixed races, colonial authori- 
ties developed a caste system by which they could identify and order the 
evolving society. At the core of the casta system were five basic races: 
espaholes, indios, mestizos, negros, and mulatos. From this emerged 
different combinations — zambo, for instance, which designated people 
who were half Indian and half African. Over time, more than forty 
categories were created, even if most lacked practical significance. 
Castas varied in terms of rights and responsibilities. Castas in the 1500s 
were forbidden from living in indigenous villages or neighborhoods in 
town: “The crown in effect assigned the castas to the Spanish com- 
munity.” 63 Negros and mulatos, like indios, had to pay tribute. How- 
ever, they could not dress like indios or in gold jewelry, indicative of 
European ancestry. Nor could they hold office or bear arms. Mestizos, 

38 I Taming the Tiger 

meanwhile, did not have to pay tribute. And unlike indios, who were 
considered gente sin razon (people without reason), essentially children 
who needed to be cultivated into Christian civilization, mestizos were 
gente de razon (people with reason). 64 ’ 

With such measures, colonial authorities sought to identify and 
order people in New Spain through an examination of the body. This 
anchoring of personal identity to the body was reinforced through tech- 
nological means as well. Separate marriage registers existed for differ- 
ent castas . 65 And pinturas de castas become a popular form of cultural 
expression during the eighteenth century (fig. 2). ” The paintings, which 
depict the different race combinations, possess a clear pedagogical func- 
tion in explaining the castas and their hierarchy to the viewer. And in 
doing so they served to reify the largely arbitrary racial classifications 
that authorities sought to impose upon the people of New Spain in 
order to expand their political control. 

While the entrenchment of Spanish rule in Mesoamerica involved 
controlling the material aspects of communication, such as destroying 
indigenous religious artifacts and establishing schools to train chil- 
dren of the indigenous noble class, the Spanish Crown’s management of 
mobility is more relevant to the current discussion. Gold most appealed 
to the Spanish, but lands to the north in and around the city of Zacatecas 
proved richer in silver deposits. And mines were established throughout 
the region. The transfer of wealth back to Spain, meanwhile, required 
a system of roadways that joined the mines to the colonial capital and 
the main seaport of Veracruz. Thus was born the Camino Real de 
Tierra Adentro, the Royal Road of the Interior Lands, which eventually 

b. Race thus functioned differently in New Spain than in North America. If in North 
America “a single drop of black blood sufficed in staining people, in the Indies, a single 
drop of white blood precipitated a ‘whitening’ of people.” For this reason, indios might 
try to escape the obligations of tribute and the political and resource limitations of village 
life by entering the labor markets and racial castes of the mestizaje (Garcia Martinez, 
“Los anos de expansion,” 220). 

c. Interestingly, Juan de Zumarrago, the first bishop of New Spain who was also given 
the political post of protector de indios, vigorously set about the destruction of Nahuatl 
cultural and religious materials, a goal not incongruous with his charge of protecting 
indios from Spanish excesses as well as their own blasphemous spiritual traditions. 

d. The first school, opened in in Nezalhulpilli in 152.3, instructed one thousand sons 
of noble Mexican and Texcocan families in the Latin alphabet, songs, arts and crafts, 
agriculture, and Christianity. Other schools were subsequently founded throughout Mex- 
ico, primarily driven by Franciscan, Dominican, and Jesuit religious orders. 

Taming the Tiger I 39 

figure 2. Mixity: Of Spain and India, eighteenth century. Copperplate painting (48 x 
3 6 cm). From Museo de America, Madrid. Photo by Album/ Art Resource, NY. 

connected Mexico City to San Juan Pueblo, in present-day New Mexico 
(United States). The Camino Real was the commercial lifeline of the 
colony, the route for silver extracted from the colony’s mines to await- 
ing Spanish galleons in Veracruz and for linens, wines, tools, and other 
manufactured goods to the heartland of the territory. Transportation 
was initially carried out on the backs of indigenous slaves, but over time 
the Spanish shifted to oxen and mule trains, pulled by up to eighteen 
animals, which significantly increased the amount of cargo that could 
be carried/ 7 

Precisely because roadways proved vital to extending the conquest 
into the northern regions of the colony, the diverse indigenous inhab- 
itants, whom the Spanish referred to collectively as Chichimecas, 
launched frequent assaults on the wagon trains. The natives welcomed 
themselves to the raided linens, wines, and food, but they found little 
use for the silver that was the inspiration for Spanish encroachment into 
their lands/ 9 The Spanish efforts to quell the attacks came to be called 
the Chichimeca War, which lasted until 1600. The eventual defeat of 
the Chichimecas did not ensure the security of mobility in New Spain, 
however. While banditry did not abound in colonial Mexico, as it 

40 I Taming the Tiger 

would postindependence, population growth, unremitting unemploy- 
ment, and the absence of political authority provided conditions ripe 
for its growth at the end of the seventeenth century. 71 

The existing legal body responsible for crime control in the colony — 
the Audiencia de Mexico and its Sala de Crimen (Criminal Court) — was 
powerless against the mobility and obscurity of bandits who preyed 
upon travelers. In response, the viceroy of New Spain took the radical 
step of founding a policing organization — the Tribuna de la Acordada — 
under the authority of Miguel Velazquez de Lorea. Velazquez assumed 
the post only on the condition that he be empowered to not only appre- 
hend suspects but also adjudicate cases and execute sentences. By the 
1780s, the Acordada was handling four-fifths of all criminal cases in 
the colony. Eventually, Velazquez’s son, Jose, assumed command of 
the unit and founded a Guarda Mayor de Caminos (Elite Guard of 
Roadways) to root out roving bandits targeting travelers. The Guarda 
established guardhouses along major transit routes in the colony and 
escorted travelers as they passed. 72 Through these autocratic measures, 
the Acordada was slowly able to take control of Mexico’s roads and 
lessen the threat of banditry to the colony’s commerce. 

As these examples from Mexico’s past demonstrate, royal authori- 
ties were intimately aware of the importance of “enrolling” 73 material 
agents in their colonial project. The sistema de castas, pinturas de casta, 
and the construction and policing of roadways evidence how Spanish 
authorities crafted a framework to capture and cultivate the material 
dimensions of identification, communication, and mobility in New 
Spain to ensure the permanence of Spanish rule and protect it from the 
threats of foreign bodies, alien cultures, and banditry. And by doing so, 
central elements of the colonial state in Mexico — parochial schools and 
the Acordada, for instance — came into being. 

2.3.3 Building the State of Independent Mexico 

Following the expulsion of Spanish rule in i8zi, Mexico faced a 
number of challenges to establishing itself as an independent country, 
including a reactionary European continent unsympathetic to revolu- 
tionary ideas following the defeat of Napoleon, the need to borrow 
heavily from other nations in order to bolster its military capacity 
against an expected Spanish invasion, a deeply entrenched Catholic 
Church unreceptive to the liberal ideas that inspired the independence 
movement, and an intense regionalism that prevented establishment of 

Taming the Tiger I 41 

a strong national government. 74 As a result, independence brought a 
long spell of political instability to Mexico, punctuated by a Spanish 
attempt to reconquer its former dependency from 1821 to 1835, the 
loss of half of its territory to its bellicose neighbor to the north follow- 
ing the Mexican-American War from 1846 to 1848, a French-imposed 
monarch (Maximilian I) from 1864 to 1867, and dozens of national 
administrations in between. 

This instability notwithstanding, independence and the embrace of 
Enlightenment ideals exercised an influence on personal identification 
in Mexico. Independence from Spain did not bring racial harmony to 
the newly autonomous land. Indigenous peoples continued to be seen 
as an impediment to progress, a view now sanctioned by the scientific 
veneer of social Darwinism. 75 But a notion of citizenship was develop- 
ing in the country, which provided a broader basis for social integration 
than did Spanish rule. Both Benito Juarez, who served as president of 
Mexico for five terms, and Porfirio Dfaz, who rose to prominence as 
Juarez’s military chief, were of indigenous descent, and they and others 
in the ruling class saw mestizaje and the education of indios and the 
masses more generally as the path forward for the nation. 76 

Citizenship also implied voting rights. And independence from Spain 
initiated a period of experimentation with the democratic process that 
had profound impacts on personal identification and construction of 
the state. The first elections in postindependence Mexico operated 
under a “vague definition of suffrage that included no specific income 
or property restrictions.” 77 Individual eligibility to vote was determined 
at local polling stations by election officials, a method of identification 
that could be exploited by those best able to mobilize the masses. In 
Mexico City, for instance, Masonic lodges vying for municipal power 
rounded up large numbers of people from poorer neighborhoods and 
supplied them with identical ballots with which to descend upon the 
city’s eighteen polling places/ 8 With no means for timely verification of 
voter identity, such a massing of people overwhelmed the system’s abil- 
ity to distinguish individual voters and resulted in electoral successes 
for the lodges. 

Such maneuvers produced fears among the ruling elite that demo- 
cratic governance would result in a loss of power to groups deemed 
either morally or racially inferior. In response, more restrictive defini- 
tions of citizenship and more precise methods for identifying citizens 
were developed. Voting rights were restricted to males eighteen years 
old and above (or below if married), employed (but not as domestic 

42 I Taming the Tiger 

servants), and with no criminal records, public debts, or physical or 
moral incapacities. 79 This definition of citizenship not only excluded 
women but left criminal law as a key mechanism for excluding the poor 
and indigenous from voting. Unsurprisingly, criminality intersected 
with categories of class, race, gender, and sexuality, which served to 
exclude from the democratic project those groups historically marginal- 
ized in Mexican society. Identifying who was left to vote was handled by 
local election commissioners, who conducted censuses of their precincts 
to generate registries of eligible voters. Voter rolls were to be completed 
eight days prior to elections, and they were also to be made public so 
that the citizenry could petition for inclusion. Ballots were then mailed 
to voters, which served as a voter’s credential and identity document 
on election day. 1 In this way, democratic elections brought forth new 
methods of personal identification that are familiar to us today. 

The political instability defining the first decades of Mexico’s inde- 
pendence eventually gave rise to Porfirio Diaz, who held power in Mex- 
ico almost continuously from 1876 until the outbreak of the Mexican 
Revolution in 1910. Diaz’s dictatorship, referred to as the Porfiriato, 
is generally read as a period in which strong militaristic rule forced 
political obedience upon society while erecting a framework for for- 
eign investment and wealth extraction that exacerbated existing social 
inequalities and pushed the country to revolution. Critical to this period 
of political stability as well, however, was the development of modern 
systems of railway transportation and telegraph communication that 
allowed the central government to maintain ties to the state governors 
and local jefes politicos (political officials) it appointed to rule over 
Mexico’s historically unruly regions (fig. 3). “ 

These transportation and communication technologies helped bring 
forth key institutions and a rule of law that are characteristic of moder- 
nity. As Teresa Van Hoy notes in a fascinating social history of the 
railroad, whereas Mexican governments before the Porfiriato handled 
railway development in an ad hoc fashion, which left its fate to investors 
and developers, Diaz increased the government’s hand through such 
offices as the Inspector of Railroads in 1877 and the Communication 
and Public Works Secretariat in 1891. 8 ’ In addition, the regime passed 
legislation, such as a land expropriation law in 1882 and the Federal 
Railroad Law of 1899, to provide land rights to railroad developers. 

While these legal rules and political bodies were meant to increase the 
power of the federal government to seize land from people, they actu- 
ally helped residents strengthen and defend their land claims against 

Taming the Tiger I 43 




■Railway » completed a ummu 
” proposed or unfinished . 

figure 3 . Map of railway expansion during the Porfiriato. From William Henry 
Bishop, Mexico, California, and Arizona (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1900). 

rail developers. 84 This unforeseeable outcome reveals much about how 
political power works in practice. To carry out the land expropriation 
law, the federal government sent officials to local communities to oversee 
railroad construction and report expropriation cases back to the federal 
ministry. 85 Once on site, however, officials encountered local authori- 
ties eager to use the railroad project to preserve their own power. In 
the push and pull between local and federal-level politics, a new legal 
space was created, where residents were able to “maneuver for bet- 
ter terms than the government itself intended.” 87 In the end, railroad 
development “inserted intermediaries into local power structures” and, 
in so doing, “linked local residents to federal authorities in ways that 
often channeled demands up more effectively than it imposed central 
authority down.” As a result, a “rule of law” began to take root over 
the “personalism” that had defined politics in Mexico for centuries. 89 

2.3.4 Realizing the Revolutionary State 

The political stability of the Porfiriato did not last, as the economic 
inequality it engendered and the political abuses it relied on brought 
the country to rebellion. The Mexican Revolution represented a new 
era of civil strife and political chaos. And the near decade of intense 

44 I Taming the Tiger 

fighting carried an enormous human toll and eviscerated the country’s 
economy. Following the conflict, national leaders turned their atten- 
tion to ensuring the peace by demobilizing armed groups, recuperat- 
ing the country’s agricultural production, and implanting revolutionary 
ideals across society. The general strategy for achieving these goals 
was crafted by Plutarco Elias Calles, president of Mexico from 1924 
to 1928, who founded the National Revolutionary Party (PNR) in 
1929, which would later become the Institutional Revolutionary Party 
(PRI) that held power until 2000. The corporatist structure of the PNR 
stabilized political and economic life by ensuring that political offices 
were determined by institutional forces rather than powerful individu- 
als, corralling militant workers into state-sponsored unions and propa- 
gating revolutionary ideals through public schools and teachers who 
counteracted the power of the Catholic Church. The corporatist state 
model reached its apex under the administration of Lazaro Cardenas 
(1934-40), who redistributed forty-five million acres of land from large 
landholders into communal holdings known as ejidos and nationalized 
the country’s oil reserves in 1939. In this way, somewhat ironically, 
“the formula of political centralism and dependent capitalist develop- 
ment” begun under Porfirio Diaz was perfected by the revolutionary 
leaders who had fought to erase his influence on national development. 91 

Practically speaking, the state’s plans to redistribute land into ejidos 
and reactivate the agricultural sector posed special challenges. Based in 
Mexico City, federal officials remained largely ignorant, if fascinated, 
by rural life in the Mexican hinterlands. Thus, to carry out land redistri- 
butions and better plan the rural economy, the federal government sent 
out teams of data collectors and surveyors in its 1930 Agrarian Census 
to collect statistics and generate maps that would make this reality leg- 
ible to the state. 9 ' 

This was not Mexicans’ first exposure to statistics. But the devasta- 
tion of the revolution and emergence of statistics as a basic language of 

e. The Mexica, for instance, tracked tribute paid by subjugated rivals (Ervin, “1930 
Agrarian Census in Mexico,” 539). The Spanish Crown, too, when looking to check the 
growing power of encomenderos (land-grant holders), instituted a tax that required “a 
counting of family heads,” which functioned like a census (Garcia Martinez, “Los anos 
de la conquista,” 190). The implementation and improvement of accounting practices 
were a core concern of the Bourbons, who came to power in Spain in 1713 and sought to 
reverse centuries of apathetic management and tax collection in New Spain (MacLachlan, 
Criminal Justice in Eighteenth Century Mexico). 

Taming the Tiger I 45 

politics provided extra impetus to authorities’ data-collection efforts in 
the 1920s and 1930s. 93 Communicating in the new language of statistics 
was not simply a matter of creating bureaucracies or sending young, 
idealist agronomists into the campo. Resistance met data collection 
at various points. Nonuniformity of measures was one. What consti- 
tuted a “load,” or carga, of wheat, for example, changed from locale 
to locale. And language made it worse. While statistics collectors found 
the “aztec-isms, or voices of Nahuatl origin, that live in the mouth of 
the Mexican farmer” to be problematic, Michoacan’s “tarasc-isms,” 
Yucatan’s “mayanisms,” and Oaxaca’s “zapotec-isms” and “mixtec- 
isms” compounded the confusion of measurements. One report claimed 
that the “lack of unified terminology” was “particularly prejudicial” 
to state efforts in the agricultural sector. 94 What is more, the names of 
locales changed too, making it hard for officials to even locate places. 
Most vitally however, campesinos and large landholders resisted giving 
information to census takers, fearing the information would be used for 
the purposes of taxation or land appropriation. 95 

In response, the government and census workers worked to tie the 
new language of agrarian statistics to popular interests. Taking part in 
the census was “patriotic,” “privacy” would be respected, “productiv- 
ity” would increase and thereby benefit all, and “penalties” would be 
levied against those not participating. In addition, contests were held 
for best slogan to encourage Mexicans to participate in the census, 
balloons were distributed to schoolchildren with the word “Census” 
emblazoned on them, and teachers and state workers were enlisted to 
encourage those within their spheres of influence to take part. Despite 
these efforts, data collectors were ultimately left to negotiate the mod- 
ernization project, trading information from farmers for the provision 
of water to an area. Still, these efforts helped bring into existence a 
modern state infrastructure to account for and communicate the mate- 
rial and social reality of Mexico. 

With regard to mobility, the postrevolutionary state in Mexico 
sought to consolidate its power through the construction of roadways. 
Roads have a long history in Mexico, having served as the conduit not 
only for the extraction of mineral resources during the colonial era 
but also for the conduct of regional commerce during pre-Columbian 
times. 96 Attention to road construction and maintenance diminished 
somewhat during the Porfiriato, as rail travel was prioritized. 9 But with 
the growing importance of the automobile following the revolution, the 
federal government saw the construction of roadways as a way to tap 

4 6 I Taming the Tiger 

figure 4. Workers operating machines in the construction of a roadway, c. 192.5. 
Photo from CONACULTA-INAH-MEX, reproduction authorized by the Instituto 
Nacional de Antropologia e Historia. 

the potential of this new form of mobility and better incorporate rural 
areas that remained outside the state’s grasp (fig. 4). 98 

Initially, the postrevolutionary state focused on constructing new 
roads that would access areas untouched by railroads. A national 
highway system connecting Mexico’s major cities and key economic 
areas soon followed. While foreign companies financed and constructed 
these new roadways at first, Plutarco Elias Calles, reflecting the nation- 
alist inclinations of the postrevolutionary government, phased out their 
participation and founded the National Roads Commission in 1925 
to oversee road construction and implemented a gasoline sales tax 
to finance the effort. 100 Around the same time, Calles nationalized all 
roads connecting the capital to key economic regions, state capitals, and 
neighboring municipalities. 101 And to better attract the foreign currency 
of US tourists who had begun to frequent the country’s beach resorts, 
the government prioritized construction of roadways that connected 
northern points of entry to tourist destinations. 

By the middle of the twentieth century, the state’s road construction 
strategy had evolved. With a growing Mexican automobile industry, 
the federal government dedicated 20 percent of all tax collected on the 
sale of vehicles assembled in the country to the construction of rural 

Taming the Tiger I 47 

highways. IO ’ The prodigious growth of Mexico’s cities, meanwhile, 
brought traffic jams, a problem addressed through the construction of 
ring roads around metropolitan areas. 104 

If the corporatist state model crafted by Calles and Cardenas proved 
effective in creating an efficient highway system that integrated diverse 
regions of the country and supported Mexico’s industrialization from 
the 1940s to the 1970s, it began to exhaust itself by the 1980s. The 
highway system was aging. And the geography of international trade 
had shifted, as increased commerce with Asia and economic growth of 
the US West created the need for new highways in the western region 
of Mexico. Public funding, however, had become insufficient to finance 
and maintain new roads. In response, President Carlos Salinas de Gor- 
tari (1988-94) launched the National Highway Project in 1989 to erect 
a new network of toll highways and bridges, which would be funded 
and operated by private companies. 105 Thus, roadways not only reflect 
authorities’ efforts to harness automobility in modern Mexico, but they 
also trace the evolution of the postrevolutionary Mexican state from 
its corporatist origins in national integration and import substitution 
industrialization to its neoliberal embrace of global integration and 
export-oriented industrialization. 

Finally, if elections in Mexico during the rule of the PNR/PRI were a 
sham, determined by the dedazo (fingermark), or personal preference, 
of the outgoing president rather than popular will, the hegemonic party 
held the democratic ideals of the revolution in high enough regard to 
at least hold elections. And elections occasioned the evolution of modes 
of personal identification for the purposes of determining voter eligibil- 
ity. Following the revolution, the practice of mailing voters ballots that 
served as voter credentials and identity cards was discontinued. Instead, 
political parties prepared voter documents, which they sent to polling 
stations ahead of election day. This practice eventually gave way to the 
establishment of permanent voter rolls, which were compiled and veri- 
fied at state and local levels. Following persistent charges of voter fraud, 
and reflecting the centralizing tendency of the postrevolutionary state, 
the federal government passed the 1946 Federal Election Law, which 
shifted authority over voter rolls from local officials to the Federal Elec- 
tions Commission. 

The Federal Election Law also defined requirements for voter cards. 
They were to be created in numerical succession, with no repetition, and 
in duplicate, with the original given to the voter and the copy remaining 
with the commission. Thus, voters came to be distinguished by a unique 

48 I Taming the Tiger 

identifying number. In 1951, the Federal Elections Commission further 
required voter cards to feature fingerprints as biometric proof of iden- 
tity. 107 In 1987, additional elements were added to the card, including a 
security code and the imprinted signature of the general director of the 
National Registry of Voters. 

These reforms did little to boost citizens’ trust in the electoral sys- 
tem. The problem came to a head in the 1988 presidential election, 
when IBM computers responsible for counting votes famously crashed 
as opposition candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas was leading the ruling 
party PRI-nominee Carlos Salinas. Salinas was ultimately named the 
winner. In the subsequent public outcry, the federal government created 
the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), run by civilians and responsible for 
administering future elections. The IFE launched a nationwide census to 
verify voter rolls in 1991 and began issuing a new voter card in 1992, 
which included a photograph. As an individualized, accurate, and non- 
partisan form of identity, the IFE voter card became the dominant form 
of identification in Mexico. 0 

As these examples from the long arc of Mexican history show, the 
interest of authorities in controlling communications, identification, 
and mobility in Mexico is not new. Rather, such control is a constant 
goal of authorities, the pursuit of which gives shape to the state. The 
destruction of indigenous culture and imposition of the Spanish lan- 
guage in Mexico, the creation of the Acordada to police the Camino 
Real and other colonial roadways, the execution of surveys and use of 
ballots as identity documents during early independence, the establish- 
ment of the Inspector of Railroads and the Communication and Public 
Works Secretariat to oversee the construction of railways during the 
Porfiriato, the founding of public schools during the Calles and Carde- 
nas administrations, the launching of the National Highway Project by 
Carlos Salinas in 1989, and so on all represent efforts by state authori- 
ties to channel the collective agency of society, which in turn defined the 
shape of the state. 

This aspect of state formation has been touched on by STS schol- 
ars exploring the boundaries of science, technology, and politics. As 
Sheila Jasanoff observes, “The dynamics of politics and power, like 
those of culture, seem impossible to tease apart from the broad cur- 
rents of scientific and technological change. It is through systematic 
engagement with the natural world and the manufactured, physical 

Taming the Tiger I 49 

environment that modern polities define and refine the meanings of 
citizenship and civic responsibility, the solidarities of nationhood and 
interest groups, the boundaries of the public and the private, the pos- 
sibilities of freedom, and the necessity for control ” 110 

But this historical perspective offers more than a view of state for- 
mation through authorities’ efforts to control collective agency. It also 
reveals a dialectical dimension of state formation, whereby arrange- 
ments of the state that once proved satisfactory in administering society 
lose their efficacy as society evolves through the introduction of cultural 
and technological elements that alter how communication, identifica- 
tion, and mobility are accomplished. The extraction of mineral wealth 
in New Spain through the construction of roadways and establishment 
of shipping lanes lent the territory a level of activity that the Crown 
ultimately could not handle. Nearly all of the seaports by the end of 
the sixteenth century were riddled with pirates and buccaneers, and the 
mercantile system was flouted by Spanish subjects on both sides of the 
Atlantic . 111 Meanwhile, English, North American, and European trad- 
ers pushed to open up new trade routes. In the interior of the coun- 
try, the continued construction of roadways rendered the guardhouses 
of the Guarda Mayor de Caminos of the Acordada ineffective. There 
was simply too much terrain for Spanish authorities to cover and too 
few resources with which to cover it. The advent of the railroad later 
provided the Porfiriato a novel manner for reordering the mobility of 
Mexican society and, in the process, developing the country’s economic 
potential and the state’s coercive capacity. But this mechanism ulti- 
mately proved incapable of quelling the societal unrest expressed in the 
Mexican Revolution and obsolete for constructing a postrevolutionary 
state in a world inhabited by the automobile. The national project of 
highway construction launched by the postrevolutionary governments 
of Elias Calles and Cardenas proved effective in extending the reach of 
the central state to rural areas untouched by railroads and expanding 
trade with the United States. But the highway system began to lose its 
grip on mobility in Mexico once the corporatist state model experienced 

f. I borrow this idea from STS scholars, who describe how scientific and technologi- 
cal production is forever introducing “actants” (Latour, Pandora’s Hope) into society, 
nonhuman things with which humans can associate and amplify their capacity for action 
in the world. As a consequence, society is continually evolving in a state of “open-ended 
becoming” (Pickering, “New Ontologies,” 4), where patterns of social interaction at one 
time do little to determine or predict patterns of social interaction or ways of being in 
the future. 

50 I Taming the Tiger 

financial crises, the industrial geography of the world shifted, and tour- 
ists began visiting the country via airplanes rather than automobiles. In 
sum, while authorities’ efforts to capture the social processes of mobil- 
ity, communication, and identification help give form to the state, the 
“vibrancy” 11 ’ of society is forever challenging the modes for ordering it. 


These observations on the dialectical nature of state formation help set 
the scene for more fully understanding the significance of the RENAUT, 
CEDI, and REPUVE today. If attempts to manage communication, 
identification, and mobility are part and parcel of the state, then the 
launching of the RENAUT, CEDI, and REPUVE speaks to the failure 
of prevailing state infrastructure to effectively administer these aspects 
of collective agency. There has been considerable debate in recent years 
about the crisis facing the Mexican state. Noting its inability to control 
crime, observers in the international press and political arena have been 
quick to conclude that Mexico represents a “failed state.” On Septem- 
ber 9, 2010, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton courted controversy 
when she opined that the insecurity in Mexico was “looking more and 
more like Colombia looked 20 years ago, where the narco -traffickers 
controlled certain parts of the country,” an opinion that US president 
Barack Obama had to quickly distance himself from. 114 Scholars, mean- 
while, noting the historical symbiotic relationship between organized 
crime and political authorities, are more likely to conclude that the fed- 
eral government in Mexico remains very much in charge. 115 The truth, 
as always, lies somewhere in the middle. The increasing levels of crime 
in Mexico evidence neither a failed state nor a state in control, but 
rather a state that is progressively losing its grip on society. 

Society is continually evolving in conjunction with cultural and tech- 
nological elements that modify the way communication, identification, 
and mobility are accomplished. In contemporary Mexico, the increasing 
number of mobile phones, computers, digital networks, automobiles, 
and so forth has changed the way people communicate, self-identify, 
and move and has diminished the state’s capacity for control. Law 
enforcement is unable to track the telephone communications of kid- 
nappers, corpses are buried in mass graves without being identified, 
and criminals are able to circulate freely through society given the lack 
of traffic regulation. In this way, these material agents have altered and 

Taming the Tiger I 51 

amplified collective agency in Mexican society, causing it to overwhelm 
the state’s capacity to harness it. 

However, the difficulties facing the Mexican state today reflect more 
than a society vitalized by infusions of technology and materiality. They 
also reflect wider processes of change since the 1980s. Some of this 
change involves external forces. For one, the global embrace of neolib- 
eral political economy resulted in Mexico’s abandoning the corporat- 
ist postrevolutionary state model that Presidents Calles and Cardenas 
had forged in the 1930s. Economic liberalization was initiated by Presi- 
dent Miguel de la Madrid in the 1980s and deepened with the North 
American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. While economic 
liberalization has made some of Mexico’s national industries more 
competitive, fostered trade with the United States and other countries, 
and led to a steady expansion of GDP, 11 the poverty rate (as measured 
by income required for basic living expenses) has remained stuck at 50 
percent of the population 117 and the Mexican state has less ability to 
manage its effects. 

Along with neoliberal political economy, the 1980s and 1990s saw 
Mexico and nearly all of Latin America undergo an era of democratiza- 
tion where competitive national elections were held for the first time 
in decades. In Mexico, the democratization process started at the local 
and regional levels, but it eventually resulted in the PRI losing the 2000 
presidential contest. While this process has brought about free, compet- 
itive elections and increased civilian control over the political process, 
the resultant decentralization of power and weakening of clientelist 
relationships have diminished the power of the state to negotiate con- 
flicts between competing social sectors. 11 And this has a clear relation 
to organized crime. Throughout modern Mexican history, the govern- 
ment turned a blind eye to, if demanding its wallets filled by, drug traf- 
fickers, so long as they kept to their own trafficking routes, or plazas, 
and did not engage in excessive violence. 119 With democratic elections 
and the PRI’s loss of power, organized crime syndicates have turned the 
tables and are now able to dictate terms to politicians in exchange for 
campaign financing and other incentives. 1 " 0 

Also, globalization has transformed the economic and cultural land- 
scape of Mexican society. The economic dimensions of globalization, 
which tie to neoliberal political economy, have resulted in increased 
foreign investment in sectors such as automobile and electronics pro- 
duction and have made information technologies such as personal 
computers and mobile phones more available. Connected to this, the 

52 I Taming the Tiger 

opening of borders to facilitate international trade has created oppor- 
tunities for international drug traffickers to take advantage of Mexico’s 
immense border with the United States. The cultural dimensions of glo- 
balization have also had an impact on state control. At one time, the 
Mexican government used its monopoly over pulp to influence newspa- 
per coverage in the country. In a digital, networked world, however, 
its ability to control popular opinion has shrunk. And the infusion of 
global culture through foreign movies, television shows, and the Inter- 
net has transformed cultural values in the world’s second most popu- 
lous Catholic country. 

Together, these external pressures have transformed state power in 
Mexico. In a sense, the balance has shifted. Neoliberalism, democratiza- 
tion, and globalization have shrunk the size of the state and diminished 
its ability to provide for people’s economic welfare, to shape popular 
opinion, and to manage crime, while strengthening the hand of other 
actors, such as multinational corporations, domestic media companies, 
and drug cartels. 

In addition to these external pressures, the power of the Mexican 
state has been diminished by internal pressures or contradictions. One 
example of this is the redundancy of state infrastructure, which the 
Citizen Identity Card is intended to address. As the modern state devel- 
oped, distinct bureaucratic institutions arose around the different func- 
tions thought to belong to government. The Federal Electoral Institute 
emerged to manage democratic elections. So too did the Tax Admin- 
istration Service, to oversee the collection of taxes; and the National 
Defense Secretariat, to manage the national defense of the country. 
Each of these institutions, as well as others, possesses its own identity 
cards, which has resulted in a proliferation of identities in Mexican 
society. If a relatively minor inconvenience in people’s everyday lives, 
the redundancy of identification runs counter to the state’s interest in 
homogenization and centralization. 

Another internal challenge is corruption. Corruption has a long his- 
tory in Mexico. Elowever, its valence is different than in the United 
States or the Global North. During Spanish Hapsburg rule, the Crown 
sold public offices to fund its military campaigns and state affairs in 
Europe. Thus, the path to political power for Mexicans in the colo- 
nial state was through the purchase of offices. In present-day Mexico, 
police are crippled by low salaries and sometimes required to purchase 
their own guns and gear, a situation that leaves them susceptible to 

Taming the Tiger I 53 

corruption. 12 ' Officers are expected to engage in rent-seeking activities, 
with the monies they procure sent up the chain of command to fulfill 
quotas established by their superiors. 123 Despite its functional aspects, 
corruption ultimately diminishes the power of the state because pro- 
ceeds from a traffic ticket negotiated at the site of offense go into the 
pockets of the police rather than the coffers of the state, and paperwork 
that would document the event is never generated. This allows suspect 
vehicles to escape the grasp of the formal legal order. 

Finally, and building on the last point, much of the state’s data on 
the people and things they look to govern are erroneous, which fur- 
ther decreases its administrative hold on society. In my interviews with 
REPUVE administrators, data errors were a common theme. As one 
federal official explained to me concerning vehicle registrations, “If I 
crossed the registration database with that of stolen vehicles using a 
license plate number, it would give me up to fifty registrations. Someone 
didn’t put the plate number down correctly. So, it wasn’t credible that 
from one license plate number I would have fifty stolen vehicles.” This 
harkens back to the inaccurate data provided by campesinos and the 
nonuniform agricultural measures used in Mexico in the early twentieth 
century that rendered the 1930 Agricultural Survey largely useless in 
imagining “the country’s agricultural realities.” 1 ' 4 Without a common 
set of reliable information, state authorities find it difficult to carry out 
the task of governing. 

Thus, the current crisis in governance in Mexico reflects a period 
of transformation in which the society that authorities seek to order 
has become increasingly dynamic while the state has atrophied. Glo- 
balization has helped transform Mexican society by introducing mate- 
rial artifacts (automobiles, computers, mobile phones, digital networks) 
that alter the way people communicate, self-identify, and move, while 
neoliberalism and democratization have forced the state to surrender 
the corporatist model that once controlled society. The Mexican state is 
not today failed. Nor is it in control. Rather, it finds itself in a situation 
where it must reinvent its capacity for governing in order to tame the 
tiger of Mexican society. 

This, in the end, brings us back to surveillance technologies and their 
significance in Mexico today. The RENAUT, CEDI, and REPUVE are 
attempts by the Mexican state to adjust the mechanisms of power to fit 
the conditions it now faces. Confronted by a state infrastructure riddled 
with redundancy, corruption, and error, governmental authorities turn 

54 I Taming the Tiger 

to incorruptible, precision technologies to reduce their reliance on over- 
abundant, unprincipled, erring state employees . 115 

The Citizen Identity Card responds to the redundancy of identity in 
Mexico by shepherding the different identities of Mexicans developed 
over time into a single document. The Spanish patterns of naming per- 
sons established during the conquest are inscribed onto the card. The 
enumerated assignment of identity to Mexicans through the Unique 
Population Registry Code is added to the card via a bar code. The bio- 
metric means for identifying people inherited from the voter card — the 
fingerprint and photograph — are supplemented by iris scans. As a tech- 
nological device, the uniqueness of the CEDI lies not so much in its use 
of biometrics but in its amenability to diverse methods of identification. 

With the REPUVE, meanwhile, human cops who rent-seek by over- 
looking traffic infractions are “displaced ” 11 by teams of RFID stickers 
and scanners that have no motivation for financial gain. Ignacio Meza, 
a state official responsible for implementing the REPUVE in Zacatecas, 
alluded to this same point when I interviewed him. He remembered a 
time, “a few administrations ago,” when the state operated a program 
that sought to put the vehicle roll in order. 

The program was called Secure Transit. It was primarily a public safety pro- 
gram, but it also contained provisions allowing Finances to verify payments 
due. So, two Transit officials would go out, one person from Finances, and 
another person from the State Comptroller, who would serve as an observer 
to prevent acts of ill gains, abuse of authority, and so forth. This program 
allowed Transit authorities to monitor pollution emissions, tinted windows, 
seat belts, and so on. . . . The program helped elevate levels of compliance. 
But if every vehicle had a chip, we could start a new program of this type. 
With the scanner and chips, we could collect information on payments, and 
this would help the operation of such a program a lot. 

It is worth noting that the older program required four people to 
operate, one to explicitly monitor the other officials. With the chips and 
scanners, another program could be launched, but without the need for 
so many human actors. Wondering how corruption would be affected 
by the program, I asked Meza what would happen with bribes. “Well,” 
he replied, “we would be putting an end to that.” Thus, by “delegating” 
to technological devices police work traditionally belonging to human 
law-enforcement officers, the state imagines itself more able to enforce 
vehicular regulations. 

These considerations help mark out the true novelty of surveillance 
technologies in Mexico. The Mexican state’s launching of the mobile 

Taming the Tiger I 55 

phone registry, national identity card, and electronic automobile reg- 
istry reveals an effort to reinvent itself in order to gain a handle on 
a rapidly changing society that is escaping its grasp. From this point 
of departure, what we need to consider in greater detail is how these 
programs might remake the state. Or, in other words, how are the pro- 
grams designed to tame the tiger? 



We have wanted to show what is the only end awaiting the 

— El automovil gris 

The Public Registry of Vehicles (REPUVE) has the objective 
of guaranteeing public security through the provision of legal 
certainty to those acts carried out with vehicles circulating 
within national territory. 

— REPUVE white paper 


One of the most successful films of the Mexican silent era premiered 
on December 11, 1919, at twenty movie houses in Mexico City. El 
automovil gris (The gray automobile) depicted the story of the Gray 
Automobile Gang, a group of prison escapees who terrorized Mexico 
City’s elite at the height of the Mexican Revolution in 1915 by donning 
uniforms of the Constitutionalist Army and serving false search war- 
rants to rob people’s homes. Originally twelve episodes, the shortened 
version of the film that survives today is split evenly between drama- 
tizing the gang’s various robberies, kidnappings, and murders and its 
eventual apprehension by the inspector Juan Manuel Cabrera, who por- 
trays himself in the film. Imagined as a work of cinema verite, broad- 
casting events of contemporary concern to Mexican society at a time of 
immense social upheaval, El automovil gris was a sensation, highlighted 
by its notorious final scene, actual footage of the execution of Gray 
Automobile Gang members by firing squad. 1 

Over the years, El automovil gris has captured the imagination of 
moviegoers, film buffs, students of Mexican history, and scholars from 


Prohesion I 57 

different fields by preserving a unique moment in Mexican history. 
But while the film was promoted on the basis of its authenticity, it is 
better described as a “spectacle of representational authenticity .” 1 In 
other words, El automovil gris, the movie, takes considerable artistic 
license with El automovil gris, the story. The film was financed by Pablo 
Gonzalez Garza, a general in Venustiano Carranza’s Constitutionalist 
Army, sent to pacify Mexico City following its occupation by Pan- 
cho Villa’s and Emiliano Zapata’s armies. Gonzalez, who would later 
orchestrate the assassination of Zapata, is portrayed in the film passion- 
ately exhorting the police forces to pursue the gang. During the Gray 
Automobile Gang’s reign of mischief, however, it was widely believed 
that Gonzalez was the operation’s mastermind. Whatever that claim’s 
veracity, the film glosses over military and police complicity in the 
crimes of the gang, which served search warrants signed by actual mili- 
tary authorities . 3 The film thus functions as a political tool. Produced by 
a military general of dubious repute, the film attempts to rehabilitate his 
image and legitimize the nascent Mexican state by portraying the mili- 
tary and police as honest, hardworking protectors of the social order. 

For the purposes of the present work, El automovil gris proves inter- 
esting for what it reveals about the Mexican elite’s view of the automo- 
bile when the film came out. The motorcar, still a novel technology, was 
seen as a threat to the social order. Combined with telegraphic com- 
munications and a lack of clear identifying documents, it empowered 
wrongdoers to prey on the public and stay one step ahead of the law. 
Only through the heroic efforts of honest authorities such as General 
Gonzalez Garza, Inspector Cabrera, and police officers skilled in the 
use of modern transportation and communication technologies could 
the criminality cultivated by the motorcar be controlled. “A useless 
endeavor,” the film confidently professes at its conclusion, “the fate 
[execution by firing squad] awaiting all guilty men is a moral lesson that 
work is the only noble path in life.” 

But the insecurity of the automobile in Mexico was not so easily 
tamed. Today, the car remains a threat to security. Its value as a manu- 
factured object makes it a frequent target of thieves . 5 Its mobility is criti- 
cal to drug trafficking to the United States as well as arms to Mexico, 
attacks by drug cartels against other cartels as well as the police and 
military, and abductions. Its propensity for immobility and conges- 
tion is exploited by cartels to create roadblocks to impede police and 
military forces during shootouts. Its enclosure of space provides the 
cover necessary for illicit trafficking and hiding corpses for authorities 

58 I Prohesion 

figure 5. Ciudad Administrativa in Zacatecas, 2013. Photo by Benjazi2i3. 

to uncover. And its combustibility has been used on at least one occa- 
sion to produce car bombs to punish state authorities seen to favor one 
cartel over another. 7 

The federal government’s response to this insecurity — the Public 
Registry of Vehicles (REPUVE) — is currently on display in various 
states across the country. One of Mexico’s first REPUVE registration 
sites was in the north-central state of Zacatecas. In the eponymous capi- 
tal, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 for its rich colonial 
architecture and urban layout, the REPUVE module can be found in La 
Ciudad de Gobierno, or Government City (fig. 5), a brand-new complex 
of shiny governmental office buildings on the city’s outskirts, a location 
intended to simultaneously facilitate citizens’ completion of their civic 
obligations and bolster the city’s tourism by directing bureaucratic traf- 
fic out of the historic downtown. Within the impressive complex, the 
REPUVE module — housed in two semitrailers outside the Secretariat 
of Finances building — casts a humble shadow. Armed with computers, 
satellite antennae, and other advanced information technologies, these 
trailers comprise a starting point in the state’s fight against automotive 
insecurity (fig. 6). 

Prohesion I 59 

figure 6 . REPUVE registration site in Zacatecas, 2011. Photo by Keith Guzik, © 2015. 

Citizens concerned about the safety of their vehicles come to the 
module for RFID tags, or chips as they are called colloquially, which 
enable the location of their vehicles in case of theft (fig. 7). To receive 
a chip, a driver must present five forms of documentation: a bill of sale 
from the purchase of the vehicle, a vehicle registration, a driver’s license, 
a proof of residency, and an official form of identification — which data 
specialists in the trailers use to verify the driver’s and vehicle’s history. 

Outside the trailers, REPUVE technicians inspect the vehicle, photo- 
graphing its front, rear, and sides and locating three instances of its vehicle 
identification number (VIN), one of which is recorded via an impression 
made using transparent tape and chalk. After the driver’s documents have 
been reviewed, and the identity of the vehicle verified, the data opera- 
tors enter the vehicle’s details in the computer and print out the RFID 
tag, which contains the vehicle’s VIN, the tag’s identification number, 
and the corresponding REPUVE file number. One of the technicians then 
applies el chip to the inside windshield above the rearview mirror, and 
the technicians then test it using a handheld RFID reader (figs. 8-15). The 
registration process complete, the tag can now be registered whenever the 
vehicle passes REPUVE readers installed along roadsides and other tran- 
sit points. In this way, the fight against automotive insecurity in Mexico 
is transferred from the heroic police officers of El automovil gris to the 
mundane surveillant technologies of the Public Registry of Vehicles. 

This chapter focuses on the tension between the disruptive collec- 
tive agency engendered by the automobile and the efforts of Mexican 

6 o I Prohesion 

figure 7. REPUVE RFID tag. Photo by Keith Guzik, © 2015. 

authorities to control it. It describes how automobility 8 has served at 
different times in Mexican history as an engine of insecurity, threat- 
ening the physical safety of motorists and the ecological welfare of 
the natural environment. In response to the insecurity produced by 
the motorcar, authorities have turned to the law to keep their hands 
firmly on the wheel. At the dawn of the automobile in early twentieth- 
century Mexico, the administration of automobiles focused on ensuring 
personal safety (and collecting taxes) by disciplining motorists to be 
responsible drivers. To do this, the state imposed three basic require- 
ments for the operation of a motor vehicle: registration of both cars 
and drivers into state registries, inspection of the functionality of auto- 
mobiles and the competence of drivers, and regulation of motorists’ 
compliance with traffic rules. 

Beginning in the 1980s, a new legal regime emerged that sought to 
reduce the pollution “risk” of automobiles. In this model, registration 
still recorded the correspondence between cars and drivers, but emis- 
sions testing now recorded a mostly invisible discharge from cars made 
visible during inspections through diagnostic machinery and translated 
onto vehicle surfaces through inspection stickers. Regulation under this 
risk model of automotive governance did not involve overseeing vehicles 

Prohesion I 6 1 

figure 8 . Initial review of docu- 
ments during REPUVE registration. 
Photo by Keith Guzik, © 2015. 

figure 9. Photographing vehicle 
during REPUVE registration. Photo 
by Keith Guzik, © 2015. 

figure 10 . Locating VIN number 
during REPUVE registration. Photo 
by Keith Guzik, © 2015 . 

6z I Prohesion 

figure ii. Recording VIN num- 
ber during REPUVE registration. 
Photo by Keith Guzik, © 2015. 

figure 12 . Transferring VIN 
number during REPUVE registra- 
tion. Photo by Keith Guzik, © 
2015 . 

figure 13. Inputting driver 
and vehicle data during REPUVE 
registration. Photo by Keith Guzik, 
© 2015. 

Prohesion I 6 3 

figure 14. Adhering RFID tag 
during REPUVE registration. Photo 
by Keith Guzik, © 2015. 

figure 15 . Verifying RFID tag 
during REPUVE registration. Photo 
by Keith Guzik, © 2015. 

to ensure drivers’ compliance with traffic rules, but rather supervising 
them to ensure drivers’ abnegation from an activity — automobility — 
posing a risk to the natural environment. 

In the REPUVE, meanwhile, the concern of the state is not on per- 
sonal safety or environmental pollution, but “legal certainty” (certeza 
juridica), the assurance that the automobile possesses proper legal sta- 
tus. To achieve certainty, a registration is made not only of the cor- 
respondence between cars and drivers, but of all records concerning 
a vehicle generated by public and private entities administering auto- 
mobility, a massive integration of data made possible by the REPUVE 
database. Inspections, for their part, are not directed to the functional- 
ity or emissions of vehicles but to their identity as established by vehicle 
identification numbers carried on vehicle bodies. Finally, regulation is 
conducted not under the watchful gaze of human traffic officers but 

64 I Prohesion 

via the transmission of digital signals received by RFID tags adhered to 
vehicles at inspection sites. 

In the REPUVE, then, one discerns a distinct mode of governmental- 
ity. If personal safety was pursued by creating a registry of car-driver 
couplings and overseeing the conduct of machines and drivers (an oper- 
ation concerned with the conduct of automobiles), and environmental 
pollution was combatted by diagnosing vehicular emissions and pro- 
ducing visualizations of them for others to see (an operation focused 
on the essence of automobility rather than its conduct), then “legal 
certainty” is sought by integrating data about vehicles and adhering 
that data to the vehicles themselves (an operation that moves the power 
of the state from the conduct and essence of vehicles to the body of 
automobility). This double operation at the heart of the REPUVE — of 
making the multiple records of vehicles more cohesive and having those 
data become adhesive to the materiality of automobility — is what I call 
prohesion, an emergent logic of power distinct from traditional sur- 
veillance and discernible in other security measures in contemporary 
Mexico, where authorities attempt to control collective agency by mak- 
ing its material more amenable to governance. By reducing the state’s 
dependence on unreliable, corruptible human subjects and increasing 
its use of more objective surveillance technologies, prohesion offers the 
prospect of increasing the state’s control over the disruptive collective 
agencies at the heart of insecurity in Mexico. 


The question of when the automobile appeared in Mexico is a mat- 
ter of speculation. A motorcar was first officially recorded in the 
country in 1898, a handmade French machine named the Dellanu 
Villeville, which the Texas millionaire Manuel Cuesta purchased and 
transported to Guadalajara. 9 There are accounts of another motor 
vehicle rambling its way through the dusty streets of Mexico City in 
1895, commanded by one Fernando de Teresa, but no official records 
exist. 10 Regardless of their origin, the first automobiles in Mexico 
found themselves competing for space on roadways with both more 
traditional modes of transportation (mule trains, horse-drawn car- 
riages) and more modern ones (steam and electric railcars). 11 Those 
experimenting with the new form of locomotion had substantial 
financial resources. An imported automobile was a primary status 
symbol for upper-class families that marked their separation from the 

Prohesion I 65 

rest of society. 1 2 " During the early days of the automobile in Mexico, 
only Z15 units were sold per year/ 3 4 5 6 

The number of vehicles in Mexico soon began to rise, however, from 
roughly 8,000 units in 1920 to 105,470 in 1940. 14 By the mid-1950s, the 
country counted nearly 500,000 vehicles, second only to Brazil among 
its Latin American neighbors. The car’s growing popularity involved 
more than the curiosity of the moneyed classes. One of the chief tech- 
nological achievements of Porfirio Diaz’s rule in Mexico was the elec- 
trification of Mexico City’s rail system, which ably served the urban 
population’s transportation needs. Strikes began disabling the system in 
1916 and 1917, however, fueling the need for a commuting alternative. 
As a personalized mode of transportation not immediately subject to 
labor strife, the automobile offered a more reliable mode of transporta- 
tion/ Outside the nation’s capital, meanwhile, the national economy 
had long been challenged by geography. Without large rivers that could 
accommodate the transportation requirements of the country’s major 
industries, Mexico proved a prime location for the growth of trucking/ 7 
Finally, a shared border with the world’s leading manufacturer of auto- 
mobiles provided the country with an ample source of vehicles/ 

In his seminal work on the role of the automobile in modern society, 
John Urry uses the term “automobility” to describe the system of inter- 
related institutions, industries, historical processes, cultural practices, 
and emotions that have arisen around the automobile. In modern and 
postindustrial society, he writes, the car stands as 

1. the quintessential manufactured object produced by the leading 
industrial sectors and the iconic firms within 20th-century capital- 
ism . . . ; 

2. the major item of individual consumption after housing which 
provides status to its owner/user through its sign-values . . . ; 

3 . an extraordinarily powerful complex constituted through techni- 
cal and social interlinkages with other industries [car parts, road 
building, advertising, oil production] . . . ; 

4. the predominant global form of “quasi-private” mobility that 
subordinates other mobilities of walking, cycling, travelling by 
rail and so on ... ; 

5. the dominant culture that sustains major discourses of what con- 
stitutes the good life . . . ; [and] 

6. the single most important cause of environmental resource-usef 9 

66 I Prohesion 

The impact of automobility on Mexican society is unmistakable. 
The automobile’s promise as a manufactured object has driven the 
country’s economic policy since the first half of the twentieth century. 
While the first cars arrived in Mexico across the northern border with 
the United States, 20 the postrevolutionary government of Plutarco 
Elias Calles recognized the automobile’s potential to advance indus- 
trialization and made development of a car industry a centerpiece of 
its import-substitution economy.' 1 Mexico’s large population already 
promised manufacturers a healthy market, and the country’s substan- 
tial oil reserves, privately held until Lazaro Cardenas’s nationalization 
in 1938, provided the raw materials necessary to fuel cars and construct 
highways." But to increase the country’s appeal to foreign manufactur- 
ers, the Calles government offered favorable trade tariffs for companies 
establishing operations in Mexico and assurances that the inexpensive 
labor force grouped into party-affiliated unions would not disrupt pro- 
duction. Ford was the first producer to build a plant in Mexico, in 1925, 
receiving a 50 percent reduction in import tariffs. 2 ’ Other manufactur- 
ers followed. By 1946, ten companies were assembling cars in Mexico, 
in plants located largely in and around Mexico City. 24 

While these operations met the government’s immediate interest in 
establishing an automotive industry, the companies operated solely as 
assemblers, using knockdown kits produced in the United States to 
build cars for sale in Mexico.' 5 This arrangement not only limited the 
extent of industrialization within Mexico but also led to a trade imbal- 
ance with the United States that deprived Mexico of needed foreign cur- 
rency. In response, the Mexican state began exerting increased control 
over the industry, primarily through import restrictions, local-content 
requirements, and price controls. In 1950, a government executive 
order imposed maximum prices on wholesale and retail items. 27 At the 
end of the decade, import quotas were reduced and the use of locally 
produced parts was decreed for the first time.' 

Given persistent problems with balance of trade, the government 
moved in the 1970s to increase exports from the automotive sector. 
Companies located in Mexico and exporting to the United States were 
offered substantial subsidies to help offset US import tariffs.' 5 In 1977, 
an executive decree required each producer in the country to balance its 
automotive trade and placed strict limits on foreign-owned investments 
not dedicated to export production. 30 During this time as well, the first 
maquiladoras, or assembly plants, were established in northern Mexico 
to produce auto parts for export. 31 In time, the number of maquiladoras 

Prohesion I 67 

in the automotive sector increased, owing to the reduced presence of 
labor unions, lower transportation costs to the United States, and ease 
of access to customs offices.' 2 As a result, the number of automobiles 
exported from Mexico grew from 2,000 in 1972 to 58,423 in 1985, 
with Volkswagen and Nissan serving as industry leaders.” 

These efforts succeeded in establishing an active automotive indus- 
try in Mexico, especially in parts production. But the statist import- 
substitution model of economic development began giving way in 
the 1980s to larger forces in international political economy. A rising 
yen, in the case of Japanese producers, and the need to reduce costs 
to remain competitive with Japanese producers, in the case of US and 
European companies, led automotive multinationals to move more 
labor-intensive aspects of production to industrializing countries like 
Mexico. Attempting to adjust policy to fit the shifting world econ- 
omy, the Mexican government as part of North American Free Trade 
Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations at the end of the 1980s, eliminated 
local-content requirements and rules governing foreign ownership of 
production plants. These policy changes helped reestablish Mexico 
as an attractive base of operations for auto producers. Today, Mexico 
ranks eighth in the world in number of automobiles produced, around 
2.9 million units per year,’ 6 and second in exports to the United States.’ 7 
Thus, over the course of the twentieth century, Mexico transformed 
its relationship to the automobile as a manufactured object. Solely an 
importer at the start of the century, the country at its conclusion stood 
as one of the world’s largest exporters, transforming its image as a back- 
ward, rural society to one at the cutting edge of the global economy. 

Automobility has affected Mexico in ways beyond industrializa- 
tion and consumption. At the most basic level, the motorcar has trans- 
formed time and space. Whereas urban life was once concentrated in 
city centers, the automobile enabled the growth of well-to-do sub- 
urbs on urban peripheries. Between 1920 and i960, the urban area of 
Mexico City grew ninefold, and the very notion of the city changed. 
Formally comprised of sixteen delegaciones, or boroughs, el distrito 
federal has expanded to include over forty municipalities in the states 
of Mexico and Hidalgo, a conurbation referred to as the metropolitan 
zone, the urban area, the urban area of Mexico City, or the metropoli- 
tan zone of the Valley of Mexico.’ 8 The automobile not only expanded 
the boundaries of urban areas but also split them apart through its asso- 
ciated highways and central arteries. And as much as this spatial growth 
owes to the time ostensibly saved by the automobile in traversing long 

68 I Prohesion 

distances, this time is ultimately lost in the uncompensated hours and 
energy that people spend sitting in traffic. 39 

Similarly, the constant din of automobility in urban areas keeps peo- 
ple tense and disrupts sleep. 40 Not only is silence forgotten, but when 
it is encountered, in rural areas for instance, it provokes anxiety rather 
than calm. And behind the wheel, drivers become obsessed with arriv- 
ing at destinations in the least amount of time possible, a mind-set that 
transforms other vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians into obstacles to 
overcome. 4 " In these ways, the automobile has transformed the national 
character of Mexico. 4 ’ 

The influence of automobility has extended to language as well. As 
Federico Fernandez Christlieb notes in his excellent history of the auto- 
mobile in Mexico, “After money and sex, no object has given birth to as 
much popular vocabulary and slang as the car.” 44 Fernandez offers luz 
verde (being given the green light) and en curva (being thrown a curve) as 
examples. But a more illuminating phrase from Mexican Spanish might 
be tantas curvas y yo sin frenos (so many curves and I don’t have brakes). 
This crude expression combines the linguistic influences of both sex and 
the automobile, revealing national, patriarchal tendencies to objectify 
women (by comparing them to the physical landscape) and excuse men 
for improper conduct (by explaining away their lack of self-restraint). 

The automobile, in this sense, is not merely a means of transportation, 
but a means of cultural representation central to Mexican national iden- 
tity. Films — such as Mecanica nacional, a boorish 1971 comedy follow- 
ing the weekend excursion of a Mexico City repair shop owner’s family 
to an automobile race, and Y tu mama tambien, the first international 
hit of Alfonso Cuaron, a coming-of-age tale that also centers around a 
road trip from Mexico City — use the automobile to reflect on the state of 
Mexican society. The humble Volkswagen Beetle, meanwhile, produced 
in Puebla until 2003 and lovingly referred to as el vocho, has found itself 
the inspiration of leading contemporary artists from Mexico. Damian 
Ortega’s Cosmic Thing (2002) installation features a disassembled Bee- 
tle suspended in air (fig. 16), Betsabee Romero’s works frequently center 
on Beetles (fig. 17), and Margarita Cabrera’s Yellow Bug (2004) offers 
a life-sized, soft sculpture of the iconic car (fig. 18). These works speak 
to the central place of the automobile in representing everyday life in 
Mexico. El vochol, an actual Beetle fully decorated in the beads repre- 
sentative of Fluichol art, an indigenous group from northern Mexico, 
takes this idea a step further, integrating the automobile into the cultural 
expression of a people known for their nomadic lifestyle (fig. 19). 

Prohesion I 69 

figure 1 6. Cosmic Thing, 2002, by Damian Ortega. Image courtesy of the artist and 
Kurimanzutto, Mexico City. 

figure 17. Arquitectura riistica para carros inseguros, 2003, by Betsabee Romero. 
Image courtesy of the artist. 

jo I Prohesion 

figure 18. Yellow Bug, 2004, by Margarita Cabrera. Image provided by Art © Mar- 
garita Cabrera/licensed by YAGA, New York. 

figure 19. El vochol, 2010, by eight anonymous Huichol artists. Courtesy of Asociacion 
de Amigos del Museo de Arte Popular (AAMAP). Photo by Keith Guzik, © 2015. 

Prohesion I 71 

Beyond the automobile’s cultural dimensions, its increasing domi- 
nance in Mexico has come at the expense of other uses of public space 
and modes of transportation. It is, as John Urry writes, “the predom- 
inant global form of ‘quasi-private’ mobility that subordinates other 
mobilities of walking, cycling, travelling by rail and so on.” 4 ’ As noted 
earlier, trains powered first by steam and later by electricity and car- 
riages pulled by beasts of burden capably served the transportation 
needs of Mexico City’s population throughout the nineteenth century. 
But the postrevolutionary government’s promotion of the automobile 
swept these modes of mobility aside. And when the problem of traffic 
congestion made urban railways desirable again in the late 1960s, they 
were primarily built underground as subways in accommodation of 
motorways. 46 More recently, the supremacy of the automobile has been 
questioned somewhat in Mexico City, as municipal authorities have 
embraced the expansion of regional trains, the establishment of bus- 
only lanes on major arteries, and the creation of a bike-share program 
to provide city residents with transportation alternatives. But for the 
time being, these examples can better be read as exceptions that prove 
the rule of automobility in everyday Mexico. 


As comprehensive as the concept of automobility is in highlighting the 
multiple dimensions of modern life affected by the motorcar, it over- 
looks security and law. The oversight is somewhat curious, as research 
on the history of the automobile in the United States describes how 
its introduction led to a spate of traffic accidents, 47 endangered chil- 
dren playing in the streets, 48 increased the risks of rape for women, 49 
gave birth to “roving criminals,” 50 and threatened public safety through 
intoxicated drivers. In Mexico, likewise, the automobile has consis- 
tently served as a source of insecurity. The insecurity of automobility 
has a dialectical, evolutionary quality, whereby the dangers of car travel 
in one time period give rise to state interventions designed to address 
them, which eventually cede ground to new perils. This section traces 
this progression across three time periods over the last century. 

3.3.1 Responsibilizing Motorists 

Government documents and other literature from when the automobile 
first appeared in Mexico give insight into the insecurity of automobility. 

7Z I Prohesion 

A 1938 pamphlet titled Seguridad! (Security!), published by the Sec- 
retariat of Communications and Public Works, describes the different 
types of accidents involving automobiles on federal highways: 1,273 
incidents were reported in 1937, among them 15 fires, 61 crashes 
against embankments, 125 people run over, 369 collisions with other 
vehicles, and 508 overturned vehicles, all of which claimed 778 lives. 
These are not large numbers. Today, Mexico reports 16,700 road 
fatalities per year.” But when one considers that these numbers do not 
include unreported accidents or accidents occurring on state and munic- 
ipal roadways, and that Mexico was home to far fewer vehicles at this 
time — 105,470 in 1940 54 — the risk to personal safety captured by these 
figures is not insignificant. The fatality rate of 778 deaths per 105,470 
vehicles in 1937 works out to 737.7 deaths per 100,000 vehicles. The 
rate today in Mexico is 54.1 deaths per 100,000 vehicles. 55 It is not dif- 
ficult to understand, then, why the secretariat in publishing these num- 
bers warned that, without proper attention, automobile travel would be 
“converted into an epidemic.” 56 

Seguridad! also gives the causes of these accidents. In the 1,273 inci- 
dents, there were 39 cases of headlight problems, 58 of inexperience, 
69 of carelessness on the part of pedestrians, 68 of drunkenness, 169 
of traveling in the wrong lane, 108 of poor vehicle maintenance, 149 of 
excessive speed in turns, 176 of excessive speed in corners, and 441 of 
lack of precaution. 57 

What stands out is how a lack of precaution on the part of motorists, 
whether explicit or implicit in the categories listed, is seen by the gov- 
ernment as the main culprit behind the insecurity of automobiles. Guilt 
accrues to the individual, which suggests that the threat of automobiles 
to personal safety could be curtailed by having drivers take better care 
when operating motor vehicles. This is not to say that the government 
at the time was blind to other possible causes of automotive insecurity. 
Manufacturers had a role to play by “offering drivers vehicles in per- 
fect conditions . . . with steering responsive to the smallest impulse of 
the driver, breaks with unquestionable efficacy, powerful headlights, 
proven road stability, and, in a word, equipped with all the elements to 
fulfill its function with a minimum of risk.” 58 Public authorities could 
also do more to “increase visibility, improve curvatures and gradients in 
roadways, repairing them constantly and seeing to their conservation, 
placing signals in dangerous spots to help drivers, and launching pre- 
ventative measures as well as punitive ones when needed against trans- 
gressors.” 59 Nevertheless, in the end, the secretariat concluded that the 

Prohesion I 73 

most effective way to fight the insecurity of automobility was to resolve 
the “problem of educating drivers and pedestrians.” 

To educate motorists, governmental agencies and other organizations 
interested in promoting automobiles released publications on proper 
motorcar usage. Some of the instructions were elementary. Drivers, for 
instance, were instructed that “in crossroads, the traffic rules dictate 
that the car arriving to our right has the right-of-way, and the same 
goes for street crossings.” “When driving at night, always keep your 
headlights and rear light illuminated.” " And “one can never trust the 
sides of the road in partial or total darkness.” 63 Other instructions seem 
quaint today: “Never under any circumstances complete a turn using 
sidewalks, but rather use the center of the crossing.” 64 Also, “A lack of 
precaution is lighting a cigarette in a gas station, since gasoline is not 
only given via pumps, but also with cans and jars.” 65 

These publications, in addition to instructing motorists on the rules 
of the road and proper driving technique, also sought to prepare read- 
ers for the emotional challenges of driving. The Manual del “chauffeur” 
(Driver’s manual), published in 1943, explained that “it often happens 
that drivers . . . throw themselves into a crazy race to catch and over- 
take a car that has committed an ‘offense’ against them. If the driver of 
the other car becomes aware of what is happening, a true speed contest 
tends to result, with a total lack of respect for others on the road as well 
as oneself. One should realize the absurdity of such behavior, meant 
only to satisfy a stupid vanity.” “It should never be forgotten,” the 
manual admonished, “that we do not own the road; other users have as 
much right as we do.” 67 Drivers were urged to keep vehicle maintenance 
in mind too. “Accidents occurring because of excessive speed do not 
always indicate a lack of skill on the part of drivers,” noted the pam- 
phlet Seguridadl, “since many have already demonstrated their ability 
to drive, [but] many times the unexpected happens, brake failure or a 
tire that blows or falls off.” As a result, “before beginning an automo- 
bile trip, the driver should ensure that the car is in the right conditions, 
and to do this, it is appropriate to examine it quickly and verify that all 
its parts function without problems.” 69 

In addition to information campaigns, government authorities com- 
batted the insecurity of automobility by establishing legal requirements 
for their operation. Although not the first government entity in Mexico 
to do so, the City Council of Ciudad Juarez had already published its 
Reglamento de vehiculos (Vehicle rulebook) in 1922. The stated pur- 
pose of the book was that “all property of this type” — vehicles — “be 

74 I Prohesion 

registered, inspected, and regulated.” “Vehicles” at this time was an 
inclusive term. The registry applied not only to automobiles but also 
horse-drawn carriages and other types of hotel, commercial, and trans- 
port cars. 7 ° 

The rulebook’s statement of purpose was an effective summary of the 
general requirements for operating a vehicle in the city. Vehicle owners 
first needed to go to the treasury to register their machines, done by 
making “a written request to the treasury explaining its [the vehicle’s] 
purpose, presenting their property to the local inspector for inspection 
and classification, and promising to follow the rules established in this 
rulebook.” Then, “following authorization by the inspector, the appli- 
cant should appear before the municipal treasury to request a tax book, 
in which payments in accordance with this rulebook will be noted, 
understanding that it is required to complete these payments within the 
first eight days of each month.” For vehicles serving the public, such as 
taxis, the registration requirements were stricter. “Once the application 
is approved,” the rulebook explained, “the applicant should request 
the corresponding registration number in order to mark his property 
thereafter, obtain at his own cost a copy of the respective fee and a 
copy of this rulebook. In the rulebook noted, there should appear as 
well a drawing of the applicant’s bust, noting at the bottom his appear- 
ance, personal data, residence, names of persons who recommend him 
or would testify for him before the municipal president, and several 
pages left blank in the back of the book to note inspections and other 
particularities that the police find necessary.” 71 

The second stated goal of the rulebook was vehicle inspection. Such 
inspections were presided over “by the city councilman and the vehicle 
inspector.” Drivers were required to “present at the inspection all of 
their personal documentation, including the tax book.” And “all public- 
service vehicles” were required to “pass a monthly inspection.” Drivers 
also had to be inspected. To qualify to drive a vehicle, individuals were 
required to “be expert and experienced in the conduct of the machines, 
as determined by a jury consisting of the inspector, a witness provided 
by the applicant, and a third party named by the municipal president; 
be eighteen years old; and have good morals.” 72 Finally, once inspected 
and registered, “the automobile should display both in the front and 
rear, clearly visible and no less than 5 inches in height, the order num- 
ber corresponding to it in the registry.” 73 

In addition to registration and inspection, the municipal government 
of Ciudad Juarez sought to ensure that automobiles followed “the rules 

Prohesion I 75 

established in this rulebook.” Some traffic rules have been mentioned 
above — “Never under any circumstances complete a turn using side- 
walks, but rather use the center of the crossing” and “When driving at 
night, always keep your headlights and rear light illuminated.” The traf- 
fic code also established speed limits: 7.5 miles per hour (12 kilometers 
per hour, or kph) within the city, 4.4 miles per hour (7 kph) on side 
streets, 3.1 miles per hour (5 kph) in front of schools, 1.9 miles per 
house (3 kph) around public promenades, and 15.5 miles per hour 
(25 kph) “away from populated areas in the most adequate and least 
dangerous stretches.” 

In establishing the rules of the road, the city council considered more 
than personal safety. Public order and morality were also at stake, espe- 
cially in vehicles used for public transportation, where the class divi- 
sions of Mexican society would play out. The Ciudad Juarez rulebook 
dictated that “when driving drunks or prostitutes, drivers should con- 
ceal their vehicles with their covered roofs, driving them directly to their 
destination.” “Calling out to passengers by whistles or shouts” and 
“using obscene language” were prohibited, as was anything other than 
a “moderate use of the horn,” which could “cause a scandal.” With 
an eye to public health, the city council also prohibited “transporting 
cadavers or people with contagious sickness, unless by expressed order 
of the police or other appropriate authority.” 75 

So that motorists completed these steps of registration, inspection, 
and regulation, the traffic code called for the creation of “a traffic 
inspector responsible to the municipal treasury who will be charged 
with ensuring that these rules are followed.” The traffic inspector would 
keep “in the office and in proper order . . . the following books”: 

a) a general registry of vehicles, listed successively, specifying their class, cat- 
egory, size, conditions, brand, monthly dues, property owner, with exact ad- 
dress, name of the driver and residence, date of registration and withdrawal, 
specifying the purpose of the vehicle and if payments are current; b) a general 
registry of drivers, dedicating a single page to each, in which will be included a 
drawing of the applicant, registration number, current address, place of birth, 
parents, age, appearance, with a space left blank for necessary annotations; 
c) a book of inspections, which will consist of whether the city councilman 
concurred or not or if the municipal authority authorized the inspection/ 

The power of the fine would enforce these rules. Excessive speed 
brought a fine of 5-25 pesos, turning without signaling cost 5-10 pesos, 
and not having a canopy cover elicited a 5 -peso fine, with the potential 
confiscation of the vehicle by the state if not fixed within eight days. 

76 I Prohesion 

The Ciudad Juarez rulebook provides a unique window into the ratio- 
nality of state authorities, or “governmentality ,” 77 concerning the regu- 
lation of automobiles in the early twentieth century. In Ciudad Juarez, 
a three-part legal regime controlled automobility, consisting of registra- 
tion, inspection, and regulation. Each piece of this regime involved a dis- 
tinct operation of power, even if these operations were intended to work 
in concert. In registration, personal data was recorded for the purposes of 
tributary obligations, a fundamental state function . ' 8 But more than this, 
registration created a correspondence between car and driver by match- 
ing vehicular data to personal data. In inspection, tests were adminis- 
tered and judgments made. The aspiring driver’s ability to maneuver a 
vehicle was tested before a three-person jury. The machine, meanwhile, 
was examined by the traffic inspector and a city councilman to ensure 
that it was in proper order. Interestingly, inspections concerned more 
than the fitness of cars and drivers to operate on public roadways. Public 
order and morality were also considered, as drivers had to have “good 
morals” and vehicles needed to possess “a clean and decorous appear- 
ance.” These examinations designed to ensure the safety and morality of 
the public order evoke Michel Foucault’s work on “discipline,” which 
involves both “an observing hierarchy” and “a normalizing judgment” 
in its subjectification of those it operates upon . 75 The resonance with 
Foucault’s influential work deepens in light of Ciudad Juarez’s regula- 
tion of motorcars. By providing drivers tax books and registration num- 
bers, the latter of which had to be recorded both in the former and on 
the vehicle in clearly visible script, the state made the legality of the car- 
driver coupling visible for surveillance by police officers. Through such 
measures, the power of the law over the automobile took hold. 

If the moral aspects of this legal regime seem intrusive, the law also 
carved out a unique place for the individual. Drivers of private, personal 
vehicles, for one, were not subject to the same requirements as drivers 
of public vehicles (who had to carry the rulebook for annotations by 
the inspector and police and had to get monthly car inspections). It is 
interesting to consider that in this time of the nascent bureaucratiza- 
tion of the modern Mexican state, drivers of public vehicles would be 
the ones responsible for purchasing and preserving the documents for 
noting police officers’ observations of them. Drivers of both private and 
public vehicles also had to carry tax books demonstrating compliance 
with tributary obligations. Similarly, it was the individual driver who 
marked the assigned registration number on the vehicle. 

Prohesion I 77 

Jonathan Simon, remarking on the early administration of automo- 
biles in the United States, observed that “laws governing the operation 
of vehicles,” “civil liability, the general rules of care taking in public 
life,” and “insurance” served to create the responsible driver. The dis- 
ciplinary regime of automotive governmentality described here — creat- 
ing records of individual drivers in official records, normalizing behavior 
through the inspection of driving and property, but also entrusting indi- 
viduals in their own governance — can also be seen to “responsibilize” 
the modern car driver in Mexico. And the marked decrease in the rate 
of traffic fatalities over the last seventy-five years reflects the power of 
this disciplinary project. 

This brief account of the earliest mode of governing automobiles 
returns us to key themes from the first chapter. To control the col- 
lective agency of society, in this case automobility, the state targets 
materiality — it registers its presence, inspects its function, and regu- 
lates its movement. And in governing technology, the state itself is co- 
produced, not only in the form of new government bureaucracies such 
as a traffic inspector’s office and the police, but also through the collec- 
tion of taxes to finance the state’s growth. 

Given the dynamic of state formation through automobile taxa- 
tion and regulation, it is unsurprising that this regime of automotive 
governance spread throughout Mexico over the course of the twenti- 
eth century. Today, every state in the country possesses a system of 
automotive administration relying on driver’s licenses, vehicle regis- 
trations and inspections, and traffic police. In addition, the tax for 
registering automobiles in Ciudad Juarez eventually morphed into an 
excise tax assessed for the mere possession of an automobile. Mexican 
president Gustavo Diaz Ordaz issued a decree in 1964, the Tax for the 
Possession or Use of Vehicles, to temporarily collect taxes on auto- 
mobiles to finance the 1968 Olympic Games. Colloquially referred 
to as la tenencia, from the verb tener (to have), the tax became an 
important source of revenue that the federal government ultimately 
found difficult to do without. La tenencia thus became a permanent 
tax in Mexico, and states adopted similar levies on vehicle ownership. 
Long subject to scorn among vehicle owners, la tenencia was finally 
repealed by the federal government in 201 z, although twenty-seven 
of thirty-two states still collect it. La tenencia, then, provides a clear 
example of how controlling automobility can contribute to the cre- 
ation of the state. 

78 I Prohesion 

3.3.2 Reducing Environmental Risk 

By the 1970s, the insecurity of automobility began to manifest itself 
in other ways in Mexico. As the number of cars and duration of daily 
commutes increased in cities, greater amounts of harmful gases were 
released into the air, slowly transforming the country’s natural envi- 
ronment. Although it is difficult to envision now, given Mexico City’s 
reputation as among the most polluted places on the planet, there was 
a time not long ago when national writers with no irony described it 
as “the region with the cleanest air.” 3 In the 1940s, visibility in the 
metropolis extended more than 7 miles. By the 1990s, however, smog, 
fed largely by automobile exhaust, had reduced it to a little over 1 mile. 
Not only that, but the paving of roadways impeded rainwater filtra- 
tion into city aquifers, which aggravated the city’s sinking, a structural 
predicament dating back to the Spanish colonial authority’s draining of 
the lake on which the Mexica had constructed Tenochtitlan. Pavement 
has also altered the flora and fauna in the city by suffocating the soil 
and intensifying the sun’s rays. In this polluted environment, rates of 
genetic abnormalities, asthma, conjunctivas, respiratory diseases, diges- 
tive problems, and other ailments have increased. 

Automobile pollution is representative of the (post)modern condi- 
tion. As automobility has advanced in Mexico as the primary mode of 
mobility — driving national economic policy, turning natural resources 
into valuable commodities fueling development, changing the physical 
layout of towns and cities, and establishing itself as a cultural reference 
point — so too has it poisoned the ecological foundations of society to 
the point that it threatens society’s survival. This is the essence of the 
“risk society,” which labors to manage the “hazards and insecurities 
induced and introduced by modernization itself.” 8 ’ 

Although federal authorities understood the harmful effects of envi- 
ronmental pollution in the early 1970s, they did not take action to reduce 
harmful automobile emissions until 1986. A presidential decree passed 
that year — Measures against Pollution in the ZMCM (Mexico City 
Metropolitan Zone) — called for the production of unleaded gasoline, 

a. The phrase la region mas transparente was popularized as the title of one of Car- 
los Fuentes’s early novels, which focuses on social life in Mexico City. Before Fuentes, 
Alfonso Reyes, a Mexican poet active in the first half of the twentieth century, also used 
the expression to describe the city. Reyes, however, took the phrase from Alexander von 
Humboldt’s description of the city in Vision de Anabuac (see Fernandez Christlieb, Mod- 
ernas ruedas de la destruccion, 34). 

Prohesion I 79 

restricted the circulation of buses from neighboring states into Mexico 
City, and established limits for the emission of contaminants (hydrocar- 
bons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, etc.) in new vehicles. 84 In 1991, 
the federal government required installation of catalytic converters on 
new vehicles sold in the country. 85 

Mexico City, meanwhile, the area most affected by automobile 
pollution, has generally been in the lead in introducing legislation to 
combat the environmental risk of automobility. Already in the 1970s, 
the city was conducting vehicle inspections, referred to as verificacion 
vehicular. La verificacion vehicular was made mandatory in 1988. A 
year later, the municipal government passed the Hoy No Circula (No 
Driving Today) program, inspired by A Day without Cars, an inter- 
national movement to raise awareness about the harmful effects of 
automobiles by having people voluntarily forgo them for a single day 
(September 22). Hoy No Circula was designed to reduce the number 
of vehicles circulating in Mexico City by 20 percent; it prohibited each 
car from operating one day a week, as designated by the last digit of 
the automobile’s license plate number. Thus, for instance, cars with 
license plate numbers ending in 5 or 6 were prohibited from driving on 
Mondays, while those with plates ending in 1 or 2 were restricted from 
circulating on Thursdays. 

In 1997, the government combined the two programs — la verificacion 
vehicular and Hoy No Circula — in an effort to renovate the city’s aging 
population of cars. La verificacion vehicular continued as before. How- 
ever, cars built within the last four years that passed la verificacion vehic- 
ular were exempt from Hoy No Circula restrictions. These cars earned a 
double-zero (00) designation, with an accompanying sticker, and were 
exempt from inspections for two years. Cars built within the last eight 
years that passed la verificacion vehicular were also exempt from Hoy No 
Circula restrictions and received a single-zero (o) sticker. All other vehicles 
received a two (2) sticker and remained under the Hoy No Circula restric- 
tions. As a result, the original Hoy No Circula goal of limiting 20 percent 
of the automobile population was reduced to 8 percent. These mea- 
sures have generally been viewed as a success, despite early criticism that 
resources to enforce the new provisions were insufficient. 87 Car emissions 
in Mexico City have been reduced, and air quality has improved consider- 
ably. And la verificacion vehicular has become a model throughout the 
country, with seventeen states adopting similar measures. 

The verificacion vehicular and Hoy No Circula programs, like the 
Ciudad Juarez City Council vehicle rulebook, provide insight into the 

8 o I Prohesion 

governmental rationality involved in governing the “risk” of automobil- 
ity . 89 The programs demonstrate how the government’s administration 
of automobility has evolved in concert with its insecurity. To ensure 
safety on roadways, the first legal regime rested on a triple operation of 
the registration of the car-driver coupling, inspection of cars and drivers 
individually, and regulation of moving vehicles. These elements remain 
in la verificacion vehicular and Hoy No Circula, but modified to cap- 
ture and diminish the pollution of automobility. 

The purpose of la verificacion vehicular is the inspection of vehicles. 
But an important change took place in this program concerning how 
the government viewed the car. Before, the focus was the operability 
of a particular vehicle — whether it would function properly on public 
roadways. Now, the state is concerned with essence of the automo- 
bile — what the car emits. And although this emission is largely naked to 
the human eye, the diagnostic equipment used in la verificacion vehicu- 
lar realizes a “modification of scale ” 90 that renders invisible pollutants 
visible and measurable and thus subject to the law. In this way, la 
verifcacion vehicular extends the gaze of the state, through scientific 
surveillance technology, from the conduct of the automobile (its oper- 
ability) to its essence (its gaseous emissions). 

The inspection in turn creates a registry of vehicles based on pollu- 
tion levels. Once captured at the inspection center, the “risk,” or pollu- 
tion level, of an automobile is recorded in a registry and “translated ” 91 
from its scientific terms to a numerical scheme — oo, o, or 2 — according 
to the risk it poses. The vehicle is then entered into the registry of cars 
permitted to travel freely or not, and a sticker is affixed to communicate 
the car’s risk level to traffic police who, although unable to see vehicle 
pollution, are nevertheless responsible for enforcing the Hoy No Cir- 
cula program. 

For its part, Hoy No Circula is intended to regulate. But here, too, a 
change has taken place from prior regulation schemes. Before, authori- 
ties were primarily concerned with whether drivers were operating their 

b. The intervention of science and technology evokes the work of Bruno Latour, who 
in describing the power of the laboratory in Louis Pasteur’s battle against the anthrax ba- 
cillus that was ravaging cattle in France, noted that in the lab, “It [anthrax] is freed from 
all competitors and so grows exponentially, but, by growing so much, ends up, thanks 
to Koch’s later method, in such large colonies that a clear-cut pattern is made visible to 
the watchful eye of the scientist” (Latour, “Give Me a Lab and I Will Raise the World,” 
146). Like Pasteur’s laboratory, diagnostic technology exposes the presence of pollutants 
to authorities’ eyes. 

Prohesion I 81 

vehicles in accordance with the established traffic code. Now, given the 
“risk” of automobility to society, authorities attempt to prevent drivers 
from operating their vehicles at all, at least on the days dictated by vehi- 
cle performance on pollution tests and placement within the registry. 

The verification vehicular and Hoy No Circula programs, then, rep- 
resent key elements in the regime of risk management that emerged in 
Mexico during the 1990s to manage the new insecurity of automobility. 
This regime did not displace the first regime that was based on discipline 
and making drivers responsible. Rather, it added a layer of legal regu- 
lation, as well as the accompanying state agencies required to oversee 
inspections and monitor vehicles. Interestingly, in contrast to the earlier 
regime, risk management displays less concern with individual motor- 
ists. The moral quality of individual drivers does not concern the state, 
nor does their ability to operate a vehicle. Rather, it is the materiality of 
the car that is of interest, both its essence in terms of pollution emissions 
and its circulation on roadways on prohibited days. And although the 
invisibility of pollution makes it difficult for law officers to assess the 
threat of a particular vehicle, the system of numerical stickers applied 
to inspected cars makes the risk assessment legible for those responsible 
for monitoring roadways/ 

3.3.3 Securitizing Legal Uncertainty 

Since the 1990s, the risk-management model of governing automobil- 
ity has spread to other states in Mexico. Seventeen of thirty-two states 
today operate a version of la verif cation vehicular. Over this same time, 
the deepening of Mexican postmodernity — the coterminous processes 
of economic liberalization, political democratization, and cultural glo- 
balization — has revealed new dimensions of automotive insecurity, 
which are in fact quite old. As first portrayed in El automovil gris, the 
car today is a threat to public security. Its monetary value makes it a 
major target of organized crime syndicates. 9 ' Its mobility is central to 
the commission of crime, be it drug, arms, or human trafficking or evad- 
ing police or military forces. Its enclosure of space provides the cover 
necessary for illicit trafficking. And its combustibility can transform it 

c. Though the focus of the law has shifted, this new legal regime still affects drivers. 
Not only must drivers register themselves and their vehicles with the state, but they must 
also conduct themselves as responsible users of the natural environment, willing to re- 
move their vehicle from roadways or purchase their way into cleaner, less risky vehicles. 

8 2 I Prohesion 

into an improvised explosive device for cartels battling one another or 
the state. 93 

Crime involving automobiles speaks to fundamental gaps in the pre- 
vailing system of governing automobility. The registration, inspection, 
and regulation of vehicles are failing to ensure the security of motorcars. 
Central to this failure has been the permeability of the state to corrup- 
tion. The heroic efforts of honest authorities idolized in El automovil 
gris have not been sufficient to stem the tide of criminality resulting 
from automobility, as poor compensation and rich opportunities for 
illicit gains have limited the ability of authorities to be honest, never 
mind heroic. 

In response, governmental authorities at different levels have devised 
policies to try to regain control of the wheel. In Mexico City, munici- 
pal leaders in the early aughts prohibited the use of two-door vehicles 
as taxi cabs, a measure targeted at the iconic vocho, whose two-door 
design made it a favored vehicle for malevolent taxi drivers preying 
upon passengers. 95 And at the federal level, the automobile’s threat to 
public security provided the backdrop for President Calderon’s launch- 
ing of the Public Registry of Vehicles. 

The legal framework for the REPUVE was actually established 
on September i, 2004, when President Vicente Fox — from the same 
National Action Party (PAN) as Felipe Calderon, and the first opposi- 
tion candidate to claim the Mexican presidency from the Institutional 
Revolutionary Party (PRI) — signed the REPUVE law. The Public Regis- 
try of Vehicles, as described in the law’s first article, “is an information 
tool of the National System of Public Security, whose goal is to provide 
public and legal security to those acts undertaken with vehicles.” 96 The 
acts to which the law refers include “the adding or dropping of regis- 
trations; obtaining plates; infractions; the loss, robbery, recovery, and 
destruction of vehicles that are produced, assembled, imported, or cir- 
culate in national territory.” 97 

But while the legal basis of the REPUVE is recent, its ideological 
inspiration dates back much further, as evidenced by earlier attempts 
of the federal government to create a national registry of vehicles. The 
Federal Registry of Automobiles, established in 1965, was designed 
mainly to facilitate the collection of taxes and mandate “the registration 
of vehicles manufactured or assembled in the country, or imported, that 
were intended for the transportation of people or cargo.” 98 A successor, 
the Federal Registry of Vehicles, was launched in 1977 to bolster the 
government’s ability to collect taxes on vehicles. The registry primarily 

Prohesion I 83 

targeted units from abroad, especially from the United States, a seg- 
ment of the vehicle population not accounted for in state registries. The 
registry was eliminated by President Carlos Salinas in 1990, however, 
ostensibly due to technical difficulties and an inefficient bureaucratic 
structure. 59 Salinas’s decision to terminate the program was nevertheless 
viewed skeptically and blamed for a subsequent increase in car thefts. 
It is perhaps not surprising, then, that the next effort by the federal gov- 
ernment to control automobility emphasized security. 

The National Registry of Vehicles (RENAVE) was signed into law 
on June z, 1998, by President Ernesto Zedillo. The new federal vehicle 
registry sought to “generate a database belonging to the federal gov- 
ernment consisting of vehicles manufactured, assembled, imported, or 
circulating in national territory in order to prevent contraband and 
automobile thefts.” 100 Combining elements from the previous regis- 
tries, the information stored in the RENAVE was made available to the 
public and supplied by producers, dealers, insurance providers, and car 
owners. Distinctly, however, registration in the program required a fee 
(375 pesos, or 47 US dollars, for new cars). And reflecting the neoliberal 
age in which it was born, the registry was operated by a private conces- 
sion, Talsud. 101 

Founded to combat insecurity, the RENAVE fell into disrepute when 
the head of Talsud, Ricardo Miguel Cavallo, was arrested in Cancun 

d. The Federal Registry of Vehicles also addressed the economic concerns of both the 
federal government and national car dealers, who saw imported vehicles as a threat to the 
industrialization and progress of the nation. The law empowered authorities to “verify 
the registration and legal standing of vehicles, including being able to confiscate them” 
(El Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica, Libro Blanco, 25). 
Despite its limited focus on imported vehicles, the registry contributed an innovative pub- 
lic component to vehicle registration, as it allowed people to consult and verify the legal 
status of their vehicles. 

e. The Salinas administration fully embraced neoliberal reforms, such as reducing im- 
port restrictions as part of NAFTA negotiations and privatizing various state industries. 
Reducing the size and scope of government regulation fell very much in line with neolib- 
eral ideology. Today, the consequences of terminating the Federal Registry of Vehicles 
are largely seen as disastrous. With the termination, “the only authority of the state that 
served in the identification and registration of vehicles produced, assembled, and legally 
admitted into the country disappeared.” And “[the registry’s] disappearance brought with 
it an increase in crime levels with regard to robberies and the alteration and falsification 
of documents” (Castro Medina, Criminah'stica en la identificacion de vehiculos automo- 
tores, 20). The Mexican Association of Automobile Dealers (AMDA) concurs, noting that 
the elimination of the registry left “a legal vacuum” with regard to the administration of 
automobiles, which resulted in a “shameful increase in the theft of autos” (Asociacion 
Mexicana de Distribuidores de Automotores, Un siglo en movimiento, 104). 

84 I Prohesion 

when he was found to be Miguel Angel Cavallo, an Argentine war 
criminal wanted by Spanish authorities for torture and other crimes 
committed during Argentina’s military dictatorship in the late 1970s. 102 
Among the allegations lodged against Cavallo was that he had enriched 
himself while working for the Argentine military by seizing the assets of 
his victims, resources that provided him the capital to begin Talsud. 103 
Thus, not only was the head of the program responsible for ensuring the 
integrity of motor vehicles in Mexico using a false identity, but the head 
of the program responsible for protecting the property of Mexicans had 
enriched himself by seizing the property of people he had tortured. 

Leaving aside the more dramatic personal elements of the story, the 
RENAVE evidences the growing concern among government leaders 
with vehicular security at the turn of the last century, a concern at the 
center of the REPUVE. And the REPUVE, in fundamental ways, attempts 
to learn the lessons of the RENAVE’s failure in order to construct a 
more successful federal registry of automobiles. First, the REPUVE does 
not have an enrollment fee, as the RENAVE did. Second, the RENAVE 
proved that the “operation of the Vehicular Registry under the scheme 
of a public service concession presented insurmountable complications 
that made its performance unviable.” 104 As a result, the REPUVE func- 
tions as a public program, under the authority of the Executive Secre- 
tariat of the National System for Public Security (SESNSP). 105 Finally, 
while the REPUVE preserves the RENAVE’s concern with insecurity, it 
exhibits a particular formulation of security that reveals its governmen- 
tality. In the REPUVE, the link between registration and public security 
is indirect. In a white paper describing the registry, the SESNSP explains, 
“The fact that the REPUVE is an instrument of the National System for 
Public Security does not mean that it is targeted to the search, pursuit, 
localization, or recovery of stolen vehicles in the country.” Rather, “the 
aim of the Public Registry of Vehicles is to provide public and legal 
security to the acts that are undertaken with vehicles.” 

“Public and legal security,” in the eyes of the SESNP, has been com- 
promised by a host of factors. Primary among them has been a “dis- 
proportionate growth of the vehicular fleet circulating in the country,” 
around 6 percent, or 610,000 vehicles per year. This growth presents 
unique challenges to the government, “since at the same time that the 
automobiles increase, so too do the legal acts or facts involving their 
participation,” including “production, importation, sales, rent, financ- 
ing, insurance, theft, repair or destruction, among others. ... As a 
consequence of the increase in the number of vehicles, the number of 

Prohesion I 85 

activities in which they were involved grew, exceeding the capacity of 
the government to offer certainty to citizens regarding the identification 
and the legal circumstances of every automotive unit .” 107 This, com- 
bined with “the intense commercial traffic that exists along the Mexi- 
can borders, principally with the United States of America . . . require [s] 
our country to have, for security’s sake, a registry system capable of 
detecting the origin and destination of all the vehicles circulating on 
national terrain .” 10 

Of course, a number of automobile registries already exist in Mex- 
ico, especially at the state level, that identify vehicles and provide legal 
status. These are the registries that arose under the first legal regime 
described earlier in this chapter. However, the SESNSP explains, 

such instruments do not satisfy the necessity that the citizenry has that the 
federal government guarantee the legal certainty [ certeza juridical] with re- 
spect to the legal situation of vehicles. Because the registries were developed 
by multiple legislatures, they are not similar in the type of data they contain, 
nor do they possess the certainty that the physical characteristics of the auto- 
mobiles correspond to the information about them. In addition, they possess 
a multitude of aims, as some find themselves targeting fiscal concerns rather 
than providing certainty. In addition, the data contained in the different 
registries were not made to be consulted either by federal authorities or the 

. . IO9 


Interestingly, then, it is not a lack of regulation or absence of author- 
ity that breeds the insecurity that the REPUVE aims to respond to. 
Rather, it is the multiplicity of regulations, registries, and authorities 
governing automobility that diminishes the “legal certainty” of vehicles. 

The concept of legal certainty occupies a central place in the 
SESNSP’s white paper. “National security is strengthened,” the doc- 
ument explains, “by providing public and legal certainty to the acts 
involving automobiles, since in consolidating and publicizing a reliable 
and effective vehicular registry, anonymity is suppressed and the com- 
mission of criminal acts is inhibited .” 110 Further, “the REPUVE was 
imagined as an answer to the government’s pressing need of providing 
legal certainty to the presence, situation, and existence of all the vehicles 
moving in Mexican territory. Such certainty strengthens national public 
security directly, since to the extent that the behavior of the automotive 
registry is fully known, it will be possible to control and diminish the 
incidence of crimes committed against a vehicle or with a vehicle .” 111 
Thus, “although the REPUVE is not directly charged to combat car 
thefts or related offenses, in offering certainty and making transparent 

86 I Prohesion 

the legal situation of automobiles, it is clear that it inhibits criminal 
activity and deters the commission of illicit acts.” 11 " 

The SESNSP’s description of legal certainty resonates with key ideas 
introduced in the last chapter. In noting that as a consequence of “the 
increase in the number of vehicles, the number of activities in which 
they were involved grew, exceeding the capacity of the government 
to offer certainty to citizens regarding the identification and the legal 
circumstances of every automotive unit,” the SESNSP speaks to how 
the increasing materiality of mobility in Mexico is reducing the state’s 
ability to govern. And in explaining that the existing “registries were 
developed by multiple legislatures” and “are not similar in the type of 
data they contain,” the SESNSP attests to the problem of redundancy 
and heterogeneity of state agencies dedicated to the administration of 
collective agencies such as automobility. The consequence of increasing 
material agency and redundant state agencies is an “uncertainty” about 
the things through which collective agency happens. 

To ensure the legal certainty of automobiles, the law arms the 
REPUVE with two types of advanced information technologies: (i) a 
database integrating the data of every vehicle in the country, and (z) 
radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags that adhere to vehicles to 
transmit their identifying data as they circulate. The SESNSP describes 
the database as “the prime material of the REPUVE.” It is “a multi- 
dimensional solution of variables and values that stores in an ordered 
manner and in a grand electronic archive the data on vehicles mov- 
ing through national territory .” 113 The information in the database 
includes “vehicle identification number,” “the essential characteristics 
of the vehicle,” “the name and home address of the property owner,” 
and “information provided by federal authorities and federal states in 
accordance with this law ,”” 4 which includes “the inscription/registra- 
tion number assigned by the SESNSP.” 

Data are provided to the database from three distinct types of entities 
with reporting obligations to the REPUVE: autoridades federales (fed- 
eral authorities), including agencies such as the Secretariat of Finance 
and Public Credit, which manages customs in Mexico, and the Secre- 
tariat of Communications and Transportation, which is charged with 
the administration of federal highways; entidades federativas (federa- 
tive entities), the state-level authorities such as departments of motor 
vehicles and justice departments that manage vehicle registries in their 
jurisdictions; and sujetos obligados (obligated subjects or liable par- 
ties), the private-sector businesses dealing with automobiles, such as 

Prohesion I 87 

Autoridades Federates 
(Federal Authorities) 

Finance and Public Credit 
Communications and Transportation 
Foreign Affairs 

Entidades Federativas 
(Federative Entities) 

motor vehicle departments 
justice departments 
finance secretaries 
traffic police 

Sujetos Obligados 
(Liable Parties) 

car producers 
car importers 
car dealers 
body shops 
insurance companies 
financial institutions 

\ » / 

REPUVE Database 

figure 20. Conceptual design of the REPUVE database. 

manufacturers, importers, financing agencies, and insurance companies 
(fig. 20). 

The SESNSP, as the authority in charge of the registry, oversees a 
General Directorate of the Public Registry of Vehicles consisting of 
four subdirectorates, each responsible for a different area of the pro- 
gram. The State and Federal Operations Implementation Directorate, 
for instance, is charged with supervising the program’s adoption by 
the entidades federativas and autoridades federates. The Relations with 
Obligated Subjects Directorate, meanwhile, ensures compliance with 
the REPUVE law via the sujetos obligados. The Procedures and Citi- 
zenry Directorate is responsible for managing the public’s contact with 
the program. And the Oversight and Verification Directorate is respon- 
sible for technical aspects of vehicle inspections (fig. 21). 

As the organizational structure of the REPUVE indicates, the 
SESNSP does not simply administer the flow of data into and out of the 
registry’s database; it also ensures compliance with the REPUVE law. 
Thus, the law empowers the SESNSP to conduct “ordinary and special 
verification visits to the sujetos obligados, who must permit access and 
provide information that the personnel require for the fulfillment of 
their work.” 11 Sujetos obligados, further, are subject to fines for any 
of the following infractions: “enrolling a vehicle in the registry after the 
deadlines established in these procedures”; “not enrolling a vehicle in 
the registry”; “not presenting reports referred to in the law”; “making 
unauthorized use of the proofs of registration, documents, and other 
means of identification related to the registration of vehicles,” “altering, 
omitting, copying, or permitting illicit registrations or notices, regis- 

88 I Prohesion 

figure 21. Organizational structure of the REPUVE. 

tering false data, providing false information or information to unau- 
thorized users or third parties, providing information from the Registry 
without authorization, or not reporting irregularities as required”; and 
“making use of the information, documents, or receipts of the Registry 
for profit, whether directly or via a third party .” 117 

While the REPUVE law places the SESNSP in charge of administer- 
ing and enforcing the rules of the registry, the database itself, “in treating 
a topic of national security,” is stored in the Plataforma Mexico system 
that operates out of the federal police bunker (see chapter i). Information 
entered into the registry by law remains there permanently, even if the car 
exits the country, is destroyed, or cancels its registration at the local level . 11 

Access to the database, meanwhile, is broad, which is in line with 
the government’s conception of “legal certainty.” As the SESNSP notes, 
“The information in the REPUVE database acquires its true value when 
it is consulted and utilized .” 119 To this end, the REPUVE law dictates 
that the “autoridades federates and entidades federativas that provide 
information from their registries to the [REPUVE] registry will have 
access to the information contained in it.” In addition, “any citizen or 
public entity can inform themselves, without charge, of the legal situ- 
ation of a vehicle in Mexican territory,” although the registry is pro- 
hibited from providing personal data, except if one is the owner of the 
vehicle in question or has been authorized to access such information . 120 
The REPUVE provides access to its database through three separate 
mechanisms: a call center; email consultations; and a webpage, where 
individuals can access information about a particular vehicle by enter- 
ing its plate number, vehicle identification number, or registration num- 
ber . 1 ' 1 Once accessed, the registry provides the following information: 
“make, model, year, vehicle class, type, registration number, plates, 

Prohesion I 89 

number of doors, country of origin, engine displacement, number of 
cylinders, number of axles, and legal status of vehicle.” 1 " 1 

These data are detailed but not personal. Thus, a person consulting 
the REPUVE database can know whether the vehicle she has purchased 
or is interested in acquiring has been stolen or altered. In other words, 
the inquiring party would have “legal certainty” that the vehicle is a 
genuine and lawful object. 

The dataset, however, is only the first technical component by which 
the REPUVE aims to increase the legal certainty of automobility in 
Mexico. The more exotic element is proof of registration ( constancia de 
inscription), referred to among REPUVE administrators as el chip. Los 
chips are actually RFID tags or stickers 4.13 inches wide by 2.76 inches 
high (fig. 7), adhered to vehicles once they have been entered into the 
registry. At the center of each sticker lies an integrated circuit or micro- 
chip, based on ISO/IEC 18000-6C RFID standards, which can store 
800 bits of information and transmit that data via radio frequency. The 
RFID tags, chosen by the SESNSP after technical consultations with 
the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the National 
Polytechnic Institute, and the Institute of Technology and Higher Edu- 
cation of Monterrey, and produced by the Neology corporation, are 
passive, which means they transmit data only upon being activated by a 
RFID reader. In addition to data transmission via RFID, each tag pos- 
sesses other security elements: a holographic texture in order to prevent 
its falsification, a miniform number and barcode in its lower portion, 
microtext containing its batch number and the inscription “Registro 
Publico Vehicular Mexico,” and an imprint of the national coat of arms 
in invisible ink. In addition, a tag becomes inoperable when detached 
from the windshield, making its transfer impossible. 123 Each chip has a 
life span of ten years, “during which its physical characteristics remain 
the same without affecting its functioning. In addition, it is able to with- 
stand different climates and continuous exposure to ultraviolet rays.” 124 

The RFID tags arrive from the Neology corporation attached to a 
piece of paper, or “miniform,” and vehicle data are inscribed on them 
through proprietary software. 1 " 5 The only information entered onto a 
tag is the vehicle’s VIN. “The stickers are not applied by the General 
Directorship of the Public Registry of Vehicles, but are distributed among 
the dependencias federales, entidades federativas, and sujetos obligados, 
who apply them.” Sujetos obligados who produce or import vehicles 
simply record the VIN onto the chips, which they adhere to vehicles, 
and then record the link between the VIN, chip number, and originating 

90 I Prohesion 

miniform number in the database. Laser printers then print out the mini- 
forms and tags . 127 In the case of cars already circulating in Mexico, the 
RFID tags are applied by autoridades federales or entidades federativas. 
In such cases, a “physical inspection of the vehicle as well as its docu- 
ments” must first be conducted. A tag is only printed and applied “when 
trained inspectors corroborate that the data of the vehicle correspond 
with that in the documents, and no other illicit modifications have been 
made” to the vehicle. 1 ' Once a tag is printed and applied, “the last phase 
of the process is to verify the correct functioning of the RFID.” To do 
this, the vehicle is passed under “a fixed radio-frequency reading portal,” 
whose radio signal determines whether the data on the RFID sticker can 
be read. When the data are verified, the enrollment process is complete. 

The laws and documents describing the Public Registry of Vehi- 
cles, like the verification vehicular and Floy No Circula programs 
and the Ciudad Juarez vehicle rulebook before them, provide insight 
into the governmental rationality informing the state’s effort to over- 
come the legal uncertainty of the automobile in contemporary Mexico. 
The basic logic of registration, inspection, and regulation remains. But 
the changes to these operations under the REPUVE illuminate how gov- 
ernmental power shifts through the adoption of advanced information 
and surveillance technologies. 

Beginning with registration, the REPUVE does not seek to merely 
create a registry of car-driver couplings, as the first disciplinary regime 
of automobile governance sought, or a registry of vehicle emissions, as 
the risk-management model did, or a registry of any particular aspect of 
automobility. Instead, it endeavors to create a registry of registries, to 
merge the different records kept by entidades federativas, autoridades 
federales, and sujetos obligados into a single database that the SESNSP 
manages and that is stored on Plataforma Mexico . 1 ’ 0 This “registry of 
registries” mirrors a central trend noted by surveillance scholars toward 
the “convergence and integration of different surveillance systems .” 1 ’ 
However, in pushing for the systematic integration of data from the 
entidades federativas and autoridades federales, the federal govern- 
ment demonstrates not only an interest in data merging but also a lack 
of trust in the administrative capacities of the state agencies entrusted 

f. In Kevin Haggerty and Richard Ericson’s “surveillant assemblage,” surveillance 
today is being “driven by the desire to bring systems together, to combine practices and 
technologies and integrate them into a larger whole” (Haggerty and Ericson, “Surveillant 
Assemblage,” 610). 

Prohesion I 91 

with the management of automobility. In essence, the state agencies 
that were “co-produced ” 132 with automobility in order to govern it are 
now seen as obstacles to automobility’s governance. And by creating a 
mechanism for the systematic review and integration of their data, the 
REPUVE provides the federal government a way to “police the police” 
or “govern the governors.” 

Turning to inspection, the REPUVE preserves the practice of system- 
atically examining automobiles. But what is examined has changed. The 
proper conduct of the machine is not what is judged to ensure the safety 
of the driver and others. The gaseous emissions of the machine are not 
what are diagnosed to preserve the natural environment. Rather, the 
body of the vehicle is inspected to certify its identity. To guarantee vehi- 
cle identity, the REPUVE inspection requires technicians to locate three 
instances of corresponding VINs. This use of the vehicle body to verify 
identity is a key theme in surveillance studies . 8 Biometric technologies 
attest to this trend, for example fingerprint and palmprint scans, facial 
recognition, iris scans, and gene mapping. Of course, in the case of the 
REPUVE, the body that interests the state is not human, but machine; 
and the markings it attempts to document are not those left by nature 
or biology, but by industrial manufacturers in accordance with interna- 
tional standards for identifying vehicles. 

The regulation of automobility is also altered under the REPUVE. 
Previously, state agencies were created or charged with watching over 
the conduct of vehicles or their circulation during times of prohibition. 
Now, RFID tags and readers and license plate recognition technology 
are deployed to verify both the identity of vehicles (by matching the 
information stored on RFID tags to license plates and records stored 
in the REPUVE database) and their location (by noting the place of 
the RFID and license plate recognition readers). The state here displays 
an interest in the “presence” of vehicles. This concern with tracking 
movement resonates with the work of surveillance scholars too, who 
have identified a trend toward “enforced locatability” in the electronic 
monitoring of “dangerous persons” such as criminal offenders through 
RFID and GPS technologies that “produce a sense of human proximity 
without the element of physical presence .” 134 

g. “In a world of identity politics and risk management,” notes David Lyon, “surveil- 
lance is turning decisively to the body as a ‘document’ for identification, and as a source 
of data for prediction” (Lyon, Surveillance Society , 72.) 

92 I Prohesion 

This “enforced locatability” is present in the REPUVE, but its tech- 
nological composition alters the operation. On the one hand, since 
RFID tags are affixed directly to vehicles, this regulation is not “partici- 
pant dependent,” 135 requiring the active participation of people enrolled 
in the program. Indeed, once applied, el chip automatically communi- 
cates its information whenever it passes a corresponding reader, absolv- 
ing the individual driver of any obligation to check in with authorities 
and denying her of any knowledge that she has been checked in with 
authorities. On the other hand, in recording the “presence” of vehi- 
cles automatically, the RFID tags and readers, license plate recognition 
technology, and digital databases of the REPUVE eliminate the need 
for police officers to regulate automobility. The surveillance technolo- 
gies of the REPUVE in this sense “displace” 1 ’ 6 the human agents of the 
state who have historically been responsible for supervising automobil- 
ity. Through these mechanisms, the regulation of automobility becomes 
more automated. 

In sum, the structure of power at work in the Public Registry of 
Vehicles remains the same as in previous regimes of automobile gov- 
ernmentality. The automobile continues to be governed by a process of 
registration, inspection, and regulation. But the introduction of surveil- 
lance technologies alters the operation of the process (fig. 22). And these 
alterations, in turn, reveal much about the evolution of state power in 
contemporary Mexico. 


Various terms have been used to describe the increasing presence and 
impact of surveillance technologies on contemporary society. Roger 
Clarke in the late 1980s developed the term “dataveillance” to describe 
how surveillance had moved from a physical monitoring of individu- 
als to “the systematic use of personal data systems in the investigation 
or monitoring of the actions or communications of one or more per- 
sons.” 1 ’ 7 Mark Poster, also early in the information-technology revo- 
lution, modified Foucault’s concept of the “panopticon” 1 ’ 8 to fit the 
digital present, coining “superpanopticon” to describe how “circuits of 
communication” and the “databases they generate” constitute “a sys- 
tem of surveillance without walls, windows, towers or guards.” 1 ’ 9 Gary 
T. Marx, who has studied surveillance for decades, uses the term “new 
surveillance” to distinguish how monitoring is now done “through 
the use of technical means to extract or create personal or group data, 

Prohesion I 93 






Road Safety 
(191 Os-present) 

Vehicles and 

Capability of 
Drivers & 
Operability of 

Compliance with 
Traffic Rules 

Pollution “Risk” 

Vehicles and their 

Essence of 


Legal Certainty 
(201 Os-present) 

Vehicles and their 

Materiality of 
Vehicles & 
Integrity of 


figure 22. Governing automobility in Mexico. 

whether from individuals or contexts .” 140 Kevin Haggerty and Rich- 
ard Ericson modify the Deleuzian concept of “assemblage” to name 
the “surveillant assemblage,” which “operates by abstracting human 
bodies from their territorial settings, and separating them into a series 
of discrete flows [that] . . . are then reassembled in different locations 
as discrete and virtual ‘data doubles .’” 141 David Lyon uses the term 
“surveillance society” to highlight the ubiquity of surveillance tech- 
nologies in everyday life and to stress, contrary to dystopian trends in 
other works on surveillance, that “surveillance — watching over — both 
enables and constrains, involves care and control.” 14 " 

The governmental rationality on display in the REPUVE shares many 
points of connection with these ideas. The registry monitors automo- 
bility by processing data rather than watching over their circulation. 
This monitoring occurs without the policing agents that defined previ- 
ous modes of surveillance — it is accomplished instead through technical 
means that record the identity and location of vehicles at a particular 
time and place and transmit the data to another. And it is designed to 
provide both care and control, as ordinary Mexicans can access the 
information in order to have greater confidence in buying and selling 
vehicles, and the security forces can use the same information to track 
stolen vehicles. In this sense, the REPUVE embodies “dataveillance,” 
the “superpanopticon,” “new surveillance,” “surveillant assemblage,” 
or “the surveillance society.” 

At the same time, it is difficult to apply these concepts wholesale to 
Mexico. For one, the concepts are often cast widely, broadly describing 

94 I Prohesion 

the applications, significance, and consequences of surveillance technol- 
ogies on society, including not only how relations between governors 
and the governed change but also how intimacy, family, and recreation 
are affected. The REPUVE, however, responds to a particular prob- 
lem of governance — the uncertainty of automobility — that cannot be 
assumed to have a significance beyond the state. 

Nevertheless, these concepts do speak to a changing relationship 
between the state and citizens, whereby the former utilizes surveillance 
technologies to keep the latter under regular monitoring. But in the 
REPUVE, the particular problem that the state is grappling with does not 
concern human subjects, but the state and the automobile. There are too 
many databases consisting of too many assorted formats unable to com- 
municate with one another, and there are too many vehicles involving 
too many diverse legal acts for the government to keep track of. What 
concerns the state here is not human subjectivity, but the state agencies 
and material agency that underlie the exercise of automobility in society. 

To respond to these challenges, the REPUVE endeavors not to track 
individual subjects or even human populations, but to integrate the dis- 
parate databases tracking automobility in Mexico and to attach RFID 
tags to vehicles to establish their “presence.” This is a double opera- 
tion, involving processes distinct from those usually associated with 
surveillance. And it thus invites conceptual work that might capture its 

In searching for the words to describe the operations of power in the 
REPUVE, the image of “sticking” keeps coming to mind. It is an image 
inspired by the RFID tags used in the program. With these tags, the 
state adheres itself through its technological delegates to the material 
substance of automobility. And in doing this, the state aims to make 
automobility more adherent to the law. Thus, adhesion is a dominant 
theme. The image of sticking also applies to integrating the databases of 
the entidades federativas, autoridades federates and sujetos obligados. 
That is, the state is interested in having its different agencies become 
more consistent and unified, or cohesive. Cohesion, then, is another 
theme. Adhesion and cohesion. The root in both words is the same, bae- 
rere, a Latin verb that means “to stick.” 14 ’ And it provides a simple way 
to imagine the double operation of power present in the REPUVE. To 
control automobility, the state attempts to make the state agencies and 
private actors governing automobility more cohesive with one another 
and to make the materiality of automobility more adhesive to the infra- 
structure of the state. 

Prohesion I 95 

These reflections suggest that collective agency in society more gen- 
erally possesses a kesion, or viscosity, that can be made either more or 
less amenable to governance independent of individual subjectivity. The 
amenability of automobility to governance, for instance, can be manipu- 
lated through the automobile itself — by maintaining records of a vehicle 
(manufacture, sale, registration) that create its history, by placing mark- 
ings on it such as vehicle identification numbers or license plates that 
identify it to authorities, by attaching an external surveillance technol- 
ogy such as an RFID tag that allows it to be tracked by authorities, or by 
designing it with certain features such as black boxes that allow it to be 
tracked in time and place. Or it can be influenced through the material 
environment through which it circulates — by installing obstacles such as 
toll booths, by altering the surfaces of roadways with rumble strips, or by 
modifying the number of traffic lanes. Or it can be affected through the 
organization of state agencies that police it — by changing the arrange- 
ment of authority both within departments (chains of command) and 
between them (organizational structure), by revising the composition of 
departments through staffing choices, by keeping records on vehicles, 
and so forth. The REPUVE, then, can be understood as an effort to 
increase the hesion of automobility in Mexico by using surveillance tech- 
nologies to alter the composition of automobiles (by attaching RFID 
stickers on them), their physical environment (by installing RFID scan- 
ners on roadways), and their policing (by integrating registries). 

Speaking of the state’s adoption of surveillance technologies in terms 
of hesion rather than surveillance enables us to imagine governance 
outside the purely human drama of governors and the governed. As a 
quality inherent to collective agency, hesion directs our attention to the 
other elements besides humans that enable activity in society. This is 
not to say that people are not involved. Politicians pass the legislation 
that establishes the rules governing collective agency, and citizens or 
individuals are responsible for ensuring compliance with the law. But 
the concept pushes us to imagine dynamics of social control outside 
human subjects and inside the material artifacts and state infrastruc- 
tures through which collective agency happens. 

Introducing hesion to describe the Mexican government’s novel 
program to govern the uncertainty of automobility in Mexico is not to 
suggest that the phenomenon is new. State authorities since the found- 
ing of Mexico have sought to make agency more tractable by manip- 
ulating its conditions. In the case of mobility, this was done during 
colonial times by erecting presidios, or forts, near roadways to secure 

96 I Prohesion 

commercial transports from Chichimeca and bandit raids. In the case 
of communications, the material culture of the indigenous peoples of 
Mexico was destroyed and schools were established so that the sym- 
bolic basis of Spanish culture would take root in the conquered region. 
In the case of identification, differences in the physical appearance of 
peoples inhabiting colonial Mexico were transferred into pinturas de 
casta that instructed viewers on the racial hierarchies being imposed 
on society. 

So the state’s practice of manipulating the hesion of collective agen- 
cies in Mexico is not new. But at the same time, the REPUVE, as well 
as the other efforts of the Mexican government to enroll surveillance 
technologies to fight crime, does reveal a certain postmodern condition, 
or post-postmodern condition, which makes prohesion, which I define 
as governmental efforts to increase the hesion of collective agencies, 
especially significant. First, the materiality of collective agency today is 
increasing and/or changing. In the context of economic liberalization 
and global production, the number of cars, mobile phones, computers, 
and so forth in Mexico today is increasing. As a result, the vibrancy of 
mobility and communications is enhanced and becomes more difficult 
to govern. 

Second, the existing infrastructure of the state has become less capa- 
ble of governing agency. The pace of change in mobility, communi- 
cations, and identification has left behind the state organizations that 
were “co-produced” over the course of modernity to govern collec- 
tive agencies. The neoliberal policies of the Mexican government were 
intended to diminish the state’s oversight of automobility. The Salinas 
administration terminated the Federal Registry of Vehicles in 1990, and 
the Zedillo administration entrusted the RENAVE to a private firm. 
And corruption remains a pervasive problem for the state in Mexico, 
which reduces its capacity to enforce the law. 

Third, the alternatives available to the Mexican state to address the 
insecurities of collective agency are limited by the course of history. If, 
before, the state could control the number of automobiles in Mexico 
through restrictions on production, importation, and pricing and the use 
of telephone communications through the monopolization of telephone 
services, its embrace of neoliberal political economy emphasizing free 
trade, smaller government, and international standards of democratic 
governance restricts its ability to manage society as it had done in the past. 

Fourth, surveillance technologies provide state authorities with novel 
tools that allow it to reimagine the art of governing in a way unparalleled 

Prohesion I 97 

perhaps since the dawn of statistics . 144 If, prior, the ordering and con- 
trol of society was accomplished through shaping human subjectivity 
through disciplinary techniques 145 or manipulating populations through 
control tactics , 146 computer systems, RFID, GPS, and biometric tech- 
nologies now allow states to govern collective agencies without having 
to engage unreliable human subjects or depend solely on corruptible 
human agents. The materiality of collective life can be directly engaged 
instead. Thus, while besion is not new, the challenges of governance 
that have accrued over Mexico’s recent past and the technological tools 
laid before state authorities today make prohesion a more fitting form 
of governmentality than discipline. 

It is not surprising, then, that when the Mexican government has had 
to grapple with the challenges of mobile telephony and identification in 
its War on Crime, it has developed programs — the National Registry 
of Mobile Telephone Users (RENAUT) and the Citizen Identity Card 
(CEDI) — that also feature prohesive strategies. As verbal communica- 
tion has migrated from telephone wires to radio waves, the state has 
struggled to get a handle on communications, especially in cases involv- 
ing kidnappings. In response, the RENAUT creates a governmental 
database of cell phone lines and their subscribers and requires cell ser- 
vice providers to create their own databases storing subscribers’ names, 
addresses, fingerprints, and photographs and to provide geolocalization 
of individual calls, all of which exhibits a push for the cohesion of 
records and data-processing procedures involving mobile telephony. 
The RENAUT also mandates cell users to register their phones with the 
registry by sending a text message with their name and date of birth, or 
Unique Population Registry Code (CURP ), 148 a move akin to adhering 
state RFID stickers on automobiles. Thus, an activated phone, like a 
passing car, can be identified and localized immediately. The CEDI pro- 
vides a single form of identification to replace the innumerable forms 
(birth certificate, driver’s license, voting card, advanced electronic 
signature for tax payments, military service card, etc.) that Mexicans 
otherwise contend with, a cohesive idea. And the CEDI bases personal 
identification on biometrics such as photographs and iris scans that are 
embedded into a government-issued card , 145 which evokes having the 
body adhered to the state’s governmental infrastructure. 

In the REPUVE, RENAUT, and CEDI, then, one witnesses the 
emergence of a distinct mode of governmentality for the control of 
collective agency. Whether the brave generals, inspectors, and police 
officers depicted in El automovil gris ever approximated their historical 

98 I Prohesion 

counterparts and inspired their successors, the emergence of prohesion 
speaks to their place in history. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, 
insecurity would not be overcome by having men of the law bring ban- 
dits before firing squads, but by deputizing advanced information and 
surveillance technologies to make the things of mobility, communica- 
tion, and identification stick. 


Ni con goma 

“If you go up two floors, no one in this building even knows 
what the REPUVE is. They know that we’re here on this 
floor. But they don’t know what the program is ... ” 

“Until they have their car stolen. Then they know what it is.” 
— Lucas Espinoza and Daniela Flores, REPUVE administrators 


On April 10, 2010, an important deadline loomed for mobile telephone 
users in Mexico. By this date, cell users needed to register their phone 
lines with the government’s National Registry of Mobile Telephone 
Users (RENAUT) or risk termination of service. 1 Users could register in 
one of two ways: by sending a text message to the number 2877 with 
the word “ALTA” (Spanish for “subscribe”), together with their name 
and date of birth or their Unique Population Registry Code (CURP); or 
by going to a service provider to have their data recorded.' Registra- 
tions at service centers would also record user fingerprints as a security 

The deadline did not pass without controversy, however. Public reac- 
tion to the RENAUT was highly critical. The registry was said to violate 
the privacy granted by Article 16 of the Constitution, which sets out 
people’s right to not be disturbed in their home, property, or documents 
except upon a court order. 3 And various lawsuits challenged the legality 
of the registry. 4 The critical reception extended to service providers as 
well. They refused to comply with the RENAUT’s requirements to col- 
lect biometric data. And they vacillated on the question of suspending 
service to subscribers who did not register their phone lines. Movistar, 
which controls 20 percent of Mexico’s cellular market, announced that 
it would not suspend service; Telcel, which holds majority market share 


ioo I Ni con goma 

and is owned by sometimes “world’s richest person” Carlos Slim, stated 
that it would suspend lines but allow continued text service.’ 

Fittingly, given the ethereal substance of mobile communications, 
the controversy extended into the digital realm. In the days and weeks 
before the deadline, the Twitter page #RENAUT exploded with mes- 
sages critical of the program: 

For my part (and I believe many others), #RENAUT is not the solution and I 
do not agree with it, let’s say #NOalReanut [sic] -> 

I say #No to Big Brother! Campaign against dystopia. http://www. #acta #renaut #mexico 

Remember the scandal about the national registry of autos? Do you trust 
registering your cellular phone? #RENAUT #mx 

“Possible FAIL for #RENAUT . . . we can register ourselves with fake info 
and more than once . . . hahaha!! 
Give it a RT 

They Can Take Away Our Cell Phone Numbers But They Cant Take Away 
Our Freeeeeeeeeedoooooooooom #renaut” 
[original in English] 

Did you know the #RENAUT plans to include your fingerprints in a second 
stage? Check out: #BigBrotherFail 

Twitter messages such as these not only conveyed people’s antipa- 
thy toward the telephone registry but also included key details about 
its operation that readers might not already know. The registry would 
include fingerprints. And more importantly, one could register multiple 
times using false data. 

Various webpages offered additional information on the registry’s 
operation. One blog, Trucos para euadir RENAUT (Tricks for evading 
RENAUT), featured an image of a naked foot with its sole facing the 
reader and its middle toe extended in simulation of a middle finger. It 
gave readers strategies for duping the registry, for example, what the blog 
called the “zombie” technique: “We search for deceased Mexicans on the 
Internet or in a newspaper. We copy the data of the deceased and regis- 
ter them. That way we have a live phone, but with calls from the great 
beyond.” Another option was the “chameleon,” targeting social networks 
such as Facebook and HI5: “We search, in whatever network, user profiles 
that display names, dates of birth, and places of residence, preferably those 
with advertising attached to them, since they are usually already regis- 
tered with their CHRP.” The post goes on, “There are also various social 
networks of professionals (accountants, lawyers, engineers, etc.) where 

Ni con goma I ioi 

users display their full name and date of birth. Also, we can casually add 
friends to Facebook or HI 5 to learn their data. Once we have recorded 
the data, we can go the [federal government’s] CURP Web portal and fill 
out the profile data for the users, hit click, and bingo! it shows you their 
CURP, which we will send to RENAUT, who accepts it gladly. This is a bit 
tedious, but completely reliable. 100% tested. This is how I registered.” 

The “chameleon” strategy highlights an interesting characteristic of 
Mexico’s Unique Population Registry Code. The algorithm that gener- 
ates the CURP is publicly available, making it possible to calculate other 
people’s codes, so long as their full name and date of birth are known. 
On this basis, those critical of the RENAUT pushed the envelope fur- 
ther, detailing how a simple Wikipedia entry for someone like Presi- 
dent Felipe Calderon could be used, in combination with the National 
Population Registry’s CURP portal, to determine his CURP and register 
one’s phone line with it. 7 

When the April deadline passed, 70 percent of the 83,500,000 mobile 
lines in Mexico were registered with the RENAUT. This left 25,202,93 5 
lines at risk of disconnection. However, the digital campaign against the 
RENAUT left its mark. Newspapers reported that upward of 50,000 
of the millions of telephone numbers registered were fictitious, with 
10,000 registrations made in the name of President Felipe Calderon. 

But the National Registry of Mobile Telephone Users was not alone 
in its difficulties. The Citizen Identity Card (CEDI) was mired in its own 
problems. The identity card had been announced by Calderon in July 
2009. Already by August 2009, the newspaper La Jornada published 
opinions of officials from the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) who criti- 
cized the CEDI on the basis that Mexicans would confuse it with their 
voter card. The voter card, according to the officials, had served as the 
de facto form of national identity for the last two decades and the gov- 
ernment had invested $4 billion in it. Alberto Alonso y Coria, execu- 
tive director of the Federal Electoral Registry, explained that the voter 
registry contained the biometric data of seventy-eight million people of 
voting age and that the voter card should “survive and remain under 
whichever scheme, because it is an instrument that not only has a broad 
social acceptance, but also the legal capacity to identity Mexican citi- 
zens and provide security in the most important event for the IFE, vot- 
ing. The ID allows us to guarantee that only those who have the right 
to vote do so and that they only do so once.” 9 In the eyes of the IFE, the 
Citizen Identity Card was not only a waste of taxpayer money but also 
a threat to the integrity of democratic elections in Mexico, a right only 
recently won. And as one of the most respected institutions in Mexico, 

102 I Ni con goma 

after the Catholic Church and the military , 10 the IFE’s opposition to the 
CEDI helped engender a wider opposition to the card and placed the 
fate of the program in doubt. 

The Public Registry of Vehicles (REPUVE), meanwhile, was encoun- 
tering its own complications. Unlike the other two programs, these 
were born not of notoriety but of a lack of familiarity altogether. When 
I visited Mexico City in summer 2010 to collect data on the REPUVE, 
I learned that no one in my immediate circle of friends and acquain- 
tances had heard of the program. Indeed, no one I spoke to around 
the city knew of it, despite the pomp and circumstance accompany- 
ing its launch the previous summer. Invariably, in their effort to be 
polite to a misguided gringo, people explained that what I was describ- 
ing sounded much like the mobile telephone registry, which was regu- 
larly in the news that spring. The defenos’ (residents of Mexico City) 
ignorance of the automobile registry was understandable. Although the 
program aimed to register, inspect, and regulate the nearly twenty-five 
million vehicles circulating in the country by 2012,” only a handful of 
Mexico’s thirty-two states (San Luis Potosf, Veracruz, Baja California 
Sur, Colima, Sonora, and Zacatecas) were applying radio-frequency 
identification (RFID) tags to vehicles in summer 2010, thus leaving the 
future of the registry in considerable doubt. 

These vignettes demonstrate that if Mexico’s mobile telephone reg- 
istry, identity card, and automobile registry evidence a distinct mode 
of governmentality, “making thing stick” is more easily done in the- 
ory than in practice. State strategies for gaining new holds on com- 
munications, personal identification, and mobility meet with multiple 
obstacles. People refuse to comply with measures they deem invasive. 
Companies balk at the financial costs associated with new programs. 
And politicians, public officials, and state governments oppose these 
efforts for political gain and to protect their own domains of power. As 
a result, the viability of these programs is left in question. Thus, while 
the basic logic of the RENAUT, CEDI, and REPUVE can be described 
as prohesion, the diverse points of resistance that the programs encoun- 
ter give the impression that “nothing works,” a sense captured by the 
Spanish phrase ni con goma, which is used when things “do not fit” or 
“go together” but literally means “not even with glue,” an apt phrase 
to describe the failings of programs intended to “make things stick.” 

This chapter concentrates on the resistance that state surveillance 
in Mexico engenders. While the term “resistance” might immediately 
bring to mind concerned individuals organizing themselves to oppose 

Ni con goma I 103 

the government, the stories that make up this chapter offer a more 
expansive view of defiance in sociolegal contexts. Over the past three 
decades, scholars have come to conceive of resistance in terms of the 
everyday “weapons of the weak” 1 ' that ordinary people draw on to 
oppose the “common place of law ” 13 in their lives. The uneven histo- 
ries of the RENAUT, CEDI and REPUVE, however, demonstrate that 
major points of resistance to state projects derive from other sources 
as well, including political and bureaucratic structures formed over the 
course of modern history, cultural formations residing at the core of 
national histories, and technological and design elements embedded in 
monitoring programs. As the state looks to gain a greater hold over 
collective agencies in society that are distributed across a diverse col- 
lection of actors, institutions, and material arrangements, it encounters 
resistance all along that distribution. To understand the power, or lack 
thereof, of surveillance technologies in contemporary society, then, one 
must not only consider their design, nor just individuals’ reactions to 
them, but the range of resistance they encounter. 


Resistance is part and parcel of any effort to exercise control. Michel 
Foucault made this point bluntly with his oft-quoted dictum that “where 
there is power, there is resistance .” 14 It is James Scott, however, who 
provides the definitive treatment of resistance in his influential work 
Weapons of the Weak. Based on research with Malay peasants, Scott 
claims that the weak do not counter authority through the “peasant 
rebellions,” “peasant revolutions,” or other forms of organized resis- 
tance that have usually captured the imagination of scholars. Rather, 
they do so through “everyday forms of peasant resistance,” which 
consist of “foot dragging, dissimulation, false compliance, pilfering, 
feigned ignorance, slander, arson, sabotage, and so forth.” In contrast 
to organized resistance, such as strikes, marches, or political campaigns, 
these mundane forms of resistance “require little or no coordination 
or planning; they often represent a form of individual self-help; and 
they typically avoid any direct symbolic confrontation with authority 
or with elite norms.” 

This is not to say that resistance cannot take organized forms. 
Although Scott does not engage it directly, the literature on social move- 
ments and collective action describes tools that subjects can employ, 
in addition to the “weapons of the weak,” against those in authority. 

104 I Ni con goma 

Whether arising from the rational choices of participants 16 and mobi- 
lization of resources by organizers, 17 political opportunities at a given 
historical moment, 1 the “historicity” of contemporary societies, 19 the 
construction and maintenance of collective identity, the strategic fram- 
ing strategies of organizers to the broader public,' 1 or the emotions and 
meanings imbued in issues and events, collective action is able to pro- 
duce the force necessary to both resist the debilitating effects of power 
and remake the social landscape by effecting political change,' 3 legis- 
lative action, 24 or — even when failing to achieve stated goals — raising 
public consciousness around key issues. 25 

But Weapons of the Weak highlights the effects that seemingly innocu- 
ous “everyday forms of resistance,” devoid of the lofty goals of collective 
action, can have. “When such acts are rare and isolated, they are of little 
interest,” Scott explains, given their inability to affect the operations of 
hierarchical relations in society. “But when they become a consistent pat- 
tern (even though uncoordinated, let alone organized) we are dealing with 
resistance,” which counts as “any act(s) by member(s) of a subordinate 
class that is or are intended either to mitigate or deny claims (for exam- 
ple, rents, taxes, prestige) made on that class by superordinate classes 
(for example, landlords, large farmers, the state) or to advance its own 
claims (for example, work, charity, respect) vis-a-vis those subordinate 
classes.” “The intrinsic nature and, in one sense, the ‘beauty’ of much 
peasant resistance,” he adds, “is that it often confers immediate and con- 
crete advantages, while at the same time denying resources to the appro- 
priating classes, and that it requires little or no manifest organization.”' 7 

The withholding of resources to the appropriating classes is vital for 
understanding the true force behind the “weapons of the weak.” To 
make the point, Scott offers the example of peasant desertions from 
the Russian Army in 1917 during the height of the First World War." 
The desertions were not motivated by high-minded aspirations to top- 
ple the czarist regime and fight for a progressive political agenda. The 
poor souls who found themselves conscripted into the Imperial Russian 
Army simply wanted to return home to care for their families. But these 
self-interested acts, coalescing into a wave of desertions, led to the col- 
lapse of the czar’s main institution of repression and hastened the fall of 
Nicholas II and the Russian imperial order. 

Scott’s work on peasant resistance has profoundly influenced the 
social sciences. In the case of sociolegal research, this perspective 
helped pave the way for understanding the “common place of law.” In 
this view, the law is not a mere tool of authority that instantaneously 

Ni con goma I 105 

endows those possessing it with a mystical power to dictate relations in 
society. It is instead a process that can provide the subaltern unantici- 
pated opportunities to resist and counter those in positions of authority. 
This is so whether one speaks of a Filipino peasant in the US territory of 
Hawai’i, whose refusal to have his stigmata treated disrupts the forma- 
tion of identities central to the exercise of power in the occupied land, 
or of the feminist movement’s activism to change domestic violence law 
to protect women from gender violence .' 9 In the “common place of 
law,” people can oppose authority through “resistance against law,” 
which means refusing to comply with its dictates; “resistance by means 
of law,” which is using the legal system to challenge authority and privi- 
lege; and “resistance which redefines the meaning of law,” by adopting 
the law’s language and legitimacy to challenge established notions of 
justice and the social world .’ 0 

This literature on resistance provides a good starting point for under- 
standing the difficulties experienced by the National Registry of Mobile 
Telephone Users, the Citizen Identity Card, and the Public Registry of 
Vehicles. And the next sections borrow from it to describe the positions 
that the public and business community assumed against the surveil- 
lance programs. However, the obstacles faced by the federal government 
in implementing its security programs extend beyond these traditional 
sources of resistance. The surveillance technologies in Mexico’s War on 
Crime have confronted four distinct types of challenges: the concerns 
of citizens, the misgivings of the business community, the composition 
of the state and interplay of political interests within it, and technical 
constraints. Because each is meaningful to the outcomes experienced by 
the Calderon administration in attempting to reform the state’s security 
apparatus, the following review encourages a broader understanding of 
resistance in sociopolitical contexts. 



The digital campaign against the RENAUT reveals that many people in 
Mexico took a clear position “against the law.” These individuals were 
critical of the law. And they sought to sabotage its operation. But what 
would bring ordinary people in Mexico to stand against the RENAUT? 
This section examines three interrelated sources of uneasiness: concerns 
over privacy, insecurity about the security of the state, and mistrust of 
the state forged over time. 

io 6 I Ni con goma 

4.3.1 Privacy Concerns 

Over spring and summer 2011, I distributed a survey about the 
RENAUT, CEDI, and REPUVE and security in Mexico to ninety- 
eight individuals from upper-middle and working-class neighborhoods 
in Mexico City and rural Zacatecas. The survey briefly described the 
programs and asked respondents to answer a series of questions about 
them, including “Do you support this program?” and “Why?” When 
responding to the “Why?” question, respondents were prompted to 
provide a short answer. 

In the case of the RENAUT, 52 of 97 (53.6 percent) respondents 
answered “No” to the question of supporting the program. The 
most common reason identified in their short answers had to do with 

To me, [this program] should not have been implemented because it 
controls people and violates privacy. 

I don’t agree [with the program], there is already no privacy. 

They take away our privacy but you can’t do anything about it 
because it’s mandatory. 

Thus, people in Mexico, like people in other countries asked about 
their opinions on government surveillance,’ 1 felt that having to register 
their phone lines would result in a loss of privacy. 

4.3.2 Security Insecurities 

Interestingly, however, privacy concerns in Mexico involve more than 
unease about what the government might know about you. As fre- 
quently, people expressed the following concerns: 

Personal data are used for other purposes. 

I believe that the information is sold to criminals. 

There is so much corruption and you don’t know who to trust. 

It [the registry] won’t help; if the data are used, they’ll be used by 
criminals inside of the program. 

Many times they sell information to other companies. 

As these statements reveal, while Mexicans are concerned about the 
government violating their privacy, they are as concerned about crimi- 
nal elements or other third parties gaining access to their data. In other 

Ni con goma I 107 

words, they are not so much worried about the “right to be let alone,” 
as US Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis famously described the 
right to privacy, as they are about the security of their personal data. 

There is a touch of irony to Mexicans’ concerns about data secu- 
rity, since the telephone registry is designed to bolster security. More 
importantly, these concerns increased skepticism about the program, 
which dampened the number of people registering their phones ahead 
of the April 10, 2010, deadline. But these doubts were not exclusive to 
the RENAUT. In the case of the Citizen Identity Card, this apprehen- 
sion about privacy and, more specifically, data security was repeated. 
Asked to give their opinions in support or opposition of the CEDI, 52 
°f 97 (53-6 percent) again responded “No.” As to “why,” those sur- 
veyed noted, “It’s bad that now the government wants to keep us under 
watch,” “We already have IFE, why do we need more?” and “Because 
they will always be checking in on us.” But data security again was 
uppermost in their minds: “There’s no guarantee that my data will be 
in good hands,” “Because I no longer trust the president,” and “I’m not 
sure it’s legitimate; it doesn’t give me confidence.” 

Believing that the government works hand in hand with criminal 
elements or is willing to sell citizens’ private data to the highest bid- 
der might sound overly suspicious. But it is worth remembering that 
these opinions harken back to historical events in Mexico that remain 
present in people’s memory. The Twitter user at the beginning of the 
chapter who remarked, “Remember the scandal about the national reg- 
istry of autos? Do you trust registering your cellular phone?” provides 
a prime example of this. The registry the user references is the National 
Registry of Vehicles (RENAVE), the notorious for-profit program oper- 
ated by Ricardo Cavallo, the Argentine war criminal, who did indeed 
use the registry’s databases to target vehicles to steal. In this case, the 
criminal was very much a part of the government. Following that sor- 
did tale, in 2002, all of the data of sixty million Mexican voters con- 
tained in the Federal Electoral Registry and managed by the Federal 
Electoral Institute, the main opponent to the new identity card, was 
sold by the Mexican company Soluciones Mercadologfas, which had 
been contracted to manage the database, to the US company Choice 
Point.’ Choice Point in turn resold the data, for the price of $1 million 
per year, to the US federal government, whose Border Patrol used it to 
identify Mexican migrants crossing the Mexican-US border. Thus, data 
entrusted to the government has been sold to third parties and used 
against Mexican citizens before. These stories remain present in the 

io8 I Ni con goma 

popular imagination of Mexicans and are a ready well of mistrust when 
they encounter programs such as the mobile phone registry, national 
identity card, or automobile registry. 

Politicians and those working with the programs openly acknowl- 
edged the challenge these ghosts of Mexico’s administrative past 
posed in the present. As Mexican senator Miguel Angel Chico Herrera 
expressed when discussing the CEDI in a 2011 newspaper interview, 
“The population has lost trust in authorities and it has to be said openly 
that these identity documents could end up on the black market, as 
happened with other documents . . . the registry of vehicles or the voter 
roll that the IFE has, and so many other documents, identifications, or 
lists of citizens that have appeared on the black market.”” Diego Avila, 
meanwhile, a technician working at the REPUVE site in Zacatecas that 
I visited, noted much the same. “There are 20 percent of the people that 
simply are not going to come, they’re not going to come [to register]. 
Maybe they have bad information. They think that this is insecure, that 
we work for criminals, like RENAVE. RENAVE was a bad program 
that is distorting the REPUVE, because people think that it’s the same 
story.” This left those responsible for implementing the program, such 
as Samuel Gallo, an official in the REPUVE’s State and Federal Opera- 
tions Implementation Directorate, in a position where they had to, as he 
explained it, “combat the history of RENAVE.” 

4.3.3 Government Mistrust 

At the heart of Mexicans’ historical memory and their critical com- 
ments about the three security programs is a mistrust of government, a 
view of the government as corrupt, illegitimate, and/or ineffective. At 
times, these views are expressed explicitly. In certain media outlets, for 
instance, the Citizen Identity Card has been deemed of dubious legiti- 
macy because the amendment to the Population Law calling for its cre- 
ation “was passed in 1990 ... as a mere expression of the will of the 
head of the executive branch” — Carlos Salinas — who has gone down 
as the most unpopular leader in modern Mexican history after Porfirio 
Diaz.’ Implemented before Mexican democracy returned, the CEDI is 
seen to lack the weight of the law. 

Similarly, on blogs and opinion pages, people doubted that the gov- 
ernment would ever be able to enforce the sanctions associated with 
noncompliance. Commenting on the RENAUT, for example, Ernesto 
Villanueva, a law professor at the National Autonomous University of 

Ni con goma I 109 

Mexico specializing in information rights, opined that “it’s going to 
be impossible to eliminate [people’s cellular] service or impose a sanc- 
tion on 40% or 60% of cellular users because they will never have a 
cell phone in their name. Please! We live in Mexico. If the most basic 
elements of public security cannot be guaranteed, how are they going 
to selectively apply the law to those Mexicans and the national cel- 
lular industry?’” 5 Because the state is unable to control crime in the 
first place, it is hard for some observers to believe that the state will be 
capable of policing something as sophisticated as mobile technology or 
of contending with the influence of cell service providers. 

The historical memory of Mexicans thus bears on their experiences 
and expectations of surveillance programs in the present. As James 
Scott mentions in describing the roots of resistance beyond self-interest, 
many forms of resistance 

may be individual actions, but this is not to say that they are uncoordi- 
nated. ... It is, for example, no exaggeration to say that much of the folk 
culture of the peasant “little tradition” amounts to a legitimation, or even a 
celebration, of precisely the kinds of evasive and cunning forms of resistance 
I have examined. ... In this and in other ways (for example, tales of bandits, 
peasant heroes, religious myths) the peasant subculture helps to underwrite 
dissimulation, poaching, theft, tax evasion, avoidance of conscription, and 
so on. While folk culture is not coordination in the formal sense, it often 
achieves a “climate of opinion” which, in other more institutionalized soci- 
eties, would require a public relations campaign. 

In Mexico, the bizarre stories surrounding previous efforts to register 
people and things enter into popular culture and serve as touchstones 
that work against similar programs in the present, placing many Mexi- 
cans in a position “against the law” of prohesion. 



Ordinary Mexicans — whose mobile phones, multiple forms of identifica- 
tion, and automobiles are the focus of the surveillance programs — were 
not the only ones opposing the programs. Companies and businesses 
responsible for the manufacture, sales, and service of the technological 
artifacts at the heart of mobile telephony and automobility also resisted 
the move toward prohesion. As noted at the start of the chapter, cellu- 
lar service providers varied in their support of the RENAUT. Movistar 
publicly opposed the program, stating that it would neither provide 

no I Ni con goma 

users’ data, collect biometrics, nor cut services to those who did not 
sign up. Automobile producers and importers also expressed reserva- 
tions about the REPUVE. And like the survey respondents, history 
loomed large. 

In an interview with Tomas Ayala and Vicente Bautista of the Pro- 
cedures and Citizenry Directorate at the REPUVE, Bautista explained 
that the RENAVE was casting a shadow over how companies were 
approaching the REPUVE. “The companies are providing information, 
let’s call it confidential, about the company as well as the dealers and 
the purchaser,” he explained. “The management of this information is 
a concern because, yes, there was a problem before. The system failed. 
Who knows what happened with the information that was there. . . . 
So obviously, the industry asked us, ‘Whose hands are we putting this 
information in?’ . . . They didn’t accept the REPUVE blindly.” But if 
companies shared ordinary Mexicans’ concerns about privacy and data 
security, the main obstacles for the business sector in general were the 
implied costs of complying with the new surveillance programs, the 
corruption perceived in government operations, and the confusion sur- 
rounding the programs. 

4.4.1 Business Costs 

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the operational costs of complying with the 
new surveillance programs figured most centrally in many companies’ 
thinking. In publicizing their reservations about the RENAUT, the 
mobile telephone industry estimated that complying with the registry 
law would cost it $100 million . 37 Such costs were also a primary sticking 
point for the automobile industry concerning the REPUVE. Fernando 
Orozco, a representative with the Velocity Motor Corporation (VMC), 
a major car manufacturer in Mexico, explained to me, “The truth is 
that we as a car producer never wanted the REPUVE. Why? Because 
it generates a cost for us. It generates a very high cost that cannot be 
reflected in the [price of the] vehicle. It’s a severe operational expense.” 
Agustin Sandoval, a representative from Sucaro, a car manufacturer 
importing vehicles to Mexico from Asia, sounded a similar note of cri- 
tique when I interviewed him: “The responsibility [for tagging vehicles] 
is ours, not the state or city. Now, politically speaking, we didn’t want 
to accept the responsibility for adhering the chip. We said, ‘Let the gov- 
ernment do it!,’ ‘Put up modules [for chips] where plates are given out!,’ 
‘Let the government do it!’ Why us?” 

Ni con goma I hi 

The operational and administrative costs are clearer to see the closer 
one gets to the production line. VMC provided me a tour of its plant 
outside Mexico City. Company representatives noted with clear pride 
the efficiency of their production process, explaining that a vehicle 
comes off the production line every eighteen seconds. It was precisely 
this precision that the REPUVE tags threatened. “We cannot stop the 
flow of vehicles,” Orozco explained as we toured the facility. “So we 
had to adapt ourselves to have the flow be the same, so that it would be 
continuous and would not stop, whether we’re talking about a sedan or 
a pickup.” But at the same time, the REPUVE law required car makers 
to ensure that cars coming off the line had a REPUVE sticker on them. 
“A vehicle doesn’t leave the plant if it doesn’t go through the REPUVE. 
If a vehicle doesn’t have a sticker, or a registration with REPUVE, we 
cannot sell it,” Orozco said, “and there we are running a risk because 
we are risking a sale. And that hurts business.” 

Fitting this operation into production lines with a global reach 
was a challenge. “At this site, we have two assembly plants,” Orozco 

Plant i produces sedans. Plant 2 produces trucks. But then we have a third 
shipping point for what we call different market characteristics. [That 
third shipping point] is where we have vehicles going to the United States, 
Brazil, and Europe. That line doesn’t have the REPUVE because they are 
exports. . . . Periodically, however, we receive domestic vehicles here. So this 
means having the [REPUVE] infrastructure in three spots. . . . Like I said, 
this doesn’t add any value to the vehicle from the business point of view. . . . 
Whatever addition that is going to be added to a vehicle has to be controlled 
under various measures of quality. All of this has an expense, a logistics. . . . 
We return to the same point. This [RFID tag] didn’t have a benefit for us as 
a company. 

The direct costs of applying the tags did not exhaust auto producers’ 
friction with the program. Aesthetics also mattered. This point was first 
shared with me by Tomas Ayala and Vicente Bautista at the REPUVE’s 
Procedures and Citizenry Directorate. “The sticker,” Ayala plainly said, 
“is not the most decorative element.” As a result, he continued, “the car 
producers put up a lot of obstacles for sticking on the tag.” The VMC 
representatives I met with confirmed these points of discord. “That 
a vehicle that is sportier, and more expensive then, has to have this 
sticker,” Fernando Orozco opined, “for us that is horrible.” 

Beyond aesthetics, the industry was also concerned about safety and 
the impact that the tags might have on drivers’ visibility. While VMC 

1 1 2. I Ni con goma 

and Sucaro were placing the stickers on the upper-middle part of wind- 
shields, above the rearview mirror, the ideal placement recommended 
by the REPUVE, they harbored concerns. Orozco at VMC explained, 
“Em not going to lie that the best option economically and technically 
would be to place the chip on the lower right-hand side of the wind- 
shield, because you as a driver in Mexico, all of the driving is on the left. 
It wouldn’t obstruct a traffic light or a sign on that side. Some manufac- 
turers put it on the upper-left side. But putting it on the lower -right side 
would have practically no consequence. That is, it’s there visually, but 
there’s no risk to visibility.” 

4.4.2 Corruption Concerns 

Transnational corporations that produce and import vehicles in Mexico 
were not the only companies concerned about the Public Registry of 
Vehicles. Following my field visit to Zacatecas, a local newspaper ran 
a blurb about my research. Once the piece appeared online, I was con- 
tacted by Jonathan Vargas, a representative from the SecureRead com- 
pany, which had competed for the contract to produce REPUVE tags. 
That concession was ultimately awarded to the Neology corporation, a 
company owned by Alejandro Burillo Azcarraga, a member of the influ- 
ential Azcarraga family, which founded the Televisa television corpora- 
tion. Burillo himself has a wide variety of business interests, ranging 
from soccer clubs to mobile telephone providers. On the phone, Vargas 
told me that he felt the need to share his version of the story of how 
Neology won the concession for REPUVE tags. 

The concession, as national newspapers reported, was based on 
a trial of different RFID technology providers that took place at the 
Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, a well-known racing circuit in Mex- 
ico City that hosts Formula One races. The competition was presided 
over by technical advisers from three of Mexico’s leading universities: 
UNAM, the National Polytechnic Institute, and the Institute of Tech- 
nology and Higher Education of Monterrey. 

Describing his company’s experiences with the competition, Var- 
gas started by focusing on the differences between active tags, which 
SecureRead specialized in, and passive tags, which Neology produces: 

The operational minimums that they showed in the presentation can corre- 
spond only to an active tag. They had to be able to read multiple vehicles in 
traffic, be able to read from a mobile terminal that was in a patrol car, and 
be able to read from the side of the road at a certain speed. And I think they 

Ni con goma I 113 

wanted 99 percent accuracy. All those are things the active tags can do, not 
something the passive tags can do. . . . We thought this presentation matched 
something that we can deal with. So, we wanted to do the trial. 

“At the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez,” he remembered, 

we were the last to go. We were one of two active-tag companies. Everybody 
else was passive. ... So we were the last ones. We went immediately after a 
company called Apex. They were having some problems with the readers. 
They were having problems with passing the bridge. And other things like 
dirt and rain. Anyway, at the end of the day it started raining and pouring. 
And the guys were like, “You are not going to be able to work.” And I said, 
“No, absolutely we can work. We’re active. It’s different.” The professors 
that were evaluating the technology, they knew nothing about active. All 
their protocols were all about passive tests, you know one vehicle, one per 
lane, not in traffic. . . . They knew active existed, but they hadn’t designed a 
protocol for it. . . . Anyway, we run our test and then we had a representative 
from one of the other large companies come up to us [after] and say, “Hey, 
why are you here?” We said, “Well, you know we are running this test.” 
And he said, “No, sorry, it’s already been decided. Neology is going to win. 
That’s what I’ve been told.” At first, I was a little shocked. So we asked for a 
meeting with this Campa Cifrian, with the head [of the Executive Secretariat 
of the National System for Public Security (SESNSP)], the guy that was run- 
ning REPUVE, and effectively that’s what we were told . . . “It’s has already 
been decided, it’s going to be passive. I can’t tell you who is going to win, but 
it is going to be passive, you are too expensive.” 

Vargas’s account carries a tinge of sour grapes. But it should be 
noted that corruption in public procurements in Mexico is common 
and problematic. Indeed, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation 
and Development has remarked that the lack of a competitive bidding 
system encourages collusion between bidders and reduces the viability 
of international suppliers . 38 What is more, SecureRead was not the only 
company flummoxed by the conduct of the trial. After its completion, 
the REPUVE competition was featured in media reports that cited a 
“lack of transparency in the results of the evaluation decision .” 39 Firms 
that took part, including Integra, Mobil-link, and e-Plate, complained 
that they did not have sufficient details on the types of tests to be done 
prior to the competition . 40 Roberto Campa Cifrian, head of the SESNSP 
mentioned by Vargas, was also accused of being tied to one of the 
companies with a stake in the bid, the Cosmocolor Company, which 
produces holograms for stickers like those used in the REPUVE and is 
owned by Jorge Kahwagi, whose father is president of Mexico’s Con- 
federation of the National Chambers of Commerce . 41 

ii4 I Ni con goma 

In addition to the intrigue about Campa Cifrian’s links to companies 
bidding on the REPUVE contract, Vargas’s story references a central 
technical issue at stake in the competition — passive versus active RFID 
technology. Experts cited in media reports argued that the passive tags 
chosen by the SESNSP “have disadvantages such as their read coverage 
and the cost of some of the reading equipment (like arches at highway 
exits), which go from 2,000 to 25,000 dollars.” Active tags, meanwhile, 
“cost from 12 to 25 dollars [and] have readers that cost from 300 to 
500 dollars, some as small as cellular phones.” Put another way, “With 
the active technology, the reader identifies all the tags located in a deter- 
mined area, which facilitates their search in wide spaces, while the read- 
ing of the passive tag is individual and at specific points.” " Given the 
seeming advantage of active tags over passive tags, the media reports 
added to the controversy surrounding the bidding process/ 

By the time I was conducting my research, the national directors of 
the REPUVE within the SESNSP considered the controversy over active 
versus passive tags “a debate already decided” and one that “owed to 
different interests” rather than technological considerations. Tomas 
Ayala and Vicente Bautista shared Campa Cifrian’s view that while 
“the active tag had advantages from the point of view of coverage, . . . 
the two points that were of greatest importance for us were the trans- 
ferability of the tag . . . and the fact that the battery at that time could 
last, at best, four or five years.” Ayala stressed, “The moment that these 
batteries stop functioning, the tags would obviously stop functioning, 
and you would have to devise a replacement of the batteries and all 
that that would mean for twenty-five million vehicles.” But if the pro- 
gram administrators considered the matter closed, the debate, even if 

a. In the midst of the controversy, Campa Cifrian was called to testify before the In- 
ternal Revenue and Public Credit Commission of the House of Deputies, Mexico’s lower 
legislative chamber, to explain his decision on the bid. He had earlier explained that the 
decision was based on recommendations of the evaluation team from the three universi- 
ties, who took into consideration the life span of active versus passive chips, the lower 
costs per unit for passive chips, and the fact that passive technology was open source and 
not subject to proprietary restrictions. Unconvinced by the his explanation, the commit- 
tee demanded Campa Cifrian’s resignation and cancellation of the concession, because 
passive technology was insufficient to stop organized crime and vehicle theft (de la Luz 
Gonzalez, “Eligen chip inutil contra robacoches”). The passive technology stayed. But a 
week later, Campa Cifrian did resign (de la Luz Gonzalez, “Roberto Campa renuncia al 
SNSP”), although questions persisted as to whether his boss, Gerardo Garcia Luna, the 
powerful head of the Public Security Secretariat (SSP), had penned his letter of resignation 
(Rodriguez, “Campa Cifrian — Garcia Luna”). 

Ni con goma I 115 

fed by disgruntled businesses and headline-seeking reporters, had cast 
the REPUVE’s bidding process in doubt and, in the process, diminished 
the program’s legitimacy in the public eye. 

4.4.3 Program Confusion 

In addition to car producers and tag manufacturers, car dealers make up 
another another sujeto obligado (obligated subject) from the business 
sector that have a role in implementing the REPUVE. Dealers are a key 
actor for the registry because, in selling vehicles to the public with chips 
already adhered to them, they serve as a point of contact between the 
registry and the public. In summer 2012, I visited dealerships around 
Mexico City to get a sense of their role as informal ambassadors for 
the Public Registry of Vehicles. When I asked salespeople and other 
employees, “What are the tags on the vehicles for?” answers varied. 
Most described them as “customs stickers” applied when “when cars are 
imported, so this [sticker] is for when vehicles pass through customs.” 

These responses are partly true. Mexican customs offices are required 
to apply REPUVE stickers to vehicles that are imported directly from 
the United States. And the customs database feeds into the REPUVE 
database. But the responses also fundamentally confuse the purpose 
and operation of the REPUVE, which is to provide for “legal certainty” 
of vehicles by applying a tag to every vehicle in the country without 
distinction of country of origin. Of the ten dealerships I visited, only 
one offered a description of the tags that matched the REPUVE. “It is 
a government rule that [the sticker] has to be there,” the salesperson 
explained, “because if it isn’t, the car can be considered stolen, that it 
didn’t enter the country legally.” 

When I mentioned these interactions in an interview with officials 
at the Relations with Obligated Subjects Directorate, Fernando Nava 
acknowledged that “there is a large lack of knowledge present, above all 
concerning the composition of the REPUVE for the sujetos obligados. 
Windshield installers or body shops are sujetos obligados by law who 
protect and maintain the tags. However, many windshield installers, I 
don’t know if they are aware of the program or if they aren’t dealing 
with the REPUVE. They do what they want with the chips.” Given this 
lack of information, Nava continued, more had to be done to “inform 
dealers why the chips are there, so that they don’t remove the stickers 
without knowing why they’re there, and to inform buyers in case they 
ask, so that they know how to answer them. [There could be] cases 

ii 6 I Ni con goma 

where a new vehicle is damaged and the windshield had to be changed, 
and the vehicle doesn’t have a tag then. Then, if buyers were to come 
in and see the vehicle and don’t see the tag, they would say, ‘I want my 
tag.’ Maybe they don’t know exactly what it is, but they want it.” 

But if the car dealers did not know why the stickers appeared on 
vehicles, they were unequivocal on the question of whether they could 
be removed. Every dealer I spoke with said they could not be removed. 
But rather than referring to the REPUVE law by name, respondents 
noted that, “on the streets, traffic police check stickers often, to see 
whether the car has it or not. And if they’re going to stop you and you 
don’t have the sticker ...” Or, as another salesperson told me, if your 
vehicle does not have the sticker, “then later you can have problems if 
one day you are stopped or you have your car stolen or you have an 
accident and they are going to check the numbers in the registry, and if 
you don’t have it, there’s going to be trouble.” 

This is an interesting point to reflect upon. The dealers do not under- 
stand why the REPUVE tags are on their vehicles, but they are unwav- 
ering in communicating that they cannot be removed. In this sense, to 
put it in sociolegal terms, the dealers stand “before the law” and follow 
its dictates without knowing what the law actually is. 4 ’ This dissonance 
can be explained, perhaps, by the history of policing automobility in 
Mexico more generally, which was covered in the last chapter. The 
presence of regulatory stickers on vehicles is nothing new in Mexico. 
And in Mexico City, pollution controls are enforced in part through 
stickers, which the police monitor. Thus, if the REPUVE sticker is itself 
is an unknown entity, it represents something common to those work- 
ing around automobiles and thus fits into a broader pattern of experi- 
ences and practices surrounding that thing. 

The experiences of car dealers with the REPUVE also contrast in 
interesting ways with those of car producers. If car dealers were ignorant 
of the REPUVE law, car producers were only too aware of it, and they 
actively disliked it. But unlike mobile phone users refusing to register 
their phones, manufacturers did not stand “against law.” Why the dif- 
ference? Quite simply, the risk of sanctions for noncompliance with the 
federal law was too great. Julieta Salazar, from the REPUVE’s Relations 
with Obligated Subjects Directorate, told me that “the private sector 
has always been very strict, above all the big companies, with relation 
to legal compliance with the federal and state governments. It’s not easy 
for their legal teams to know about a law or regulation and not comply 
with it.” 

Ni con goma I 117 

This point was repeated by the company representatives I spoke 
with. But additional factors besides the power of the law came into 
play. “Why does VMC comply with the REPUVE law?” Fernando Oro- 
zco reflected. “VMC basically has 100 percent compliance with the law, 
not only the REPUVE law, but with all the laws, economic, import, 
customs, et cetera. We are the most precise and maybe the most com- 
pliant in the entire industry. . . . [The REPUVE] is a severe operational 
expense. However, the law was passed. The regulation was made. We 
had to comply.” Here Orozco finishes by noting the lack of options 
available to VMC to ignore the REPUVE law. But additionally, he 
speaks with a certain satisfaction about the compliance rate of VMC 
with the law in general. Legal compliance, to him, is an extension of 
his company’s exacting approach to industrial production that allows it 
to send a vehicle off the production line every eighteen seconds. Thus, 
a certain company culture was present at VMC that leaned toward 

In the case of Sucaro, national culture was cited as central to compli- 
ance. Sucaro is based in Asia. And Agustin Sandoval and Felipe Ibarra 
felt this helped explain their company’s stance with the REPUVE. “We, 
as a subsidiary company, report absolutely everything to Asia,” Sando- 
val told me. “A program such as this has so many implications, legal 
as well as social, from the point of view of drivers. We translate all of 
this, including the rules and regulations, so that it is absolutely clear. 
On other hand, the Asian philosophy is very precise, very dignified in 
the sense that if the law asks me to do this, I have to comply.” Ibarra 

There are companies that are more rebellious, that in a given moment would 
sue and not comply. But the Asian companies aren’t like that. Without 
mentioning brands within the automotive industry, there have been two ex- 
tremes, from two powerful companies. One takes any minor pretext to say, 
“I’m done with the chip. Let the government do it if it wants. I quit! No 
more!” The other has said, “I already invested millions into the manufac- 
turing process, from the wheels on down, everything is almost robotized. 
The process of putting on chips ? I can do it, I already spoke with corporate 
about it. 

These responses seem to suggest that VMC and Sucaro had assumed 
a stance “before the law,” choosing to comply with its dictates, whether 
because of the exacting nature of the company or its national corporate 
culture. But this does not give the entire picture. In an email, Julieta 
Salazar explained that the auto producers “accept it [REPUVE], but 

ii 8 I Ni con goma 

are insistent” that the government take over the job of applying tags 
to vehicles. “It’s always a point of discussion,” Salazar continued. “In 
fact, right now, there is a lawsuit through the Mexican Association for 
the Automotive Industry (AMIA) to reform the law where they propose 
that the states do it. . . . They insisted that the federal Secretariat of Pub- 
lic Security (SSP) would be the better option for conducting this activity. 
Even when there is an agreement with the Association, they haven’t 
stopped in their initiative to reform the Public Registry of Vehicles Law 
so that that obligation would be done away with.” In this sense, the 
automobile industry can be seen to assume a position of “resistance 
by means of law .” 44 Companies like VMC and Sucaro have complied 
with the REPUVE, analyzing and altering their production operations 
in order to apply tags to vehicles without disrupting car sales. But at the 
same time, through their national association, they are using the legal 
avenues available to them to eliminate the legal requirements that they 
view as especially burdensome. 


If the stances of laypeople and business actors toward the RENAUT, 
CEDI, and REPUVE can be mapped onto existing frameworks for 
comprehending resistance, this correspondence begins to unravel when 
considering another key point of opposition to the programs: the state 
itself. As noted at the beginning of the chapter, the primary source of 
opposition to the Citizen Identity Card came from the Federal Electoral 
Institute, an independent governmental body charged with regulating 
elections. In the case of the National Registry of Mobile Telephone 
Users, strong public opposition enabled politicians to question the pro- 
gram, and the Communications Commission of the House of Deputies 
called the RENAUT’s leadership to testify about the program’s difficul- 
ties . 45 With the Public Registry of Vehicles, meanwhile, states have been 
reluctant to begin applying tags to vehicles. 

This is a critical point. One might assume that the state would sup- 
port government initiatives, especially in the realm of security. But as 
Daniela Flores with the REPUVE’s State and Federal Operations divi- 
sion described to me, there are multiple reasons why working with the 
state proves difficult: “One is resources, two is the will to do things, 
three is the political aspect.” To this list could be added the organiza- 
tion of state power. 

Ni con goma I 119 

4.5.1 Budgetary Constraints 

A federated state’s implementation of a program such as the REPUVE 
requires a sizeable investment in resources. These include, at a bare 
minimum, computers to process information, printers to print out 
tags, handheld RFID readers to activate and verify chips once they are 
adhered, and facilities and salaries for workers in the program. Some 
of these resources can be paid for by the federal government’s Support 
Funds for Public Security (FASP), monies provided to the states for pub- 
lic security expenses. But discrepancies between allocations and costs 
can be great. As one member of a Mexico City delegation explained at 
a national meeting on the REPUVE that I attended, “We have a regis- 
tered vehicular roll of four million vehicles, we received three million 
tags, and from the federal project budget we have 7.5 million pesos 
assigned this year. But we have estimated that the implementation will 
cost 240 million pesos.” 

But tags are only a portion of the program costs. To fully register 
the presence of a vehicle at a transit point, the REPUVE also requires 
license plate recognition (LPR) technology. LPR technology, however, 
“has the disadvantage of being very expensive equipment,” a point 
emphasized to me by Ignacio Meza, the official with REPUVE Zacate- 
cas. Workers there also believed that the program needed better facili- 
ties than the trailers they were operating out of. Matias Luna, a data 
specialist, thought that “for this program to function better, adequate 
space is needed”: 

That includes a tarp. That includes a space for the clients, for when, say, 
four, five, six vehicles arrive. Normally, at least two people come in a car. If 
five vehicles come, you have ten people — where do you put them? Sometimes 
the sun is very strong, and twenty minutes standing out here in the sun is a 
lot. It burns. So I think that there should be an adequate space for the clients 
to wait for the fifteen to twenty minutes that the process takes. For the tech- 
nicians too. They do the physical work. It’s hard. So, the same thing. Have 
a tarp or a tent to protect them from the sun, so that they can do their work 
despite inclemency of the weather. 

Another member of the REPUVE Zacatecas team felt that more 
resources were needed to attract people to the program: “The program, 
in terms of its goal of installing chips, has certain deficiencies. Advertis- 
ing, for example. They haven’t been able to advertise it in a way that 
the people in the state understand its purpose or importance for why 
vehicles will have a chip. This is the reason why there have been few 
people coming for the installation of chips.” 

120 I Ni con goma 

Without the dedicated funds for the program, many states announced 
suspension of its implementation. For example, Fernando Manrique 
Rivas, director of Vehicular Control in Morelos, explained that the 
REPUVE “isn’t only putting on a sticker, it’s putting in place all of 
the infrastructure that is going to read and keep the institutions of 
public security informed. So it is a costly program that today doesn’t 
have sufficient resources. For that reason, the program is suspended .” 46 
One detects an element of political opportunism in such actions. States 
shutting down or threatening to shutter federal programs for lack of 
resources may simply be maneuvering to secure more resources from 
Mexico City, a dynamic reflective of the strong regionalism that has 
long defined the country . 47 Indeed, this angle was noted by the State 
and Federal Operations Implementation members I spoke with. Lucas 
Espinoza explained, “There is also the political part. The federal gov- 
ernment can be pressured to give money that is required. And if San 
Luis [Potosi] gets more, then Zacatecas is complaining to get more too. 
Because at the end of the day, it’s not their money, it’s the citizens’ 

There is a prudential element at work here as well, which is poten- 
tially troubling for a program like the REPUVE. Because the FASP used 
by the states to implement the program are not earmarked and are 
intended to cover all state public security projects, the more invested 
in the REPUVE, the less goes into other security priorities. As Ignacio 
Meza from REPUVE Zacatecas noted, 

There are states that have, apart from the federal resources, invested mon- 
ey from their own governments, against their own accounts. But they are 
few. Two or three states have done that, like Veracruz and San Luis Potosi. 
They’re achieving the same numbers [of registrations] as we are. But other 
states that are taking money from the public security funds, they are put- 
ting money into REPUVE and leaving little for public security. In the case 
of Zacatecas, public security is being given priority, and this leaves small 
change or few funds for the REPUVE. From the same funds, you have police 
training, equipment, and other things. 

Not only that, Meza continued, but “if I invest in an advertising cam- 
paign to tell people what the program is about, I don’t have the techni- 
cal capacity to respond.” That is, an advertising campaign might help 
attract drivers, but the resources invested there would come at the 
expense of program capacity. He added, “The moment that I do the 
advertising campaign, I am going to have a rush for fifteen or twenty 
days in which the whole wide world, even if they don’t have cars, 

Ni con goma I 121 

are going to go to the webpage and want a consultation. This would 
overwhelm the system, it would be a disaster. We are at a crossroads 
of technology, necessities, and the rest, which doesn’t permit us to 
advance at the pace that we would have wanted.” Thus, a cycle of 
lethargy befell the REPUVE. States were unwilling to invest in a pro- 
gram they did not see as a priority and that lacked popular demand. 
But if that demand were there, they would not be able to handle it. So 
the most rational course of action was to not invest in the program 
at all. 

This situation bred frustration among the data specialists and techni- 
cians working at REPUVE Zacatecas. Part of the frustration was under- 
standably selfish. Matias Luna confided to me, “A pay increase would 
be good. I don’t know how much it should be, but I would like it if it 
were more. Really, whatever you earn, people make what they make, 
but it’s never enough.” But the frustration of workers involved more 
than personal interests. “One of the things that I don’t think has func- 
tioned well is the interest of the government to start things off well,” 
Diego Avila, a technician in Zacatecas, told me. “San Luis has taken 
off. Veracruz has taken off. They have taken off because of the inter- 
est of the government. They have put everything into it. Here, it’s like 
they’re a bit afraid, or they’ve forgotten about us.” 

The frustration extended beyond the frontline workers in the pro- 
gram. Ignacio Meza faulted the fact that the amount of the FASP 
received by states was based on population rather than expediency. 
“Take a state like Chihuahua,” he told me, “which doesn’t have the 
population that the Federal District [Mexico City] has, but its crime 
level is extremely high. It doesn’t receive the funds that it should. The 
Federal District receives more, although the crime level isn’t so great. So 
there are questions about the formula [for allocating resources]. At the 
end of the day, the resources are there.” 

Further, the frustration over resources extended to the national lead- 
ership of the REPUVE as well. “Another obstacle that we have encoun- 
tered,” explained Samuel Gallo with the State and Federal Operations 
directorate, is that “we don’t even have the support here to have the 
budget that would allow us to push certain things forward.” Elabo- 
rating, he said, “There are different factors that prevent the process 
from being more agile. A first point is resources. The program doesn’t 
have an adequate communications system. There are not sufficient blue- 
prints. There is not sufficient equipment. It’s a significant obstacle to 
our being able to share information.” 

1 22 I Ni con goma 
4.5.2 Political Leadership 

This frustration over resources speaks, in turn, to the second aspect 
Daniela Flores saw as lacking in the federal government’s implementa- 
tion of the REPUVE: the will or leadership to get things done. “Look,” 
Samuel Gallo lamented, “this project has a very large potential, but 
sadly it has not been seen as such in the upper spheres, not at the presi- 
dential level, nor the interior secretary level, nor the Public Security Sec- 
retariat level. They haven’t given the program the impulse that it should 
have.” Tie continued, “It’s the political question, it’s the question some- 
times of leadership, in a way it’s a lack of leadership to shake things 
up.” These comments echo the exchange between Lucas Espinoza and 
Daniela Flores that begin this chapter. Even within their own building, 
the offices of the SESNSP, the REPUVE team felt invisible. Not only 
their work, but the importance of their program was being ignored. 

The lack of will to get things done extended down from the federal 
government to the states. As Gallo explained, state authorities, such as 
the attorneys general in charge of tracking vehicles, were often remiss in 
updating their databases: “There are national accords that the prosecu- 
tors, and even governors in some cases, signed and promised to send 
information in no more than seventy-two hours in the case of stolen 
vehicles. . . . However, for questions of, I would tell you, resources, 
political situations, lack of personnel, et cetera, not everyone manages 
to comply with it. We have a substantial lapse of time in knowing if a 
vehicle is stolen or not.” He elaborated, 

In theory, everyone should be analyzing their information on a daily ba- 
sis. . . . But it doesn’t happen. There are states that update on a daily basis. 
There are states that update every twenty-four, forty-eight hours. There are 
states that wait fifteen days up to a month. . . . Let me give you an example, 
from the State of Mexico, one of the largest states in the country. It’s the 
state that has the largest number of stolen vehicles. In other measures, it also 
has a high level of crime. The State of Mexico receives the greatest number 
of federal resources, in this case, with the [Support] Funds for Public Secu- 
rity. They receive more money than the Federal District. And it is one of the 
states that generates some of the greatest amount of state funds by itself. 
And they have these types of delays. But I should also mention Tlaxcala. It 
has very little money, being a very small state. The population is small. So, 
the formula that exists for assigning resources leaves it receiving a tenth of 
what the state of Mexico receives. However, when the will to work is there, 
results can be achieved. 

The lack of desire to achieve results was felt at the local level too. 
Matias Luna at REPUVE Zacatecas proffered that one modification he 

Ni con goma I 123 

would make “would be to incentivize the personnel. I’m not talking 
about money. I’m saying there should more supervision of how you’re 
doing your job. . . . And there should be supervision. It’s a form of incen- 
tivizing the personnel to work in this program. . . . You’ve been here 
a week and you haven’t seen anyone come to say, ‘Hey, how are you 
doing?’ I’m not saying they should be all over us here. But once or twice 
a week, have someone come to check. This incentivizes the personnel.” 

4.J.3 Political Interests 

At times, the complications with implementing the REPUVE at the state 
level reflected not a lack of will on the part of state authorities but 
competing political interests, Daniela Flores’s third point. As Samuel 
Gallo bluntly told me, “ Hay colores,” or “there are colors,” by which 
he meant political affiliations at work. “It’s like the case of Sinaloa,” 
he explained. 

Sinaloa is drowning in crime and all that. But it’s prilsta [ruled by the PRI, the 
Institutional Revolutionary Party] and it doesn’t share the ideas of panismo 
[of the PAN, the National Action Party ]. The guy who became governor of 
the state was one of the principal detractors of the idea that the REPUVE 
had to have a chip. . . . Now the program is stalled because the governor 
was one of those who at the time didn’t accept the passive chip. He wanted 
it to be active. He was going to sign a contract with a Lojack type of service, 
that type of satellite service, which has a higher operating cost, much much 
higher cost, than what we are implementing. 

“Look,” Gallo continued, “there are many questions that get in the 
way. I can tell you that Sinaloa is serviced now by the technology sup- 
plier who the Executive Secretary [SESNSP] is suing for having reg- 
istered the website So there is a lawsuit launched by 
the Executive Secretary against this supplier, which is the supplier for 
Sinaloa. So there are interests. There is a conflict of interests.” Accord- 
ing to the State and Federal Operations directorate, the active-tag pro- 
vider to whom they were referring — a Mexico City company named 

b. In Mexico, as in many parts of the world where literacy rates have historically been 
low, political parties are often identified by colors or objects as much as by name. The 
Institutional Revolutionary Party, as the hegemonic political party following the Revo- 
lution, was able to wrap itself in the colors of the national flag: red, green, and white. 
The right-leaning National Action Party, which held the presidency from 2000 to 2012, 
adopts blue as its primary color. The third major, although comparatively smaller, party, 
the Democratic Revolution Party, colors itself yellow. 

124 I Ni con goma 

Socom — had publicly registered the name REPUVE in 2007, which was 
after the signing of the REPUVE law but before the decision was made 
on chip design and contractor. 48 In essence, the disputes over passive 
and active chips and the awarding of the REPUVE contract were con- 
tinuing to complicate the implementation of the program. This situation 
underscores the variety of interests at play when “colors” are involved. 

REPUVE administrators saw such conflicts of interest as endemic to 
Mexico. When I asked about the adequacy of resources for states, Gallo 
responded, “There’s money. But it’s poorly distributed. And the prob- 
lem of distribution comes down to political networks. So, this is the 
problem. In those networks, someone is the mayor. Below him are his 
buddy, his son, his godson, and all of the family is occupying the politi- 
cal system.” Daniela Flores added, “They are the ones who take the 
salaries. And that’s where all of the money stays. They get $60,000, but 
it’s divided between the same family.” “And that’s how you create these 
empires,” Gallo continued, “this is how the monopolies are created. And 
when they leave power, new businesses and consortiums emerge. So this 
is the problem in the country. Because there exists this circle of impu- 
nity. Every three or six years,” the length of time that someone serves in 
office in Mexico, “there are new rich people. This is impunity. There are 
no accusations. There is not legitimacy. Because if I accuse you today, I 
get kidnapped tomorrow. And they’re going to split my head open. So 
why would I make a complaint?” Gallo and Flores reference here the 
personalistic political networks that have defined Mexican political life 
since at least the establishment of caciquismo (rule by local political 
chiefs) during the conquest. 49 While its forms have surely changed, 50 cli- 
entelism remains endemic in Mexico, 51 and democratization has thus far 
proved incapable of rooting out such “old corruption.” 51 These political 
formations complicate the federal government’s efforts to change the 
governance of automobility in the present day. 

4.5.4 The Organization of State Power 

Even when the resources and will to advance a program are present and 
deleterious political interests are absent, other political forces can inter- 
vene. For instance, the obstinacy of state governments to carry out the 
plans of federal administrators is provided for under the law. Within 
Mexico’s federalist political system, which reflects the country’s long 
history of dividing political power among regional strongmen, 5 ’ federal 
law does not apply to state governments the way that it does to private 

Ni con goma I 125 

corporations or individuals. As Vicente Bautista with the Procedures 
and Citizenry Directorate explained, “The problem that we are having 
these days is that the private industry, the producers, 100 percent are 
participating. But the law requires them to . . . the states are autono- 
mous. Free and sovereign. We cannot sanction them. We have to con- 
vince them. That’s the challenge for us.” When I asked whether the 
government also had the power to withhold federal funding, such as the 
FASP, to encourage states’ participation, Bautista was quick to reply, 
“No, no. We have security funds from the federal government that are 
allotted to them [the states]. But they decide how to distribute them 
according to their own priorities.” 

“This is one of the gaps,” Samuel Gallo conceded. “It’s something 
the law didn’t take into consideration. The law stipulates that the facto- 
ries, the importers, the law can grab them by the throat. It has them in 
its grasp. It can fine them if they don’t comply. That part is taken care 
of. But since the constitution establishes that the states are free and sov- 
ereign, it isn’t easy to establish these types of sanctions. It would never 
get passed by the Congress.” 

The Citizen Identity Card faced a similar obstacle in the organization 
of political power in Mexico. The CEDI ran up against existing state 
bureaucracy — that of the IFE and the voter card — established in an 
earlier era to fulfill similar functions. The duplication in function, and 
the threat posed by the new program, fostered political entrenchment 
aimed at preserving the IFE’s authority. As IFE president Leonardo Val- 
dez Zurita explained in opposing the CEDI, “the Card will negatively 
affect two of the pillars of our political system: the voter roll and the 
voter card” and even if the CEDI is “undoubtedly legal, from my point 
of view it’s electorally unfortunate.” 54 

In addition to the federated structure of power in Mexico, the Consti- 
tution only allows elected officials to serve single terms in office, a pro- 
vision motivated by Porfirio Diaz’s long tenure in power (1876-1911). 
For REPUVE program administrators, this constitutional guarantee 
against dictatorial rule created political turnover at the state level that 
affected the program’s success. In Zacatecas, for example, which had 
been one of the leading states in applying RFID tags in zoio, a change 
from a Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) governor to a PRI governor 
was felt to disrupt the state’s progress with the program. As Ignacio 
Meza from REPUVE Zacatecas delicately put it to me, 

I don’t know if you have read about it or seen it, there was a PRD governor 

here in Zacatecas that changed to the PRI, the Institutional Revolutionary 

iz 6 I Ni con goma 

Party. There’s a certain rivalry there. We don’t see each other as citizens, but 
as enemies. And this has put the brakes on the process a bit. Other factors, 
such as the economic situation, have had an impact as well. This is a pro- 
gram that has to carry two enormous weights on its back. One, the federal 
government is panista [controlled by the PAN]. The other, it [the program] 
was begun by a perredista [PRD] government. So this hasn’t permitted the 
push that these programs need, in contrast to San Luis [PotosI] or Veracruz. 
In Veracruz, the current government is the one that launched the program. 
There hasn’t been a change of government. In San Luis, the same. 

For the program’s national directors, such cases spoke to larger 
challenges in the country. “The sad history,” explained Samuel Gallo, 
invoking the legacy of presidencialismo, or the PRI’s concentration of 
political power in the executive branch, 55 “is that whenever someone 
gets to that chair [presidency, governorship], everything changes. The 
problem is the chair. There is the sensation of power. Then all the good 
promises, all of the hopes that were built up, they begin to dissolve. 
They are not able to put into action even 50 percent of the campaign 
promises that they have. And now, in the next elections, there will be 
another change.” 

Instead of continuing a previous administration’s policies, new 
administrations, Lucas Espinoza and Daniela Flores felt, resorted to 
populist tendencies and pursued more visible public works to win the 
support of voters. “Something unfortunate about the government here 
is that they want to show results quickly,” Flores told me. “But you 
have to start from zero and it’s going to take years, ten, fifteen years 
maybe [to get something done]. And they’re not interested in that. Most 
of the alternatives that an administration has available to it are to take 
the populist route. It’s better to construct a bridge than a highway, 
which looks sensational. So I’ll get you a park. I’ll get you a bridge. And 
that’s that.” “But then there are people who’ll tell you,” Espinoza half- 
jokingly interjected, “we don’t have a river [for the bridge to transverse]. 
“Ah, well,” Flores took back the thread of the conversation, “let’s make 
a river too then! These are the types of illogical situations that there 
are.” Placing themselves within the country’s historical-political con- 
text, the REPUVE’s directors saw their program as a victim of populist 
tendencies produced by political turnover. 

As Flores’s comments suggest, this political dynamic was present 
not only at the state or local level but at the national level as well. At 
the REPUVE national offices in 2011, a year before the end of Felipe 
Calderon’s six-year term and a presidential election that most thought 

Ni con goma I 127 

would be won by the PRI, C a mix of frustration and concern for what 
a change in “colors” at the top of the political ladder might mean for 
the program was palpable. “Unfortunately for us,” Gallo shared, “we 
are a year and a half away from a change in federal administration. So 
important decisions are not going to be made. No one is going to dare 
tackle a problem or confront an institution because it’s not going to 
matter. So, now, all the activity is going to start to go down and that is 
going to continue until the middle of 2013 and then begin to rise again. 
This is the change of administration. With a change of administration, 
new brains arrive. New ideas. And the continuity is broken.” 

The preceding points illustrate how forces beyond the actions of 
human actors, be they individual laypeople, corporations, or political 
parties, have affected the destiny of security surveillance programs in 
Mexico. The absence of adequate funds with which to launch programs, 
budgeting procedures for the expenditure of funds that do exist, nepo- 
tistic political practices that date back to colonial and pre-Columbian 
times, the arrangement of federal and state political authority and limi- 
tations on tenures in political office enshrined in Mexico’s Constitution, 
and the presence of extant state authorities and programs created dur- 
ing earlier periods all illustrate the manner in which the structure of the 
state — the existing arrangement of rules, cultural practices, and govern- 
ing bodies for conducting public affairs — can impede the establishment 
of new modes of governance. 


The challenges that the National Registry of Mobile Telephone Users, 
Citizen Identity Card, and Public Registry of Vehicles have encountered 
demonstrate that obstacles in political and state affairs emerge from 
multiple sources. This point is even clearer in light of the multiple tech- 
nical difficulties the programs have faced. Three types of issues have 
loomed especially large: program design, project scale, and technical 

c. And indeed, in July 2012, Enrique Pena Nieto, former governor of the state of 
Mexico and member of the PRI, was elected president by an electorate tired by the previ- 
ous administration’s focus on security issues at the cost of broader social and economic 


iz8 I Ni con goma 

4.6.1 Program Design 

Poor program design hampered the RENAUT in particular. Despite 
popular resistance to the program, some eighty-two million mobile 
numbers were ultimately registered with the government,' 6 representing 
90 percent of all mobile lines in the country. Amid reports of dubious 
registrations, however, the government turned to verifying or inspecting 
the associations between phones lines and individuals. This would, in 
theory, be accomplished by comparing the names and dates of birth or 
CURPs associated with a particular number to the National Population 
Registry (RENAPO) maintained by the Interior Secretariat. How that 
task was to be accomplished however, or who would be responsible for 
it, was not clear. 

Government officials, such as Mony de Swaan, president of the Fed- 
eral Commission of Telecommunications (COFETEL), claimed that 
mobile telephone service providers were supposed to complete the work. 
“The registry itself has been successful. There are substantial numbers 
[of registrations],” de Swaan explained. “But where we have not been 
successful is in linking these registrations with the biometric character- 
istics of the user. We are in a stage where the registrations have to be 
linked with fingerprints. We need an analysis to know if this is working 
or not, because COFETEL cannot do the analysis. It’s not our job. We 
don’t have the capacity to do it.” 57 

Industry representatives, on the other hand, countered that they had 
no knowledge of such requirements. Jorge Arreola, compliance director 
of Telefonica Mexico, told the press that “the problem we have is with 
respect to the mechanism by which a CURP can be used to register a 
phone of some other person,” the problem of the ten thousand Calde- 
rons noted at the beginning of the chapter. The verification of iden- 
tity was supposed to be undertaken by the Interior Secretariat, Arreola 
claimed, but “this project didn’t move forward and we don’t know if 
there exists a procedure that would allow us to move forward.” 58 The 
uncertainty and lack of a clear plan to carry out the second stage of the 
RENAUT threatened the feasibility of the program moving forward. 

Program design also affected the REPUVE. In 2001, before the 
REPUVE was born, the SESNSP, the governmental body that oversees 
the registry, moved from the Interior Secretariat (SEGOB) to the Secre- 
tariat of Public Security (SSP), a new agency created by then president 
Vicente Fox to fight crime. At the time, the SESNSP had responsibility 
for various technical operations, with direct control over the creation 

Ni con goma I 129 

of databases related to security. During the Calderon administration, 
the SSP became the central pivot for security operations, including con- 
trol over Plataforma Mexico, the information system hosting and inte- 
grating various government databases; and the SESNSP returned to the 
SEGOB in 2009, on the logic that vital security functions should be 
housed within the Interior Secretariat. In the process, members of the 
REPUVE project felt like they lost contact with the technical support in 
the SSP needed to complete their work. 

“In 2010, we as REPUVE ceased to belong to the Secretariat of Pub- 
lic Security and we went to the Interior Secretariat,” Lucas Espinoza 
told me. “Over there stayed the technical part. So we lost another part 
of our history. And now, as the Executive Secretariat [of the National 
System for Public Security], we don’t have a technical area that serves 
us, we don’t have a technical area for development that can attend to 
the specific needs of this institution. All the time we have to ask favors 
from Plataforma Mexico.” Daniela Flores added, “And we have to stop 
everything for them to notice us. We moved from being a complete 
administrative unit to being third-party clients.” 

The loss of access to technical solutions, as Flores hinted at, resulted 
in delays. “We have had a series of complications with the technical 
aspects,” she explained, “They [Plataforma Mexico] don’t have the 
capacity. ... So I enter a queue, and they are assisting everyone else. 
I have a spot in the line and however hard I try, they can’t get me the 
requirements like I need them.” The delays, in turn, complicated the 
State and Federal Operations team’s interactions with the states. Flores 
continued, “So we can’t give the states adequate tools, so that everything 
keeps working. And then they lose interest.” “We have the [software] 
applications now,” Samuel Gallo interjected, “but they were two years 
late. If we had had these applications last year, we would have imple- 
mented more than 50 percent of this project. If Plataforma Mexico had 
given me the applications when I needed [them] last year, we would 
have 50 percent of the states working [with us] and I wouldn’t be wor- 
ried about anything more than six or seven other states. In 2012, we’ll 
certainly lock them up. But these are the gaps.” 

These concerns over the organization of work and program design 
appeared at the local level too. In Zacatecas, technicians inspecting 
vehicles complained that they did not have access to the stolen vehicles 
database to facilitate their work. Instead, they had to call over to the 
prosecutor’s office to access the information. Matfas Luna grumbled 

130 I Ni con goma 

that the software “doesn’t have some of the features that would help 
the work go easier. For example, we have to do a report, a report of 
not being stolen when we are verifying the VIN [vehicle identification 
number]. We have to pull a report, but we have to depend on another 
office in order to be able to pull it. Why can’t we use the same software 
so that, when we type in the VIN, it can tell me that or give me the 
report automatically?” 

These comments from those on the frontline of REPUVE’s rollout 
in Zacatecas and those working in the SESNSP’s national offices sug- 
gest limitations in probesion as a mode of governance. As governmental 
agencies are increasingly integrated through centralized electronic data- 
bases, access to those centralized information networks becomes indis- 
pensable for those agencies to do their work, while restricting access is 
fundamental to maintaining security. A rivalry develops, between the 
desire for the state’s bureaucratic tasks to be completed in a timely man- 
ner and the demand for the information the state is administering to be 

4.6.2 Project Scale 

Even when the programs were operating without major complications, 
they were challenged by the immense scope of the work to be com- 
pleted. The State of Tlaxcala, for instance, held out earlier by Samuel 
Gallo as a model for the states’ implementation of the REPUVE, was 
able to apply chips to some twenty thousand vehicles within six months 
of beginning operations at two REPUVE sites, an impressive rate of 
forty vehicles per day. However, that success represented only 10 per- 
cent of the state’s vehicular roll, leaving the program years short of 
covering the entire population. 59 To provide another example, the State 
and Federal Operations directorate described how it had succeeded in 
creating a centralized database from the vehicular data from all thirty- 
two federated states. But the enormity of the task cost the office years 
to complete. Gallo explained, 

We asked the thirty-two states, “Give us your databases,” and we reviewed 
them, one by one, taking out trash, taking out duplications, all of this, in 
order to have a trustworthy database. We were 100 percent dedicated to 
reviewing each of the registries so that they were complete, so that they 
weren’t duplicated, so that they didn’t contain trash. [But] one problem was 
the great diversity in record keeping. We would find cars that were registered 
in three, four, five different states. They hadn’t been removed [from other 

Ni con goma I 13 1 

states’ vehicle rolls]. Sometimes, they had typed in Volkswagen and put b 
in place of v, and they would write Ford without the d. So we had a lot of 
data-entry errors. Lots of trash. Omissions. This process took us three years. 
We took three years to clean the database. 

This editing is precisely the type of cohesive work expected of the 
REPUVE in integrating the data systems of diverse entities. But the 
sheer scale of the task, combined with the limitations of Plataforma 
Mexico and a lack of resources, left the team behind with other work. 

The scale of the REPUVE’s work involved geography as well. In 
Zacatecas, a state with an appreciable rural population spread over a 
large geographic area, ensuring that vehicles in rural areas were included 
in the program posed a particular challenge. “It’s like with the license 
plates,” Diego Avila told me. “We know that in Zacatecas there are a 
half million registered vehicles, but there aren’t a half million vehicles. 
There’s more. Some aren’t plated. Others have American plates. But 
there are more than a half million vehicles, which means that not all of 
the vehicles in the state are taxed.” When I inquired why or how people 
don’t register their cars, Avila responded, 

Where are these people? In the villages. Why? Because maybe they make 
only a trip or two to the city. In the towns, in the cities, it’s a bit stricter, 
because there’s more people watching. There are cameras. You can’t get 
away with as much. Eventually you’re going to come across a traffic cop 
who’s not going to do you a favor. And they’re going to stop you and bring 
your car to the tow yard because you don’t have plates. But there are villages 
that are very small, that have one or two traffic cops at most. And then it’s 
your buddy, your neighbor, your brother, or your father who’s stopping 
you. And then it’s just “go on your way” [and nothing happens]. There are 
a lot of vehicles like that. 

Interestingly, the same close-knit, local political networks that Daniela 
Flores and Samuel Gallo complained prevented them from implement- 
ing the REPUVE from above are also seen to work against the program 
on the ground. 

Describing the geographic challenge for Zacatecas, Ignacio Meza, 
the state official responsible for the REPUVE there, explained that “the 
problem with Zacatecas is that we have towns almost four hours from 

d. In spoken Spanish, b’s and v’s are interchangeable and hard consonants at the end 
of Hispanicized foreign words are often dropped. This example is a reminder of how the 
unruly nature of language can complicate controlling human communication. 

132. I Ni con goma 

here [the capital city]. For example, to the north is Concepcion del Oro 
and Mazapil. They’re small, but we have to provide them the service.” 
So the state decided to employ mobile registration modules, housed in 
mobile trailers that “could be moved for a week or two, to have a fixed 
module there.” But in electing mobile units over stationary ones, the 
necessary computer software had to be broadcast remotely via radio 
frequency. “At the time,” said Meza, “I spoke with the data specialists, 
[explaining] that this was the model we were going to replicate in all 
of the principal towns. We were not going to be able to connect all of 
them with cables. The idea was to install these mobile modules. ... So 
we tried to replicate in Zacatecas how the connection would be there, 
via remote antennas.” But frequently during my observations, the team 
registering vehicles experienced service disruptions that delayed the 
transmission of data from the registration site to the secretariat’s data- 
base. When I asked Meza about these disruptions, he shared that the 
system specialists “said that these things are out of our hands. Maybe 
the telephone company, which administers the Internet connection, had 
an issue. Or maybe there was a problem of some sort. Someone hit a 
telephone pole. Or someone was digging and cut the fiber-optic cables.” 

4.6.3 Technical Glitches 

The difficulties experienced by REPUVE Zacatecas in providing ambu- 
latory service touches on another challenge facing the Mexican govern- 
ment’s attempts to enroll surveillance technologies in the fight against 
crime: technological malfunction. Prohesion as a form of governance 
depends on the performative capacities of surveillance and other infor- 
mation technologies. When those technological artifacts cannot do 
what they are intended to do, the programs themselves are at risk. 

Technological malfunction can be caused by a struck telephone pole 
or an unknowing utility worker who cuts a ground cable. Or it can 
result from other dangers lurking in both built and natural environ- 
ments. Sucaro, for instance, the car importer, had to figure out how to 
tag vehicles coming off ships from Asia en route to their dealerships. 
“Distinct from other companies that have their own yards,” Agustin 
Sandoval and Felipe Ibarra explained to me, “we have a process where 
on the ship that arrives to port, some of the cars go to a yard as inven- 
tory, but the majority have already been sold. So they go directly to 
the dealers. The challenge was to set up the application of the chips 
without affecting the commercial process. The solution that we had to 

Ni con goma I 133 

come up with was to do everything at the port.” But the company soon 
encountered problems, according to Sandoval: 

The first big problem we had there was that the printer bar codes from the 
plant arrived pixelated. The print was a bit blurry. And when there is a 
lot of sun, which is normal, the infrared couldn’t read [the bar codes]. We 
struggled with this. So we would begin the work very early, at eight in the 
morning, and it [the tag] could be read because there wasn’t so much sun. 
But when the sun really started, we would start to have problems. To find 
out what was going on, we had to get in touch with the producer of the 
handheld readers directly. And they told us the handheld readers had to 
operate with thermal paper. Without it, and with extreme solar radiation, it 
wouldn’t read. 

If the technological artifacts on which the Mexican state’s prohe- 
sive plans depended could fail at inopportune times, the things they 
were meant to monitor could present challenges of their own. For the 
REPUVE, for instance, variability in vehicle identification standards has 
complicated vehicle registrations. There is no single standard for assign- 
ing VINs. The seventeen-digit number identifying the car’s manufac- 
turer and characteristics, including model year, was adopted in many 
parts of the world in the early 1980s, though the United States and 
Canada employ a slightly different protocol. In Mexico, as Rodrigo 
Dominguez with REPUVE Sonora told me, “the international norm, 
or the norm from America, was applied . . . beginning in 1997. All of 
the manufacturers — or let me put that in quotation marks — most of the 
manufacturers have followed that. And this has been the norm really 
since 1997.” Vehicles produced in Mexico before that time, however, 
present particular difficulties. “Nissans and Volkswagens from ’95, ’96, 
’97, as well as Chevys from ’94,” Dominguez elaborated, “they can’t 
be put into the Public Registry of Vehicles for now. The system doesn’t 
allow the registration of their serial numbers because of a production 
problem in those vehicles. The REPUVE system detected duplicate serial 
numbers in those brands, which caused the service to be suspended.” 
The differing norms for identifying cars complicates vehicle inspec- 
tion as well. To verify a vehicle’s identity, REPUVE inspectors must 
document three matching instances of the VIN. The first instance is 
routinely located on the vehicle dashboard. The second is commonly 
located on the car body, under the hood and below the windshield wip- 
ers. A third is usually found on the doorjamb. If the VIN is absent from 
any of these three locations for whatever reason, the next place to look 
is on the chassis. And locating that VIN can be problematic, as it is not 

134 I Ni con goma 

intended to be easily found. Ignacio Meza with REPUVE Zacatecas told 
me, “It took us fifteen days to be trained with all the makes and models. 
In addition, they [the technicians] have a logbook where they note the 
make, model, and where the secret numbers are located.” This logbook 
was a point of pride among the inspectors, who approached this aspect 
of vehicular verification as a sort of riddle or problem to be solved. 

Of course, each day presents its own challenges for inspectors, and 
a vehicle not previously encountered can always appear/ “Just yester- 
day,” Rodrigo Dominguez, the REPUVE Sonora site manager, told me, 

a Nissan Tsuru came by that was completely different from what was on 
the bill of sale. What the bill of sale said was that it was a Ford Explorer. 
What happened is that the car had been hit, they recovered it, and they 
reassembled it with other pieces. So how am I going to validate it? I said to 
the guy, “Give me your documents, your bills, et cetera,” and with that we 
were able to document that we had encountered a vehicle with a different 
serial number. In this case, the technician recorded the serial number from 
the doorjamb to register the vehicle. . . . The vehicles can receive a chip as 
long as we normalize [these discrepancies]. But if nothing remains of a car 
other than the parts, or 50 percent of a vehicle remains, then it’s the other jo 
percent of the other vehicle that we would have to register. 

If automobile idiosyncrasies can present challenges for their registra- 
tion and inspection in the REPUVE program, so too can they compli- 
cate their regulation. “Another problem that came up, which was a big 
pain,” explained Dominguez in Sonora, “was the fact that vehicles that 
have metallic particles [in their windshields] don’t allow readings from 
the equipment. They estimate that around 3 percent of the 25 million 
vehicles in the country, around 750,000, cannot have readings. . . . One 
of these is the Partner from Renault from 2007. It is going to be a 
pain for owners, unfortunately. We cannot put a chip on the windshield 
because it won’t be read.” Metallized windshields in certain makes and 
models are common. And while REPUVE administrators hoped that 
the number of vehicles affected would be less than 3 percent of the total 

e. During my week at the REPUVE site, a Jeep Liberty arrived for its sticker. The 
team had never encountered the vehicle before and was having difficulty locating a third 
VIN. Being the son of a Jeep dealer, I decided to spend a not insignificant sum of Telcel 
credit to dial the family dealership and ask where the third number might be found. The 
dealership had the location for us in a matter of minutes, suggesting perhaps that greater 
coordination with automobile manufacturers or dealers could mitigate the challenges of 
locating VINs in the future. 

Ni con goma I 135 

vehicle roll, in fact more than thirty makes and one hundred models 
have metallized windshields. Thus, the reading of REPUVE’s RFID 
tags has been complicated by the materiality it is meant to control. 

In addition to vehicles, paperwork can also present complications. 
Generally, drivers need to present five documents to register: a bill of 
sale from the purchase of the vehicle, a vehicle registration, a driver’s 
license, a proof of residency, and an official form of identification. 
At times, people I spoke with who were registering their vehicles had 
difficulty gathering the necessary documents to obtain their tags. “I had 
to fight a lot for the documents they ask for,” one woman told me in 
Sonora. “I fought. It was annoying because they said that the docu- 
ments were fine. But afterward, they told me that they were insufficient 
and I made three appointments to come in. So I had to come in three 
times because of misunderstandings about my documentation. The last 
time they told me that I was missing this document and that. I was sick 
of it. Finally, I said, ‘Fley, I’m not going to get anything else.’ That was 
the last fight and it looks like it’s OK now.” 

Some drivers with paperwork problems blamed themselves. “It was 
my fault,” said another woman. “I didn’t bring the required documents. 
So I had to make three trips. [Three?] Yeah, three, but they told me. 
They were very clear with me at the beginning in saying, ‘You need 
this, that, and the other thing, the original bill of sale.’ I didn’t want to 
bring it because it’s a bill of sale and I keep it safe. Now I brought it and 
everything is perfect. ” 

But others were not so understanding. “It’s incompetence. How do 
you say it?” complained one man I spoke with at the module in Sonora. 

They have to verify the documents. I came yesterday to complete the trans- 
action and they told me I lacked a document. I brought it today, and today 
they tell me that I am missing a notary on my bill of sale. This is a pain. Be- 
cause yesterday they should have told me, “You are missing a stamp. Come 
again tomorrow and have them stamp this.” Now they tell me that they can’t 
do the transaction for me because I have to bring in the notarized version. I 
asked them, “What is your job here?” She told me, “We don’t stamp that.” 
Fine, “But what is your job? Checking that you have all the documents and 
that the documents are in order. But you didn’t do that.” She started with, 
“Well, what happened is ... ” “No! You didn’t do it. If you told me yester- 
day that the document was missing a stamp, I would go today, or go yester- 
day, and have them put the stamp on the document. And today I’d come here 
and you would finish the transaction.” Now I have to go to another office so 
they can put a stamp that they didn’t put before. 

136 I Ni con goma 

The REPUVE’s diverse technical challenges discussed here, it must 
be noted, did not necessarily jeopardize the registration and inspection 
of vehicles. Sketchy network connections could eventually be reestab- 
lished. Someone low in the Plataforma Mexico queue would eventu- 
ally receive service. Erroneous data entries could be cleaned up. Rural 
areas outside the grasp of the law would eventually be reached. Mal- 
functioning equipment could always be diagnosed and fixed. Elidden 
VINs could, with persistence, be unearthed. And missing paperwork 
could eventually be supplied. But these challenges each led to delays 
that increased dissatisfaction with the program among drivers, suje- 
tos obligados, and governmental actors who were choosing to stand 
“before the law” and participate. 


And so it was during 2010-11 that the Mexican government found its 
plans to gain a firmer grip on mobile telephony, automobility, and per- 
sonal identification floundering on the brink of failure. Individuals fear- 
ful of losing their privacy or entrusting their data to the state organized 
themselves in digital spaces to share strategies for evading the telephone 
registry. Car companies complied with new requirements to facilitate 
the automobile registry but launched a lawsuit and took to the media in 
an attempt to modify the REPUVE legislation. The federal agency that 
saw its mission threatened by the new national identity card worked 
the media to foster opposition to the card. State governments appre- 
hensive about the costs and potential for success of the vehicle registry, 
meanwhile, either refused to apply tags to vehicles or suspended opera- 
tions. And those states that did apply the tags found themselves, like the 
sujetos obligados in the private sector, facing technical challenges that 
complicated their attempt to comply with the law. 

These difficulties experienced by the Mexican government can partly 
be explained, as this chapter has shown, using the conceptual reper- 
toire that political scientists and sociolegal scholars have developed to 
study the state and law. Ordinary Mexicans opposed to the RENAUT 
organized themselves to “stand against the law.” Their actions did 
not attempt to repeal the law or topple the Calderon administration. 
Rather, they, like the campesinos who refused to participate in Mexico’s 
Agrarian Census following the Revolution, attempted to evade the 
law either by refusing to register or by providing false information, 
individual actions that can be read as “weapons of the weak.” The 

Ni con goma I 137 

decidedly nonweak — multinational automobile corporations — by con- 
trast felt that they could not risk being so bold or flippant in their posi- 
tion vis-a-vis the law. Not complying with the REPUVE risked state 
sanction, which could harm business operations more than complying 
with the law in the first place. Nevertheless, the new automobile registry 
did imply significant costs. Thus, the companies opted to challenge the 
program “through the law” by suing to have the law changed. 

But these conceptualizations of resistance only go so far in explain- 
ing the difficulties facing the Calderon administration. Major challenges 
jeopardizing these programs came not only from individual citizens 
and incorporated businesses. In the case of the Citizen Identity Card, 
the main opposition originated from within the state itself, the Federal 
Electoral Institute. In the case of the automobile registry, the primary 
sources of defiance again arose from within the political system, the 
individual states or entidades federativas that refused to implement the 
program. In the case of the telephone registry, in addition to the ten 
thousand Calderons, design failure was the major obstacle that left the 
government without a clear strategy for verifying the phone numbers 
of the 90 percent of mobile phone users who did register their data, 
whether earnestly or not. Thus, the trials and travails of the Mexican 
government in implementing its prohesive vision of governance suggest 
sites of conflict and contestation beyond those that have captured the 
attention of scholars in the past. 

With regard to the state-based obstacles encountered by the CEDI 
and REPUVE, it is interesting to consider, if we take a long enough 
timeline, that the Federal Electoral Institute’s voter card, or even the 
federalist composition of political power in Mexico, embodies the sub- 
stance of earlier efforts to manage the collective agencies of society. 
As noted in the first chapter, the IFE is a body created by Mexican 
authorities following the popular outrage over the 1988 presidential 
election, the one in which IBM’s computers crashed as it appeared that 
the opposition candidate, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, was heading to vic- 
tory. And the voter card and the biometrics it contains took shape over 
the twentieth century in order to govern personal identity in a manner 
conducive to democratic governance in Mexico. The federalist system, 
meanwhile, enshrined in Mexico’s Constitution following the bloody 
civil conflict of the Revolution, is a solution to the challenges of con- 
structing a single, unified political system for a geographic space defined 
by regional rivalries since pre-Columbian times. In this sense, the chal- 
lenges encountered by the Calderon administration in enacting its new 

138 I Ni con goma 

strategies for capturing the collective agencies of Mexican society are 
concentrated in the old infrastructure, bodies, practices, and agreements 
that had been developed to capture the collective agencies of Mexico in 
the past. This is, in essence, “law against itself.” 

A similar dynamic can be detected in the technical challenges faced 
by the REPUVE and RENAUT programs. With cars manufactured 
before 1997, when Mexico adopted an international standard for iden- 
tifying vehicles, the REPUVE comes up against an older way of ordering 
vehicles that does not lend itself to the new strategy. And these vehicles 
are able, then, to escape the grip of the new registry. 

But with automobiles, a challenge beyond older modes of order- 
ing is their materiality. Vehicles resist government efforts to be con- 
trolled. Metallized windshields provide a material barrier that insulates 
cars from being read. The absence of windshields or the reduced size 
of windshields on motorcycles, meanwhile, has prevented them from 
being tagged by the REPUVE program. Reassembled cars, a common 
phenomenon in Mexico and other poorer countries, 63 a technological 
embodiment of mestizaje (racial mixing), befuddle official ways of iden- 
tifying vehicles to guarantee “legal certainty.” 

Of course, the material objects complicating REPUVE’s operation 
have not just been automobiles. Computers crash, their operability 
stretched by the need to communicate remotely in the rural expanses of 
Mexico. Bar codes pixelate when printed on nonthermal paper, hiding 
the information they were meant to convey when the sun intensifies. 
And other technological challenges — disruptions in mobile telephony 
for Telcel subscribers or unresponsive webpages — are an ever-present 
reality in the material world. 

These examples invite a reconceptualization of resistance that takes 
account of such forces. But how would one do that? A sensible place to 
start would be science and technology studies (STS) that highlight how 
nonhuman things — sea scallops in Saint-Brieuc Bay, 64 the anthrax rav- 
aging cattle in the French countryside during the nineteenth century, 6s 
the bubble chamber built by Donald Glaser to detect subatomic 
particles — “resist” the efforts of scientists and engineers to bring them 
into their plans for ordering the world. This “material agency” is at 
the heart of scientific and technological failure, just as scientists’ and 
engineers’ ability to “capture” it lies at the heart of its progress. 67 

These concepts can be brought to bear on surveillance and the state. 
Like scallops, anthrax, and bubble chambers, the material agency of 
windshields, bar codes, and computers represent points of contestation 

Ni con goma I 139 

that challenge the power and operation of state surveillance programs in 
Mexico. But we need not stop with material objects. Rather, the nonhuman 
agency working against the CEDI and REPUVE includes certain arrange- 
ments of political life or ways of ordering society — the “co-productions” 
or “assemblages” 69 of the state — that are inherited from authorities’ past 
attempts to capture the collective agencies of society. 

To formalize this train of thought, we need not limit ourselves to 
defining resistance, as James Scott does, as “any act(s) by member(s) 
of a subordinate class that is or are intended either to mitigate or deny 
claims made on that class by superordinate classes or to advance its own 
claims vis-a-vis those subordinate classes.” 70 This definition restricts 
itself to human actors of a subordinate class, overlooking other force 
relations in society that can count more centrally in the fate and out- 
comes of governmental projects and define the contours and limits of 
power. Instead, we might better define resistance as “any force, whether 
human or not, that has the effect of obstructing the intended plans and 
intentions or established relational patterns of authorities.” 

This definitional change provides both a fuller understanding of the 
experiences of surveillance technologies in Mexico’s War on Crime and 
a different way of studying surveillance and state power going forward. 
For one, it shifts analysis from “members of a subordinate class” to “the 
plans and established patterns of authority.” That is, it moves analyti- 
cal focus from the weak to the strong. The rationale for privileging the 
actions of the poor is clear for a field of research interested in contesting 
social inequalities. “The celebration of some forms of resistance con- 
tains implicit commitments to social justice and equality,” Sally Engle 
Merry writes. Thus, “it would be more honest to acknowledge where 
we stand and join in the search for a more just world.” 71 Practically, 
however, we can ask whether focusing on the weak leaves the power- 
ful out of our immediate focus. To understand power, it seems right to 
place the designs of the powerful at the forefront of analysis. 

Second, the new definition shifts analysis of resistance from relativ- 
istic meanings (the “intentions” of individual members of subordinate 
classes) to general outcomes (“the effect of obstructing plans” that affect 
the social environment through which human activity is conducted). The 
reasons for wanting to privilege the intentions of ordinary people are 
again understandable. The disappointments of collective action follow- 
ing the 1960s and 1970s in the United States, Europe, and Latin Amer- 
ica owed in good measure to social movements’ disregard for the views, 
values, and interests of some members, usually those who were not male 

140 I Ni con goma 

or European, which limited the movements’ appeal and democratic 
potential . 71 Too often, the means were ignored for the ends. Neverthe- 
less, attending to the intentions of actors also draws our gaze away from 
the more objective, material outcomes of action that, as STS has shown, 
must be taken into account to understand social action and outcomes. 

If the preceding two points, by moving away from perspectives that 
prioritize the meaning making of the less privileged, seem conservative, 
it bears saying that reconceptualizing resistance in this way can also 
expand what is considered the field of political dispute. By limiting our- 
selves to a definition of resistance as “intentional action,” our analysis 
can overlook those actions that might be unintentional but still effective 
in countering the plans of authorities. I have in mind here some of the 
tweets against Mexico’s phone registry that started this chapter. A tweet 
such as “They can take away our cell phone numbers but they cant 
[sic] take away our freeeeeeeeeedoooooooooom” or “Did you know 
the #RENAUT plans to include your fingerprints in a second stage?” 
can only with difficulty be read as intentional actions in opposition to 
the government. The first is a stab at humor, a play on Mel Gibson’s 
iconic rallying cry as Braveheart, and the second could merely be infor- 
mational, telling readers what will follow with the registry. However, 
these comments, something akin to gossip or chatting, can diminish 
the legitimacy of the registry and serve to counter its power. Similarly, 
simply purchasing a vehicle that turns out to have a metallized wind- 
shield or reassembled parts can unknowingly obstruct the advance of a 
governmental program like the vehicle registry. 

These actions cannot be described as democratically expansive, but 
they do encourage us to imagine a wider space of political contestation 
than might otherwise be imagined. Indeed, if collective agency in society 
can be seen as distributed across a collection of human and nonhuman 
actors, including governmental state structures that are “co-produced” in 
the process of regulating those agencies, it stands to reason that each link 
in that distribution can serve as a site of resistance. In Mexico’s War on 
Crime, as the federal government has sought to reorder mobile telephony, 
automobility, and personal identification by “making things stick,” these 
agencies have proven resistant to change at points all along their distribu- 
tions, from the intentions of ordinary Mexicans to the pixels of bar codes. 

f. Jocelyn Hollander and Rachel Einwohner note that the common threads between 
the disparate uses of “resistance” in the social sciences are “a sense of action” and “a 
sense of opposition” (Hollander and Einwohner, “Conceptualizing Resistance,” 538). 



The chip is not mandatory. There is no law that requires 
people to get a chip. The motivation [for people to get the 
chip] is passing through the toll [area] free of charge with 
the tag. 

— Carlos Aguilar, REPUVE Sonora employee 

The chip helps me avoid wasting time in line like all the other 
vehicles. You arrive in your lane, and the reader automatically 
reads the chip and lifts the gate. So it saves time. 

— REPUVE registrant in Sonora 


During December 2013, an odd daily ritual took shape at the Public Reg- 
istry of Vehicles (REPUVE) installation at the old Santa Rita market in 
Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. Each morning, dozens of local residents lined 
up in hopes of securing a REPUVE chip before the end of the year. As 
the days passed, and demand for the chip increased, the lines grew lon- 
ger, and arriving early in the morning to queue for the radio-frequency 
identification (RFID) tag no longer sufficed. Residents began camping for 
nights at a time in freezing temperatures and without toilet facilities for 
a chance to join the program. Describing her predicament, Martha Oli- 
veros Hernandez, a young mother in a green Dodge Caravan, explained 
to reporters, “I arrived at three in the morning. I’m going to stay through 
the night until tomorrow morning. I don’t want to do it. But I need it [the 
chip]. They say that it’s important because next year it [the chip] will be 
required and they are going to give fines. The cold is intense. But we’re 
going to spend the night all the same. We don’t have an alternative.” 1 

142 - I Statecraft 

To meet the demand and leave parking spaces for drivers arriving to 
renew licenses and complete other transactions at the complex, REPUVE 
employees implemented a number system to allow drivers to hold their 
place in line. Each day, 120 numbers were distributed. But this failed to 
quell the queues, employees reported. “The same people come and line up 
despite [our] informing them that they don’t need to. They have the num- 
ber corresponding to them placed on their vehicle. We are taking mea- 
sures so that only half of the parking lot is occupied and the other part is 
available for those people who are getting plates for the first time.”" 

The cause of this sudden demand for the REPUVE program was 
simple enough. As Ms. Oliveros alluded to, a rumor had circulated in 
Juarez that the chip would become obligatory in 2014, that it would 
have a cost, and that those without it would be subject to fines. “I came 
now because it’s free,” explained Guadalupe, another young woman 
spending the evening in her vehicle. “In the coming year, who knows?” 3 
The rumor was fed by employees at the REPUVE site, who had noted 
earlier in the year that sanctions would be imposed on those without 
chips. But now faced with the sudden surge of local residents desiring a 
chip, administrators sought to clarify that there was no need to line up 
for tags, since there were no plans to make the chip obligatory, more 
registration centers would be established in the coming year, and a pub- 
licity campaign was forthcoming to explain the program to drivers. “It 
is important to emphasize to the community of Chihuahua that there is 
not any rush to enlist in the public registry of vehicles,” explained Idali 
Marinelarena, an administrator with REPUVE Chihuahua, “because 
drivers can come throughout the year without any problem.” 4 

Given the various setbacks endured by the telephone registry, 
national identity card, and automobile registry from 2010 to 2012, the 
scene at the Santa Rita market might come as a surprise. But Juarez’s 
experiences were not without precedent. A similar scenario had played 
out a year earlier in the state of San Luis Potosi, one of the early adopt- 
ers of the Public Registry of Vehicles program. 5 The state of Quintana 
Roo, home to the tourist resorts of Cancun, had to expand its hours 
of service to the weekends to facilitate demand once it began distribut- 
ing chips. And the governor of the state of Coahuila faced popular 
pressure from civic organizations for failing to enlist the state in the 
REPUVE, a neglectful oversight they felt placed their property at risk. 7 

These vignettes help underscore that the Public Registry of Vehicles, 
while facing considerable challenges, has in fact met with some suc- 
cess. By summer 2012, nearly every automobile manufacturer and 

Statecraft I 143 

importer in Mexico was applying tags to their vehicles, which meant 
that 1,737,573 tags had been applied to new vehicles and 7,366,856 
vehicles had been added to the national registry’s database. The sujetos 
obligados (obligated subjects) contributed a mountain of digital files to 
the REPUVE database as well — financial institutions contributed some 
five million sales records; insurers, some twenty-six million notices of 
policy changes. The number of states applying tags rose from six in 
2011 to fourteen in 2012. 

But more significant was that the REPUVE had modestly begun to 
penetrate the daily lives of Mexican drivers. The call center established 
to handle people’s inquiries about the status of their vehicles received 
24,000 calls in the first half of 2012. A small cottage industry sprang 
up at tianguis, the open-air car markets with a reputation for dealing in 
goods of questionable provenance, where enterprising individuals with 
laptops and printers charged prospective buyers thirty pesos (about 
three dollars) to check the REPUVE website for the legal status of vehi- 
cles up for sale. State and local police also set up terminals outside the 
tianguis as both a service to car buyers and a deterrent to retailers of 
stolen vehicles. And throughout the country, the REPUVE database 
became a centralized source of information about vehicles that police 
officers on patrol could use to identify stolen cars. 9 Thus, if the program 
was not fully operational across the country, there was a real sense that 
the REPUVE was finding its legs. 

Something similar could be said of the Citizen Identity Card (CEDI) 
by summer 2012. In 2011 and 2012, some three million personal iden- 
tity cards were distributed. However, in a modification to the program’s 
original design, all of those cards were distributed to minors, such as 
Leslie Garcia Rodriguez, the young girl mentioned at the start of the 
second chapter. In January 2011, the federal government, under the 
leadership of Interior Secretary Francisco Blake Mora, decided to issue 
personal identity cards to Mexicans under the age of eighteen and to 
postpone issuing them to adults, to accommodate the concerns of the 
Federal Electoral Institute (IFE). 10 To relaunch the card, which was 
rebranded the Identity Card for Minors (Cedula de Identidad para 
Menores), President Felipe Calderon appeared at a public event in his 
home state of Michoacan and championed the card as an achievement 
of the Mexican government in fulfilling the obligations of the 1990 Pop- 
ulation Law.” As part of the relaunch, the card was recast as a secu- 
rity measure that would protect children from kidnappings and human 
trafficking as well as facilitate registering for school, accessing health 

144 I Statecraft 

care, or obtaining a passport. The Identity Card for Minors began being 
distributed at schools in the states of Baja California, Colima, Chiapas, 
Guanajuato, Jalisco, and Nuevo Leon. At a school in Baja California, 
Maria Isabel Miranda de Wallace, head of the organization Stop the 
Kidnapping, kicked off a ceremony titled “There is No One Like You” 
by telling the audience, 

The Identity Card gives us an official identity so that we know who we are 
before the state of Mexico and whichever authority. . . . My name is Maria 
Isabel Miranda Torres [maiden name]. I have the certainty that although 
another person may exist with the same name, that person doesn’t have my 
fingerprints, doesn’t have my eyes, and this gives me a unique identity. . . . 
And what I want to say to the parents of the families is that no one wants to 
risk having a child get lost and not be able to locate him. May we never, ever 
lose any child. May no child ever be subject to trafficking. The people who 
entrap on the Internet, sometimes they capture children by making them 
believe that they love them. But really they want to abduct them. May we 
never have to experience that. But it is important that we have this identity 
[card] because it would help locating them. If a child is lost, this will be the 
difference. Dear parents: This identity card truly has infinitely more advan- 
tages than whatever the political debate says. Don’t let yourselves be fooled. 
Sometimes politicians . . . bring things into the political arena that shouldn’t 
be brought in. This is a matter of security. This is a matter of security and 
safety of our children. May we come to implement this identity nationally, 
for the children and the adults. 

In contrast to the REPUVE and the Identity Card for Minors, by sum- 
mer 2012. the National Registry of Mobile Telephone Users (RENAUT) 
was no more. In April 2011, in response to the lack of progress in veri- 
fying the identity of phone users who had registered with the program, 
the Senate voted to abolish the RENAUT. 1 ’ While the program passed 
into history, organizations such as the Federal Institute for Information 
Access and InfoDF pressed the government to ensure the destruction of 
the RENAUT database, to prevent it from falling into criminal hands/ 4 
There also remained the question of what to do about the tracking of 
cell phones going forward. On April 19, 2013, the Interior Secretariat 
reported that it had completed destruction of the RENAUT database, 
thus bringing to a close the peculiar history of Mexico’s mobile tele- 
phone registry. But the question of what would replace the RENAUT 
remained unanswered. 

These summaries of the REPUVE, CEDI, and RENAUT programs 
illustrate a fundamental point concerning state formation and the 
implementation of surveillance technologies to fight crime in Mexico. 

Statecraft I 145 

If the technologies met with various types of resistance that threatened 
the designs of those in power, that resistance did not decide the pro- 
grams’ fates. Some programs and technologies survived and were slowly 
adopted across society, while others withered away. What explains 
these differences? 

The simplest answer to this question is that many Mexicans simply 
saw benefits in some of the programs and not in others. In the REPUVE, 
a more secure and remunerating hold over vehicles could be imagined. 
In the RENAUT, by and large, a similar secure, promising future could 
not. But, this chapter argues, such outcomes are not given in advance 
and involve more than personal predilections. Central as well has been 
the manner in which program administrators have responded to the 
resistance posed by citizens, companies, and state officials. That is, the 
trajectories of these monitoring programs were a function not simply 
of how people perceived and reacted to them but also of how authori- 
ties reacted to those reactions. This chapter provides an inventory of 
the various strategies taken by administrators to overcome resistance 
to their programs. These include building technical resilience into the 
operation of programs to make them less onerous or more user-friendly 
for those obligated to participate; providing quality service to sujetos 
obligados and other individuals to address their concerns and illustrate 
program benefits; making threats and offering incentives to motivate 
peoples’ participation; building a critical mass of participation to pre- 
serve and bulwark the programs against future setbacks; allowing the 
levying of taxes by state actors to incentivize their participation; pig- 
gybacking programs onto existing state infrastructures and institutions; 
and, when all else fails, circumventing the state altogether to build a 
new infrastructure of governance in collaboration with private actors. 

Two lessons can be drawn from reflecting on these strategies for 
countering resistance to surveillance. First, the success of surveillance 
programs owes not only to the plans of authorities or the design of tech- 
nologies. Rather, in good measure it owes to the dexterity of bureaucrats 
to go off-script and find strategies central to successful implementation. 
These bureaucrats engage in what can be called statecraft, practices in 
the art of governance that help give shape to the state. 

Second, if improvisational tactics allow the Mexican state to get a 
hold on collective agencies, it is not the prohesive hold authorities had 
envisioned. Rather than using the RFID chip to instantaneously locate 
vehicles throughout the country, authorities in Sonora employ it as a 
tolling solution. In place of distributing identity cards to all Mexicans 

146 I Statecraft 

to simplify identification, the state only issues the CEDI to schoolchil- 
dren. And in the face of an ineffectual state bureaucracy unable to man- 
age the RENAUT, the federal government turns to the private sector to 
deputize phone companies to maintain surveillance over mobile com- 
munications. Thus, the shape of state reformation through surveillance 
technologies cannot be known in advance, whether through the dictates 
of state leaders who adopt them or the investigations of scholars who 
study them. That shape instead emerges in time through the interplay of 
the resistance that arises to the technologies and the accommodations 
of statecraft. In this sense, the state — despite its structured arrange- 
ment of institutions and roles, laws and regulations, authority over a 
fixed geographic area, and coercive technologies — is not a static entity, 
but a stochastic one whose interactions of power are patterned on the 
past but cannot be predicted or determined a priori. If this uncertainty 
concerning the impact of surveillance technologies on contemporary 
governance in Mexico leaves our social-scientific desire for certainty 
unfulfilled, it can also be read optimistically as evidence of the contin- 
ued influence of human agency on the emerging technoscientific secu- 
rity state. 


As noted above, the different outcomes experienced by the REPUVE and 
RENAUT owe to the fact that people liked the REPUVE and disliked 
the RENAUT. Returning to the survey I conducted, only 43.3 percent of 
those asked (42 of 97) supported the RENAUT, while 76.3 percent (74 
of 97) supported the REPUVE. Respondents’ answers help explain this 
difference. While the RENAUT, as noted in the last chapter, aroused 
fears about personal privacy and data security, the REPUVE connected 
to people’s desire to protect their property. For example, respondents 
noted the following about the REPUVE: 

I believe my auto is more secure from robbery and it would be 
easier to locate it. 

You would know if the car was stolen or if they used it improperly. 
This would help to more quickly locate vehicles that are stolen. 

a. In explaining state formation through a “dialectic of resistance and accommodation,” 
this chapter borrows from Andrew Pickering’s description of science and technology as a 
“mangle of practice” (Pickering, Mangle of Practice). 

Statecraft I 147 

This concern with protecting property aligned with what registrants 
in Zacatecas told me about their motivations for participating in the 

When they register the car, they check all of the documents, all the papers, 
to make sure they’re in order. This ensures that all the cars have valid docu- 
mentation, the documents for the car are in order. I think if they applied 
this to everyone, there would be more coordination over all the cars. There 
wouldn’t be stolen cars. 

Simply because I go on excursions sometimes with my family to Aguascalien- 
tes, to get to Rancho Nuevo Morenos. That’s where I go, I take my family in 
the truck. That’s the reason. The insecurity that exists. [Criminals] will take 
your things whenever they want. Maybe with these chips that they put on, 
one can travel with more security. Maybe they’ll be able to locate the vehicle. 

I’m here because of robberies. There is a lot of insecurity and they take our 
trucks. There is a lot of organized crime here. We live up in the villages, I’m a 
farmer. They come and hold us up with pistols and everything. The hope that 
we have with the chip is that they can locate [stolen vehicles] immediately. 

“I believe in the PAN [National Action Party]. The PRI [Institutional Revo- 
lutionary Party] scares me. And we’re in for many years of PRI. In December 
[when the PRI would assume control of the presidency], the country is 
fucked. . . . This technology is state of the art, never before did we have chips 
or radar. Before, it was by the grace of God, pure good will. In addition to 
that, a month ago a lady hit me. I got her license plate, she left, but she left 
her plate number. Ten years ago, even with the plate number, it would have 
taken fifteen days to find the car. Now, in five minutes I had her name, and 
address. So, we’re talking about this [vehicle registry] making things more 

These comments by drivers in Mexico express a clear confidence that 
the Public Registry of Vehicles, through its registration and inspection 
of vehicles and subsequent regulation through advanced surveillance 
technologies, will help ensure the security of one of their most valued 
possessions: automobiles. 

This faith in the REPUVE program and its RFID chip extended to the 
business community as well. Groups such as the Mexican Association 
for the Automobile Industry and the Mexican Association of Automo- 
bile Dealers (AMDA) supported the program to increase car sales; it 
protected the domestic market from low-cost imports from the United 
States, colloquially known as chatarra, or junk heaps . 1 Already in talks 
with the government about restricting the importation of older vehi- 
cles, the Mexican automobile industry saw the REPUVE as a possible 

148 I Statecraft 

tool for serving its constituency. “We need a second step related to 
the establishment of the Public Registry of Vehicles,” AMDA president 
Jose Gomez Baez announced to the press, “as an axis of control over 
plates for the purposes of public security, vehicular control, mechanical 
inspections, and pollution emissions .” 17 

My interviews with Sucaro and the Velocity Motor Corporation 
(VMC) representatives, if mainly capturing their unhappiness with the 
costs of the REPUVE, also revealed support for the idea behind the 
program. Agustin Sandoval, from Sucaro, the car importer, echoed 
individual drivers in describing how increasing security over vehicles 
would support Sucaro’s business. “It complicates things for thieves,” he 
argued, “because those cars that are stolen the most are the new ones. 
So, for us, it [REPUVE] helps because last year the industry suffered 
thefts of new cars from carriers. They didn’t even reach the dealers. 
Now that they have chips, it helps. Maybe just a little, but it helps. If 
they steal six cars, it’s not as easy for you to just put plates on them 
because it’s reported to REPUVE.” 

Felipe Ibarra, also with Sucaro, painted a similarly positive picture 
of what the REPUVE could do for car companies. He saw communi- 
cations with REPUVE’s Relations with Obligated Subjects Directorate 
as a benefit, one that helped build trust in the program and contrasted 
with previous automobile registries and the RENAUT, which was very 
much in the news at the time of our conversation. “The REPUVE was 
born much more solidly than the RENAVE and its predecessor,” he 
told me, “in terms of having clearer plans for confidentiality. They took 
us to installations. When the program was launched, the secretary of 
public security took us to the Iztapalapa Airport. So, I think that from 
when it was born up to now, the steps have been a little slower than we 
would have liked, all of them, but they have functioned well.” Ibarra 
later came to the case of the RENAUT: 

There is an example, completely opposite, that hasn’t functioned, and that’s 
the one with cell phones. At its core, the cellular registry has never stopped 
being a failure, it didn’t work and then it didn’t work. I don’t think they 
[the cell service providers] understood it as a benefit, but only as a detri- 
ment. And it affected their market. In the case of cellular service providers, 
the majority of their clients are anonymous. But the problem was more 
about the user than the identity. They [the users] didn’t have confidence in 
it [the RENAUT]. “I’m going to give my data, who knows who I’m giving it 
to?” My sister works for a telephone company, for example, I’m not going 
to say which, but she shared stories about clients who would buy cards and 
when it was time to enter their data, they would say, “Put down Mickey 

Statecraft I 149 

Mouse, Donald, and Pluto. Put it down or I’m not buying anything.” In 
addition, everything was cash. And in whose name? “Pancho Pantera” [an 
iconic advertising cartoon character who sells sugary breakfast cereal]. 
Things like that. 

Christian Ruiz of VMC, meanwhile, told me how his company 
viewed working with the REPUVE as an advantage: 

We participated as a work group with the REPUVE. A REPUVE [team] 
came, the law was already passed, with all of their requirements: “Have 
this and that,” “You should comply with this and that,” “And this is what 
you’re going to do.” So, VMC was the pilot, because it was the first corpora- 
tion to implement the process. And being the first, obviously we were able 
to run the first tests, the first pilots, to see how it works, where to place the 
sticker, how to comply with everything that they were telling us. 

For VMC, then, volunteering to work with REPUVE administrators 
at an early stage provided the advantage of getting ahead of its competi- 
tors in learning how to implement the program efficiently. 

State officials, for their part, also supported the program for its poten- 
tial to secure automobility. Officials in Tamaulipas, for example, used 
the REPUVE database to estimate that there were at least ten thousand 
stolen vehicles with reports of theft circulating in their state . 1 At the 
REPUVE installations themselves, technicians had uncovered handfuls 
of stolen vehicles attempting to register for tags. As Ignacio Meza, who 
oversaw REPUVE Zacatecas, informed me, “We have detained various 
vehicles here with altered serial numbers or with reports of theft. Some 
situations were uncovered while checking the vehicle.” Rodrigo Domin- 
guez at the REPUVE Sonora site described a similar situation: “We have 
a good relationship with the people from [the] stolen vehicles [desk] 
at the prosecutor’s office. I communicate with the prosecutor person- 
ally and he comes [here] to see what the problem is. It’s not like in the 
movies, busting down doors and threatening people. He comes, more 
than anything, to see what the situation is, to interview the person, to 
determine whether he is guilty or not, if he has documents that show 
whether the vehicle was bought legally.” In this sense, even absent the 
installation of RFID readers at transit points to instantaneously locate 
vehicles circulating with reports of theft, the REPUVE provided states 
an increased capacity to identify and capture stolen vehicles. 

In addition to this, for state officials, the program lent itself to 
imagining how vehicles might be governed in new ways. As noted in 
chapter 2, Meza told me that “when Zacatecas made its first efforts 

150 I Statecraft 

[with the REPUVE], there were various states that didn’t view the pro- 
gram in good terms, because it doesn’t represent a benefit, but a cost”: 

But one has to see the public security aspect and how it could benefit states. 
For the finance ministries, with this program, the first benefit that it gives is 
having certainty over the vehicle roll. To clean it, to purify it. This is one of 
the objectives. The other is that you can pull products from this program, 
such as being able to control traffic violations, to do tax operations. A few 
administrations ago, the state of Zacatecas started a program called Secure 
Transit. It was primarily a public safety program, but it also contained pro- 
visions allowing Finances to verify payment due. So, two Transit officials 
would go out, one person from Finances, and another person from the State 
Comptroller, who would serve as an observer to prevent acts of ill gains, 
abuse of authority, and so forth. This program allowed the Transit authori- 
ties to monitor pollution emissions, tinted windows, seatbelts, and so on. . . . 
If every vehicle had a chip, we could start a new program of this type. With 
the scanner and chips, we could collect information on payments. And this 
would help the operation of such a program a lot. The other would be, like I 
was telling you, with traffic violations. Give a reader to traffic officials with a 
small printer and print out traffic infractions right there. They give you your 
ticket, and they would send you to the Traffic or Finance Secretariat offices. 

Thus, in addition to increasing vehicle security, the REPUVE could 
facilitate tax collection and reduce corruption among unsupervised 
police officers, two fundamental obstacles to governance in Mexico. 

As the preceding survey and interview responses suggest, the differ- 
ent destinies of the REPUVE and RENAUT can be explained by the 
opinions held about them by ordinary people and drivers, major global 
corporations, and local and state governments. But these perceptions 
were not formed in a vacuum. Rather, as Felipe Ibarra claimed, “the 
REPUVE was born much more solidly than the RENAVE [National 
Registry of Vehicles] and its predecessor,” a comment reflecting the 
influence of the REPUVE Obligated Subjects directorate’s efforts to 
win his company’s support of the program. The sections that follow 
describe additional efforts taken by administrators to build backing for 
the programs and overcome the resistance they engendered. 


In their efforts to overcome resistance, program administrators had 
to be willing to alter their plans in order to accommodate the forces 
opposing them. One simple strategy the REPUVE administrators relied 
on to do this was technical resilience, or allowing changes to program 

Statecraft I i 5 i 

requirements to cultivate and maintain the participation of the sujetos 
obligados. For instance, as originally conceived, and as described in 
chapter 3, the application of tags to vehicles involved inputting a car 
owner’s data into the computer database and then inserting a tag sheet 
into the printer to print out a tag and accompanying receipt. In effect, 
creating a tag generates two documents — a tag and a receipt — from an 
initial tag sheet. The REPUVE designers had anticipated having car pro- 
ducers place the receipts in vehicles, which would show car buyers that 
the vehicle was entered into the database and establish the REPUVE 
program as a presence in their minds. Elowever, car producers balked 
at the complications this simple procedure would add to the production 
process. As Fernando Orozco with VMC explained during our tour of 
the company’s facilities, 

At one time they [program administrators] imagined or thought that the 
data of the vehicle and registration would be printed out and that this paper 
would be placed with the owner’s manual in the glove box. From behind 
a desk, it looks easy. It’s easy to talk about. But doing it? That’s the prob- 
lem. When you begin to place yourself a little bit more into our production 
process, and everything that would be involved with having just one person 
going in manually and opening the door? These are all the things that would 
have to be changed. . . . VMC was one of those companies that said the most 
about this because we have everything automated, or, say, paperless. 

Stressing the gap between how the world looks from “behind a desk” 
and “in the production process,” VMC pushed to have the process for 
applying chips altered. And ultimately, they won. 

Samuel Gallo, with the State and Federal Operations Implementation 
Directorate, remembered those negotiations during an interview: “We 
wanted those vehicles with stickers to also have a receipt that would be 
placed in the glove box, so that the person who bought the car would 
have it. It was such a problem that we finally said, ‘Fine, don’t include 
anything else. Just stick the tag on.’ So, today, they just stick on the tags 
and they keep all of that paperwork. They destroy it. No one else keeps 
it.” If Gallo’s memory of the negotiations betrays a frustration with los- 
ing that element of the program, the willingness to alter requirements 
did help ensure VMC’s participation. 

The same flexibility defined other operations within the registry as 
well. The protocol for registering new vehicles specified twelve fields 
of data to be filled out. For vehicles already sold, Sucaro filled out this 
information in advance for each RFID tag it would apply. One day, 
however, as Agustin Sandoval told me, “we had a problem because 

152. I Statecraft 

there wasn’t a technician to go to Manzanillo. So the operation had 
to be done in Guadalajara. But things got complicated. Normally, the 
ship arrives, the next day it unloads, the following day is exclusively for 
putting chips on, and the next day, the train or car carrier is on its way. 
But when the technician for whatever reason cannot make it?” This 
left Sucaro in a bind. “You cannot create an invoice if fields 11 and 12. 
[the REPUVE file and tag numbers] are missing.” But at the same time, 
Sandoval emphasized, “there’s no way we’re holding up a sale, right?” 
In this case, Sucaro was able to resolve the problem through a simple 
communication with the REPUVE: “We gave notice to the REPUVE as 
a contingency. And with the authorization of the REPUVE, we were 
allowed to start the paperwork and later update fields 11 and 12.” 
Technical modifications also extended to the positioning of chips. 
Tomas Ayala, with Procedures and Citizenry at the REPUVE, described 
the directorate’s flexibility in this regard: 

We provide the most recommended and least recommended position for ap- 
plying chips. But we leave things open in an effort to be negotiable, in order 
to not have so much resistance to the placement of the tag. So, the most rec- 
ommended zone for sticking it on is obviously behind the rearview mirror. 
Why? If you are sitting inside the vehicle, you don’t see anything. You see 
it outside. Maybe it’s not the most aesthetic thing. But the most important 
thing is the security of the vehicle and driver. But this isn’t always followed. 
There are two companies now that are sticking the tag on the lower part of 
the windshield. 

While the administrators believed that a tag placed on the lower 
windshield threatened drivers’ visibility, they allowed it to be put there 
to reduce the automotive industry’s resistance to the program. 


Another simple and inexpensive strategy available to program admin- 
istrators for cultivating compliance with the REPUVE was the provi- 
sion of quality service, or anticipating, listening to, and addressing the 
concerns of those mandated to participate in the program. For exam- 
ple, regular communication was central to the interactions between 
the REPUVE Obligated Subjects directorate and the sujetos obligados 
responsible for applying tags, as the comments from car company repre- 
sentatives have indicated. Julieta Salazar, with the REPUVE Obligated 
Subjects directorate, stressed the scale of communications with sujetos 
obligados. A “key for maintaining the program’s operation,” she told 

Statecraft I 153 

me, “is the help that we have provided in terms of consultations via 
telephone, electronic mail, and training. From 2007 to mid-2012, 173 
training courses were given, with 2,015 sujetos obligados in attendance 
and a total of 4,243 users.” In 2009, Salazar continued, the program’s 
work with sujetos obligados focused “principally on the manufacturers, 
in order to be able to implement the process of applying and recording 
registration tags, which involved answering their questions, providing 
them procedures, doing checklists of the requirements they had to meet, 
arranging meetings with each of them to review their operation and to 
review how they were implementing the application and recording of 
tags. Accompanying them in the implementation has been key.” 

As VMC’s Christian Ruiz commented, the REPUVE directors’ dem- 
onstrations of the program provided his company an opportunity to 
conduct pilot tests and ensure his company’s participation. Salazar 
expanded on this point: 

In order to optimize testing with the industry in terms of time and resourc- 
es, the General Directorate of the REPUVE, together with Neology [the 
producer of tags], proposed taking one institution as a pilot ... in order 
to guarantee the functioning of the component before making it available 
to all the manufacturers. Three manufacturers wanted to participate and 
different tests were conducted by Neology and the General Directorate of 
REPUVE. ... It was important to involve the manufacturers, make them 
participants in what the problems were and [in] who was responsible so that 
we could work together. 

Auto company representatives seconded this view. Felipe Ibarra, 
with Sucaro, explained that communication “has been the advantage. 
Communication between us is very close, between the director [of the 
Obligated Subjects division] and us, who bring the information up” the 
chain of command to Sucaro’s executives in Asia. This close communi- 
cation was critical in overcoming the automobile industry’s resistance 
to the REPUVE. Agustin Sandoval, with Sucaro, noted that although 
“all of the automakers are applying the chip ... at the beginning there 
was a lot of resistance on the part of the industry” because of the “oper- 
ational and administrative costs” and the “problems that they had had 
with antecedents such as the RENAVE.” Getting the industry on board 
“was a process that took years.” In particular, the tests and presenta- 
tions left a positive impression on the Sucaro representatives. “The chip 
itself, technologically, we view very favorably,” Sandoval told me. “It 
has been impressive to see the wonders it can do. They did tests with 
other technologies. The truth is that we were pleasantly surprised with 

154 I Statecraft 

the capacity of the chip. What we want is that they implement this 
nationwide, with all the cars and, above all, with the imported cars 
from the United States, the chocolates [cars imported into Mexico ille- 
gally], which is another problem” for national car sellers. 

REPUVE administrators saw quality service as critical in their inter- 
actions with car drivers as well. As Vicente Bautista, with the REPUVE 
Procedures and Citizenry Directorate, described, “We do not update the 
database. We coordinate the updates. Who actually does the updates 
are the judicial authorities in the country, including vehicle thefts and 
recoveries. . . . The citizens have to contact the prosecutors [to find out 
what happened].” Elowever, in order to better serve drivers who con- 
tacted the program, Bautista noted that program administrators would 
often contact state authorities on their behalf. “Give us your informa- 
tion,” they told callers, “and we, with the goodwill that we have, with 
our capacity to coordinate, if we have a relationship with the state pros- 
ecutor, we’ll say, ‘Hey, check whether this car isn’t already recovered 
and hasn’t been taken off the list [of stolen vehicles]’ or ‘Change the 
status please.’ These are a lot of the requests that we get.” 

At the REPUVE registration sites where drivers have tags placed on 
their vehicles, providing quality service had particular value. The pre- 
vious chapter noted how client interactions could quickly sour when 
disputes over paperwork and other matters arose. Rodrigo Dominguez, 
the manager of the REPUVE Sonora site, felt such conflicts could be 
avoided through timeliness and respect. “The average time we take in 
attending to a vehicle is twenty minutes. The person brings their docu- 
mentation, it is entered into the system, it is validated, an inspection of 
the vehicle is done, all of that is a process that lasts twenty minutes,” 
he explained. However, “there are some very isolated cases that last 
longer,” having to do with “the third serial number or an inconsistency 
in the documentation or something strange.” In these cases, “one of the 
philosophies that I have emphasized to my guys, to my technicians, is 
not only hitting your numbers, but also doing so in a proper way with a 
good face, with a good attitude. And in the end, you’ll be happy. Don’t 
get upset or upset the life of someone else. Do it the right way.” 

Good client service, Dominguez noted, had a special importance in a 
state like Sonora, where politics can infuse various aspects of daily life, 
including vehicle registrations. It “is something that in the long, long 
run will change every one of us,” he told me. “How you treat people 
at work is how you will be able to plant a seed for saying, ‘Listen, you 
know, this person, although I’m from the PRI, PAN, PRD [Democratic 

Statecraft I 155 

Revolution Party], or Party X, or no party, he treated me well.’ Seeds 
of change will be planted, seeds capable of generating change. And not 
directed to any party in particular, but simply toward creating a culture 
in which the public servant is there to serve the public and not to serve 
other types of interests.” 

“Other types of interests” within public service in Mexico include 
corruption, which was a primary concern for Dominguez: 

People are, let’s put it this way, used to doing what they want with transac- 
tions like this, because of this cultural attitude of “it doesn’t matter, this is 
Mexico.” People may come with the idea that money solves things. Or they 
simply want to intimidate you in the sense of saying, “I know such and such 
administrator, I know or I’m a relative of such and such person.” One time 
I had a case where the person had a bad document, we couldn’t process it 
because the document was no good. Then he started to say, in an arrogant 
manner, being an asshole, “You are going to apologize to me.” In this mod- 
ule, I am in charge of making sure, by talking with the guys, with the techni- 
cians, that this doesn’t happen. 

But combatting corruption and influence peddling at the REPUVE 
site involved more than training and leadership. In contrast to what 
I heard from workers in Zacatecas, Dominguez emphasized that “we 
are doing well in terms of structure, in terms of equipment, in terms of 
infrastructure.” The salaries, he explained, “are very good, above aver- 
age, because the conditions that were discussed, not by me but my boss, 
were, ‘If the salaries aren’t good, the workers would be given to asking 
[registrants] for money.’” 

In a place like Sonora, where the desert climate routinely produces 
summer temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the fight against cor- 
ruption could also be bolstered through air conditioning. In contrast 
with the REPUVE module I visited in Zacatecas, which was housed in 
two semitrailers, one of which lacked climate control, the Sonora instal- 
lation had its own building, with air conditioning (fig. 23). Dominguez 

In addition to the question of salaries, the fact of having good buildings, 
the fact of having adequate equipment, having the help and support of the 
bosses in charge of the program, [this] helps make the workplace a pleasant 
environment. This helps, in some way, to clean up some forms of corrup- 
tion. Not having people say, ‘I’m giving you this for some sodas,’ or ‘Here, 
to speed things up,’ or all of these types of things. For a technician or data 
specialist, this would mean losing that. In this region, to be in an enclosed, 
air-conditioned building, I’m going to be careful that my job isn’t termi- 
nated, so that I’m not selling popsicles out on the streets. 

156 I Statecraft 

figure 23 . REPUVE registration site in Sonora. Photo by Keith Guzik, © 2015. 

The REPUVE building in Sonora also included a waiting area, where 
registrants could comfortably wait while having their vehicles inspected. 
In addition to client service, the facilities helped create a separation 
between drivers and workers, which deterred influence peddling. “In 
the inspection area,” Dominguez finished, “only authorized people are 
allowed. And [with] any visit that occurs to that inspection area, an 
authorized person from REPUVE has to, let’s say, babysit the visit.” 


Sujetos obligados who are already complying with program require- 
ments and drivers who voluntarily register their vehicles present the least 
resistance to the REPUVE program. For states attempting to implement 
the program, the real obstacle was getting drivers to register their cars 
in the first place. To this end, a perhaps reflexive response for adminis- 
trators was to threaten people for their insolence. In Zacatecas, where 
few drivers were enrolling, REPUVE employees told people passing by 

Statecraft I 157 

the registration site that the program was “free and voluntary now” but 
would be “mandatory and carry a charge” later. The logic was simple 
enough — act now or risk losing money later. 

This strategy reflected a broader belief among the team that the 
threat of punishment could bring people to the program. Ignacio Meza, 
who oversaw the site, explained that “right now, we are doing things 
on a voluntary basis, it’s an invitation to the citizens, and they come 
voluntarily. . . . The federal government gave us a timeline of two years 
to get to 100 percent of the vehicle roll. Crunching the numbers, I don’t 
think any state is going to reach too percent. But what we can achieve 
is not having the program be voluntary at the end of these two years. 
The traffic rules have to be modified to require vehicle owners to install 
the chip.” Meza continued, 

With this modification to the traffic code, the citizen would be required, 
in some agreeable way, to put it like that, to come and register his vehicle. 
What would this look like? If you are driving your vehicle and the require- 
ment exists, the police are going to detain you and give you a first warning, 
like, ‘Go get your chip’ and give you ten working days, or two weeks. If these 
two weeks go by, and you haven’t come to complete the transaction, they are 
going to stop you again and give you three days to get it done. And if on the 
third time you still haven’t done it, then the car is going to be detained and 
brought to the tow yard, and there they’re going to install the chip once you 
present your documentation. This is the way to tighten things up. 

Other states wrestled with similar issues. In Michoacan, for instance, 
Armando Ballinas Mayes, secretary of the State Council on Public Secu- 
rity, noted that the slow response to the REPUVE reflected “a culture 
of negligence by car owners in the state.” To make the program work, 
he contended, it would have to be obligatory: “If we leave it to people’s 
fancy, we run the risk that no one comes. We are looking at the law and 
the traffic code to make this registry obligatory and for the motorists 
to carry their stickers on their vehicles together with their registrations 
and driver’s licenses .” 19 

The legal status of the REPUVE as voluntary and free is interesting 
to consider. The federal REPUVE law clearly states that the “the regis- 
tration of vehicles in the Registry is obligatory.” It also notes that “the 
registration of vehicles, the presentation of notices, and consultations 
of the Registry will be free.” Nevertheless, the federalist structure of the 
Mexican state provides states leeway in their adoption of federal laws. 

In any case, as a tactic to strong-arm drivers to register their vehi- 
cles, the threat of future costs and obligations produced mixed results. 

158 I Statecraft 

The ploy did not result in a noticeable increase in demand at the 
REPUVE site in Zacatecas. Perhaps the threat, made during the sum- 
mer months, failed to strike fear. Only one driver I spoke with said that 
he was registering his vehicle in order “not to wait until the last minute 
and get stuck in lines, like we [in Mexico] always do,” which was a pri- 
mary complaint of both workers at the site and the Michoacan official. 
Drivers by and large stayed away. Elowever, this same threat resulted in 
the rush on Ciudad Juarez’s REPUVE installation, noted at the begin- 
ning of the chapter. 

The stick of threatening people with fines and fees in the future can 
also be seen as giving people a carrot in the present: financial savings. 
In this vein, other states in Mexico sought to increase favorable recep- 
tion of the program by offering incentives. In San Luis Potosi, where 
registration in the REPUVE database was to be tied to obtaining vehicle 
license plates and registrations, the state legislature voted to delay the 
REPUVE registration requirement for a year in order to give drivers 
more time to register with the program voluntarily. 10 In Zacatecas, after 
threats failed to have an effect, the finance secretary agreed to incen- 
tivize participation by offering drivers a 5 percent discount on their 
tenencia excise taxes if they registered/ 1 In this way, states tried to offer 
drivers benefits in the form of additional time and financial savings to 
win their participation. 


REPUVE administrators tasked with enlisting the participation of states 
reluctant to cooperate with the program faced a distinct challenge. In 
contrast to the strategies employed with sujetos obligados or drivers, 
REPUVE’s State and Federal Operations directorate could not threaten 
states into participating, since it lacked that authority under Mexico’s 
federalist system. In addition, in summer 2011, the REPUVE leader- 
ship faced an upcoming presidential election that most believed would 
bring the PRI, and its candidate, Enrique Pena Nieto, back to power. 
As noted in the last chapter, the expected transition raised concerns that 
the entire program could be lost. Looking toward the future, Samuel 
Gallo, with the State and Federal Operations directorate, told me that 
“2013 is critical for us. The new boss arrives and there could be some 
decisions that could really, all of the sudden, throw this program in 
which they [the federal government] have invested five hundred million 

Statecraft I 159 

pesos in six years down the drain. And programs have disappeared in 
the past. . . . For me, it’s a concern because, if we haven’t shored up an 
increase in states that are implementing the program, practically speak- 
ing, in the next elections, they [the new administration] would say this 
program has presented more problems than solutions.” 

Faced with this time constraint and lack of progress, Gallo and the 
rest of the directorate saw the REPUVE’s survival as tied to building a 
critical mass of participation. As Gallo explained it, 

Our objective in the area of operations is to advance as much as possible 
into the middle of the next year [2012]. . . . Right now, at the moment, we 
have fourteen states and are calculating to see if we can close with twenty 
states operating. We are talking 60 percent of the country working with 
the program. ... If some states get on board, and some others have already 
invested in it, it’s going to be difficult if there is a change of administration 
at the federal level to throw this away. Why? Because some states are going 
to jump up and say, “Hey, I already invested so many millions of pesos, so 
I can’t throw this in the trash. Besides that, it’s helping me do this, that, and 
the other thing.” 

If program could take root and begin to bear fruit, REPUVE admin- 
istrators could better ensure its continuity into the future. 

Reaching a critical mass of state participation involved some of the 
same tactics used to gain sujetos obligados’ and drivers’ support. Com- 
munication was again critical. Addressing this point, Gallo explained, 
“We have been able to talk with governors, with governmental secre- 
taries. We have put ourselves where we don’t belong in order to get the 
project going. . . . We have national forums, which prosecutors and 
governors attend.” 

During summer 2012, I attended one of these national forums, 
convened by REPUVE’s State and Federal Operations directorate. 
Representatives from seventeen states attended the forum, held at the 
Convention Center in Tlaxcala, one of the states championed by the 
directorate as exemplary in its progress with the registry. Seated around 
a horseshoe-shaped table, the representatives listened to presentations 
from REPUVE Veracruz and REPUVE Sonora, which had successfully 
implemented the tagging program. Following the presentations, a ques- 
tion and answer session, and a finely prepared lunch, the representatives 
were led outside to the Convention Center’s parking lot, where a trailer 
similar to the one used in Zacatecas was set up to give a demonstration 
of the process for applying tags to vehicles. 

1 60 I Statecraft 

figure 24. Video screen displaying REPUVE camera feeds at a REPUVE national 
assembly in Tlaxcala. Photo by Keith Guzik, © 2015. 

As a recruitment tool, the forum emphasized the security situation fac- 
ing the country. “In Mexico, in the last few years, we have had a surge of 
insecurity in all states,” the presider emphasized. “In 2009, there were, if 
I remember correctly, 67,000 vehicle thefts, and in 2011 we had almost 
80,000. And these are insured vehicles. There are many that are not 
insured and are not in the statistics . . . and this leads to a lack of citizen 
confidence in authorities. Therefore, we have to join forces to stop it [the 
insecurity]. We have to communicate. We have to use new techniques. 
We have to try to combat it head on and prevent these crimes.” 

To demonstrate the REPUVE’s potential to fight crime, the forum 
organizers arranged for a car that had been entered into the registry as 
stolen to pass through a toll installed with a camera and RFID reader. 
Through a video link set up at the toll area (fig. 24), attendees watched 
as the vehicle was detected as stolen and police cars were deployed to 
stop it. The demonstration provided a clear vision of the secure future 
to which the REPUVE could carry Mexico. 

If the potential of the REPUVE to strengthen governance was some- 
thing conference attendees had heard before, the Tlaxcala meeting also 
showed that it could done. The program was viable, as REPUVE Veracruz 
and REPUVE Sonora demonstrated. The Operations Implementation 

Statecraft I 161 

team told attendees, “The fundamental objective of this event is to dem- 
onstrate and in some way make visible that the program is a reality, 
that the program functions, that the program is being implemented in 
our states. We have fourteen states at the national level that are already 
working in this process, and the reality is that this is a benefit for the 
citizens of your states. . . . We have a database that contains all of 
the work” from the states, vehicle manufacturers, and customs offices. 
“In total, this is almost thirty-three million vehicles. All of these reg- 
istrations have the same quality and same authentication of data. Of 
these thirty-three million vehicles, no [vehicle identification] numbers 
are repeated. There is not a single repetition in the Public Registry of 
Vehicles. All have been verified, which allows us to say to you that there 
are no false entries. The database has integrity.” The REPUVE repre- 
sentatives continued on this theme: “What motivates us to be here and 
speak to you about how the program functions is that the program is 
already working, that we have really been meeting our goals. . . . We 
have practically 50 percent of the states at the national level applying 
registration tags.” 

Such talk of progress conveys a program with momentum. But the 
presentation in Tlaxcala was also calculated to pressure states to join. 
On another occasion, Samuel Gallo, who had helped put the Tlaxcala 
event together, described to me the national forums in general: “Graphs 
are presented and then you can say, ‘You haven’t completed your task. 
You haven’t completed your work.’ In this country, what hurts the 
most is when you tell me in front of everyone that I didn’t do my things. 
It works like this. ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do,’ as the saying 
goes. And if you don’t like it? Go do your job. Because I’m going to 
be here every three months in the meetings that we have with execu- 
tive secretaries, with prosecutors, with governors, and the statistics will 
be presented.” By demonstrating other states’ progress to key decision 
makers, the REPUVE planners felt better able to push other states to 

Taking this idea of shaming further, the REPUVE State and Federal 
Operations directorate also tried to reach a critical mass of state partici- 
pation through publicity. This strategy is counterintuitive, since states 
rather than drivers are being targeted. But as Gallo explained, “We 
are trying to implement a strategy that consists of a webpage — we are 
going to have it ready soon — in which we will report the situation of 
every state in the REPUVE. So, there will be states that have 50 percent 

1 62 I Statecraft 

implementation, or states that have 80 percent, or states that have o 
percent. This [web]page is for citizens’ consultation. People are going to 
enter [the website] and they’re going to see that the REPUVE in some 
states is already applied and in other states no.” This public reporting, 
Gallo believed, would lead citizens to pressure their state governments 
to join the program. “If mine isn’t there,” he imagined people thinking, 
“I’m going to apply social pressure, so that the government carries out 
its job. Because if not, I’m not going to pay taxes to you. I’m going to 
pay them to a neighboring state that is already applying chips and get 
plates there. And I don’t give a damn. ... If my government isn’t con- 
cerned about security or protecting my interests, then I as a citizen don’t 
want you here. Then, we [the citizens] are going to start a blog, we are 
going to post questions.” In this scenario, Gallo not only imagines the 
program as one in demand among ordinary Mexicans, which my survey 
data partially support, but also calculates that popular dissatisfaction 
with authorities could be turned to the program’s favor. 


The ability of the REPUVE leadership to force states to participate in 
the vehicle registry was, as mentioned previously, legally limited by 
Mexico’s federalist system of government. Similarly, the program’s abil- 
ity to incentivize states’ participation was limited by scarce resources. 
As the Operations Implementation team told representatives at the 
Tlaxcala conference, “We have to carry out the program in a mindful 
way. However much money they give us, it’s not going to be a billion 
pesos, or two billion pesos. So we have to do origami, work in stages, 
work with concrete plans, and strategies.” In lieu of a good stick or 
large enough carrot with which to impel state authorities to adhere tags, 
the directorate had to consider other options. 

During summer 2011, news reports circulated that customs offices 
at Mexico’s northern border would begin charging $54 for a “new 
security hologram for automobiles” imported into the country."' The 
fee would be charged “for the inspection, physical review, sticker, and 
subscription in the REPUVE.”"’ “Importers of vehicles would have to 
pay Banjercito,” the National Bank of the Army, Air Force, and Navy, 
which is, as its name suggests, a banking institution for members of the 
Mexican armed forces." 4 

Smaller car importers in Mexico, who make their living transport- 
ing vehicles from the United States for sale in Mexico, and residents of 

Statecraft I 163 

the border areas, who were accustomed to crossing the border to pur- 
chase cheaper vehicles in the States, were furious with the new regula- 
tion. Raul Quintanilla, an importer, complained that Mexican customs 
agents had “pulled this out of their sleeve” and that the measure would 
“harm us even further. This sticker is supposedly for registration in the 
REPUVE. . . . This is going to affect the number of imports that we do. 
We are already having problems doing forty cars a day. The nearly non- 
existent importation of cars will be severely affected by this new charge. 
Importing cars is out of reach .” 15 

Business associations, such as the local branch of the National 
Chamber of Commerce (CANACO) and the Independent Union of 
Car and Truck Sellers (UIVAC), added their voices to the chorus of 
complaints about the import charge. Besides the new import fee, these 
organizations bemoaned the poor quality of service at the customs 
offices. Emilio Giron, president of the local CANACO chapter, com- 
plained that “with this, the costs are higher and the operations slower. 
We know that [before] they could complete eight thousand operations 
per month and finish each one in a minute. Now it’s going to be thirty 
minutes to put on a sticker. Banjercito doesn’t have enough people, 
and they don’t do their work adequately, and the quality of the sticker 
is awful.” Alfonso Delgado, president of UIVAC, denounced the fee 
as “an unjust charge because the [REPUVE] law specifies it [the tag] as 
free.” In addition, Banjercito was collecting the fee in US dollars and 
giving receipts without an official stamp or a breakdown of the value- 
added tax. Finally, more than a month after paying for the inspection of 
vehicles, Delgado said, cars were still appearing on the REPUVE online 
portal as “not registered .”" 7 

Mexican customs offices’ charging for registration in the REPUVE 
illustrates another tactic by which the REPUVE State and Federal 
Operations directorate won the backing of state actors: by accommo- 
dating their power to tax. Allowing customs offices to collect fees for 
the REPUVE is interesting because, as Delgado correctly noted in his 
criticism of the fees and as has been noted before, the REPUVE law 
says that “the registration of vehicles, presentation of notices, and con- 
sultations in the Registry will be free.” What’s more, this provision of 
the law directly responded to the controversy surrounding REPUVE’s 
failed predecessor, the RENAVE, which charged a subscription fee for 
its (absent) security services. 

But within the national REPUVE offices, the controversy over the 
customs fees was viewed less critically. When I asked Samuel Gallo 

164 I Statecraft 

about the matter and the seeming contradiction between the law’s call- 
ing for the REPUVE to be free and the actions of the customs offices, 
he responded, “The law tells us that the printing, recording, and appli- 
cation of the tag cannot have a cost. It’s free. So we cannot charge for 
this process because the law says so. Elowever, some states are tak- 
ing advantage of the fact that the physical inspection done to vehicles 
and the inspection of documents can be charged for.” Allowing for the 
apparent contradiction, Gallo conceded, 

At the end of the day, there are funds and there are expenses. So, in some 
way, this [inspection fee] offsets that part. They [the states] imagined cover- 
ing costs with the FASP [Support Funds for Public Security], from that sup- 
port fund from the federal government. But it was insufficient. The projects 
are large. There are many other priorities as well, the certification of police, 
the program to create a uniform police force. There is a large number of 
projects for which there isn’t enough [funding]. In this sense, the money is 
lacking. So some states have started charging for it [the tag]. There is a clear 
line between the application of the chip and the physical inspection. 

By distinguishing between the actual application of tags and the pro- 
cedures needed to authorize their application, the REPUVE directorate 
was able to mark off a sphere of activity in which fees could be levied 
while remaining consistent with the letter, if not the spirit, of the law. 

Speaking specifically to the situation with the customs offices, Gallo 

When we went to the Finance Secretariat, we said, “Look, by law it’s your 
job to give me the information on imports, both permanent and tempo- 
rary.” . . . We had been negotiating with them for seven years until last year, 
when the decision was made to really begin with the program. Their argu- 
ment was that, “I don’t have the ability to carry out the process that you are 
asking for. I don’t have the capacity or the space or the infrastructure. I don’t 
have the personnel to do it.” With such a tone, it was very complicated. The 
Support Funds for Public Security are only for the states. . . . They told us, 
“Well, there’s no money, I don’t have the people, I don’t have the capacity.” 

In this logjam, the resources and operational capacity of Banjercito 
offered a solution. “Banjercito had already been operating a program 
for years,” Gallo told me, “putting stickers on vehicles imported 
temporarily. In this way, the possibility arose that it could be Ban- 
jercito that would assist the Finance Secretariat. An agreement was 
reached. Banjercito said, ‘I will help you, but I’m going to charge 
for the service. I’m going to contract people, buy equipment, put up 
installations, create an infrastructure in order to be able to meet this 

Statecraft I 165 

requirement that you can’t.’ This is practically what they said to the 
Finance Secretariat.” 

While this presented a solution that would get the customs offices on 
board with the program, the potential fallout from the inspection fees 
created a predicament. In response, Gallo explained, “Our position was, 
‘I don’t have a problem with it so long as you don’t say it’s REPUVE 
charging.’ Because the law says that it’s free. So, ‘You have to be very 
clear with everything. What you’re charging for is the process of the 
physical inspection and registration of the vehicle. You’re not charg- 
ing for the subscription to the Public Registry of Vehicles.’ For me, it’s 
totally transparent so long as it’s not appearing [as a fee] from REPUVE. 
The moment it appears from REPUVE, then we’re going to stop it.” 

Asked whether the Banjercito fee made the REPUVE a burden for 
people, Gallo continued, “At the societal level, it’s relative. Whoever 
is going to buy a vehicle on the other side is going to get it for $3,000 
or $4,000 at most. Add to that whatever it costs to import the vehicle, 
to pay the import taxes and the fees, to legalize the vehicle, and now 
REPUVE.” In other words, those who cross the border to buy a vehicle 
would still be coming out ahead. Thus, importers really did not have a 
strong leg to stand on when complaining about the charges. Further, it 
is worth remembering that both the Mexican Association for the Auto- 
mobile Industry and the Association of Mexican Automobile Dealers 
had supported the REPUVE precisely for its potential to exert tighter 
control over the import of cheap vehicles from the United States, which 
hurt domestic sales. In this sense, allowing state entities to levy taxes, an 
improvisational tactic to reach a critical mass of governmental support 
for the REPUVE, fulfilled some of the program’s promise for national 
business organizations. 


Up to this point, this chapter has focused on the strategies used by state 
authorities to overcome resistance to the REPUVE. Turning attention 
to the CEDI and RENAUT, however, offers additional insights into the 
tactics program administrators used to counter resistance. To return to 
the challenges confronting the Citizen Identity Card, from the time of 
its launch, the Calderon administration faced strong opposition from 
the Federal Electoral Institute, which feared that the new identity card 
would be confused with the country’s voter card. Attempting to find 
a way out of the impasse, in late 2010-early 2011, Francisco Blake 

1 66 I Statecraft 

Mora, the interior secretary, convened talks with members of the IFE 
to resolve their differences. Blake addressed the IFE’s mistrust of the 
administration by making Manuel Lopez Bernal, ex-executive secre- 
tary of the IFE, the director of the National Population Registry, the 
organization responsible for implementing the CEDI. Lopez Bernal 
resigned the following year. But Blake repeated his maneuvering by 
replacing him with Alberto Alonso y Coria, who had directed the Fed- 
eral Registry of Voters for nine years and was the most vocal opponent 
of the CEDI. 

In addition, Blake announced in January 2011 that the CEDI would 
be distributed to the entire Mexican population as planned within five 
years, but it would be restricted for the time being to those not cur- 
rently in the voter registry, that is, Mexicans under the age of eighteen." 
Leonardo Valdes, president of the IFE, denounced the government’s 
decision. “The decree is undoubtedly legal,” he said, “but inopportune 
electorally from my point of view. . . . For over a year we have been 
saying that the creation of the identity card would negatively affect the 
two pillars of our political system: the voter roll and the voter card.” 
Interestingly, though, the issuance of identity cards to minors was not 
an immediate point of conflict. 

Blake’s strategy to begin the CEDI with Mexicans under the age of 
eighteen contains an element of building critical mass. By beginning 
with only a segment of the population, the administration could hope 
to gradually grow the program while the conflict with the IFE resolved 
itself. And if the conflict could not be resolved, the CEDI would already 
be in public circulation. 

But the move to fashion the CEDI into a Identity Card for Minors had 
other dimensions relevant to this discussion of power and resistance. By 
recasting the identity card as one for minors, the government was able 
to reframe the technological object. If the CEDI was imagined as a tech- 
nology that would integrate other forms of identification in Mexico, 
thereby simplifying people’s daily transactions, the Identity Card for 
Minors would serve as a technology to protect children from kidnap- 
pings and trafficking, as well as to facilitate their registering for school, 
accessing health care, or obtaining a passport. This reframing eluded the 
point of resistance with the IFE — if the CEDI was not being issued to 
voters, it could not threaten democracy. But more than this, it provided 
the CEDI a purpose that few could disagree with: the protection of chil- 
dren. As a result, the government’s actions legitimized the technology in 
a way that the original identity card failed to do. On January 13, 2011, 

Statecraft I 167 

only days after Blake’s announcement, Susan Sottoli, a representative 
with UNICEF Mexico, expressed her support for the Identity Card for 
Minors, qualifying it as a fundamental measure for guaranteeing the 
right to identity for children, for exercising their full rights to education 
and health programs, and for protecting them from trafficking . 30 

Beyond its legitimation as a security tool for children, the CEDI was 
also aided by the institutional associations accompanying childhood. 
The card was to be distributed at Mexico’s public schools, an institution 
that enjoys a high level of support in Mexico. ’ 1 As the events highlighted 
at the beginning chapter 2 illustrate, the launching of the Personal Iden- 
tity Card for Minors made conspicuous use of public schools. 31 In sum, 
to overcome the resistance of the IFE to the CEDI, the interior secretary 
of the Calderon administration sought to piggyback the questionable 
program onto an institutional and ideological framework that already 
enjoyed legitimacy with the Mexican people. 

Institutional piggybacking occurred with the REPUVE as well. Never 
was the program’s RFID tag imagined as having an application outside 
providing “legal certainty” through the registration, inspection, and 
regulation of vehicles. However, in the state of Sonora, the tag came to 
possess another purpose: a technological solution for the state’s tolling 
system, referred to as the Libre Transito (Free Transit) program. Under 
Libre Transito, residents in certain areas of southern Sonora are able 
to travel on the federal highway free of charge. Three toll plazas — the 
Don, Fundicion, and Esperanza stations — are covered by the program. 
Given the toll of sixty-five pesos (about six dollars) charged at each 
plaza, the program provides significant savings to motorists. 

The REPUVE’s refashioning into a tolling solution has a peculiar 
history, as Carlos Aguilar, an employee with REPUVE Sonora first 
described to me. Article 11 of the Mexican Constitution stipulates that 
“every person has the right to enter the Republic, exit, travel its terri- 
tory, and move residence, without needing a security card, passport, 
letter of safe passage, or other similar requirements.” This has been 
interpreted to mean that a toll road cannot exist where there is no other 
alternative for road travel. In most parts of the country, this does not 
pose a problem. The federal toll roads, which are generally high qual- 
ity and well-maintained, have been constructed alongside older roads. 
Thus, “free transit” is always available for those unable to afford the 
costs of traveling on the federal highways. In Sonora, however, as Agui- 
lar explained to me, “they constructed the toll road over the free road. 
So, if one travels, there is only the tollway. You always have to pay.” 

1 68 I Statecraft 

Winning the right to travel freely on the federal highway became a 
cause celebre in southern Sonora, attracting residents’ ire and shaping 
politicians’ agendas. Eventually, through negotiations between the gov- 
ernor’s office, state representatives, and the federal Communications and 
Transportation Secretariat, an agreement was reached in 2011 whereby 
the REPUVE tag would be used to provide free passage through the 
three tolls to more than 700,000 residents.” Thus, finished Aguilar, “if 
you resister in the REPUVE, and if you meet the requirements of Federal 
Roads and Bridges [the agency in charge of tolling on federal highways], 
which constructed the highways, they grant free passage. And when you 
come with your vehicle to the toll plaza, the antenna at the toll plaza 
recognizes the vehicle, and if you are registered as a resident with us, the 
antenna lets you pass without paying a peso” (fig. 25). 

As might be expected, free travel provided a strong incentive to resi- 
dents to get tags on their vehicles. When I spoke with drivers at one of 
the two REPUVE sites then operating in Sonora, both in the southern 
part of the state, all of the drivers mentioned the potential savings as 
their reason for registering: 

The program gives you the benefit of not having to pay the toll. There are 
three tollbooths around Obregon. You save money. 

The program works well. Why? Because, before, passing through the tolls 
exacted a price. It’s 60 pesos here in Fundicion, 60 on the way back — 120 
pesos. And if I travel to Guaymas, the same. 

The tollbooth is expensive. And when I moved here, gasoline got more expen- 
sive as well. You have to invest so much just to get to a place that’s an hour 
away, I pay fifty pesos in gasoline and seventy in tolls. So it’s expensive for me. 

Reflecting on the REPUVE program, Rodrigo Dominguez, manager 
at the Sonora site, opined, “It’s important to correct the errors of the 
past. I see this program, speaking specifically in the state of Sonora, as a 
solution to a very old problem that is about twenty years old, since the 
tollbooth was installed in Fundicion. For more than twenty years since 
they installed them, the cities of Navojoa and Obregon were enclosed 
by these toll plazas and international highways. It was a fairly simple 
and viable solution to guarantee the constitutional right of the residents 
of the south of Sonora to travel on the federal highways.” 

Similar to the Citizen Identity Card, piggybacking the REPUVE 
onto the existing tolling infrastructure in Sonora legitimized the pro- 
gram by framing it within a larger public issue that already had salience 
for the local population. In addition, as with the Identity Card for 

Statecraft I 1 69 

figure 25. REPUVE toll lanes in Sonora. Photo by Keith Guzik, © 2015. 

Minors, which made use of Mexico’s schools, the tolling infrastruc- 
ture in Sonora ensured that many of the physical requirements for the 
REPUVE program, such as gates and arches from which to position 
chip readers, were already in place. The result of this piggybacking was 
a more successful and seamless implementation of the REPUVE than 
occurred elsewhere. 


The strategy of piggybacking, or enfolding surveillance programs and 
technologies into existing state infrastructures, assumes the existence 
of infrastructures to tie into. Sometimes, however, these are not avail- 
able. Mexico’s National Registry of Mobile Telephone Users reached 
a impasse when it could not be determined who, whether the Federal 
Commission of Telecommunications (COFETEL) or mobile service 
providers, had the responsibility for verifying the phone numbers reg- 
istered with the government. Eventually, as frustration with the phone 
registry continued, the Senate voted in April 2011 to terminate the reg- 
istry,’ 4 and the Interior Secretariat destroyed the data it had collected 
in April 2013. 35 

This did not exhaust the government’s attempts to govern mobile 
telephony, however, the original reason RENAUT was launched. 

170 I Statecraft 

Already in May 2010, in the midst of the controversy over the require- 
ment to register cellular lines with the government, two mobile service 
providers, Telcel and Movistar, announced that they would begin deac- 
tivating phones that their clients reported as stolen. But in contrast to 
the RENAUT, which sought to gain a grasp of mobile telephony via the 
phone numbers and biometric data of users, the service providers would 
instead disable units through their IMEI (International Mobile Equip- 
ment Identity) codes, the unique fifteen-digit identification numbers, 
similar to an automobile’s vehicle identification number, which identify 
devices on mobile networks .’ 6 Later that year, in December 2010, this 
private initiative led to the Agreement to Avoid Reusing Stolen Cel- 
lular Telephones, an accord between the Citizens’ Council for Public 
Security and Justice Provision in Mexico City and mobile companies to 
expand the initiative to include additional providers. Under the plan, 
users would not need to make an official report of a stolen phone, but 
simply report the theft to their service provider so that the device’s IMEI 
could be blacklisted and the device blocked. Jorge Arreola, director of 
compliance with Telefonica Mexico, feted the agreement as a collab- 
orative effort between the Mexican citizenry and private sector .’ 7 And 
by August of the following year, Telcel and Movistar were reporting a 
monthly deactivation rate of twelve hundred units .’ 8 

While the private sector was moving to provide an alternative means 
for controlling stolen mobile phones, others were pressing the federal 
government to consider alternatives to the RENAUT. In April 2011, 
Alejandro Marti, the businessman who founded the organization Mex- 
ico SOS following the kidnapping and murder of his son, began push- 
ing for legislation that would require service providers to permanently 
block units reported as stolen and require units to have GPS capabilities 
and “panic buttons .” 39 In March of the following year, Congress passed 
what came to be known at the Geolocation Law, which requires mobile 
service providers in emergency situations — kidnappings, extortions, or 
medical emergencies — to provide law enforcement with the location of 
the person’s telephone without a judicial warrant . 40 

The Geolocation Law evoked anger from many of the same groups 
that expressed concerns about the privacy and security implications of 
the RENAUT. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, for instance, criti- 
cized the Geolocation Law as having “a significant potential for abuse” 
and demanded that the Mexican government “be more sensible to the 
fact that mobile service companies today record detailed imprints of 
our daily lives .” 41 But for the purposes of this work, the actions of 

Statecraft I 171 

service providers and the Mexican legislature demonstrate another way 
in which authorities improvise to overcome resistance to their plans. 
In the case of regulating mobile telephony, Mexican authorities and 
stakeholders attempted to push past the resistance that led to the failure 
of the RENAUT by trying to contravene the state altogether. Unable to 
create a state infrastructure that would be able to register, inspect, and 
regulate mobile telephony as set out in the RENAUT law, authorities 
simply legislated the burden of regulating phones onto private service 
providers and the private infrastructures through which mobile com- 
munication occurs. 


The preceding pages have sketched out some of the strategies that 
authorities in Mexico have pursued to overcome resistance to the Pub- 
lic Registry of Vehicles, Citizen Identity Card, and National Registry of 
Mobile Telephone Users. Confronted with corporate actors skeptical of 
the costs of complying with new regulations, governmental authorities 
maintained close and regular communications to increase understand- 
ing of the programs and permitted technical modifications to their oper- 
ation to make them less onerous. To counter individuals’ resistance, 
authorities aimed to achieve good relations with users through qual- 
ity client service and experimented with combinations of threats and 
incentives to bring new users into the fold. To answer resistance from 
the political structure tasked with carrying out the programs, authori- 
ties required more imaginative tactics. Facing political turnover that 
could threaten program continuity, authorities sought a critical mass 
to provide a beachhead of programmatic progress able to withstand 
the ebbs and flows of democratic governance in Mexico. To achieve 
that critical mass, authorities again turned to incentives, such as the 
promise of security, but also to the authorization of levies that increased 
the appeal of programs to state actors. Or they piggybacked unpopular 
programs onto existing state infrastructures that already enjoyed legiti- 
macy. Or, most extreme, they contravened the state altogether, relying 
on the expertise and infrastructure of the private sector to implement 
operations that might otherwise fail. 

These strategies all share the quality of being improvised responses 
hatched on the fly to counter resistance. To surmount the inability 
of the COFETEL to successfully implement the RENAUT, Mexican 
authorities went outside the state to follow mobile phones. To work 

172 - I Statecraft 

itself out of the conflict with the IFE regarding the CEDI, the Calderon 
administration redirected the identity card through Mexico’s schools 
and rebranded it as a measure for youth. To get the customs offices in 
Mexico to begin applying chips to vehicles, the REPUVE allowed the 
Banjercito to charge for inspections. None of these actions had been 
planned in advance. Like the agronomists of the 1930 Agrarian Census 
who had to resort to exchanging water for data from campesinos , 4 ~ 
these measures were embraced by authorities to pursue control over 
collective agencies that persisted in their resistance. 

These findings contribute to thinking about the state in Mexico and 
state formation in general. Research on Mexico has tended to empha- 
size the role of capital and coercion 4 ’ and cultural hegemony 44 in the 
creation of the state. National state formation has varied across Mexi- 
can history in relation to the accumulation of coercion and capital in 
regional centers and the concentration of cultural power in the Catholic 
Church, processes that have worked against the centralization of state 
power. Against this backdrop, the national state can be understood to 
fluctuate historically along the axes of its strength (strong/weak) and its 
relation to dominant class interests (independent/dependent). The Por- 
firiato was primarily a weak, small state captured by the capitalist class, 
while the postrevolutionary regime of Lazaro Cardenas was a large, 
strong state autonomous of capitalist class interests. The abandonment 
of the revolutionary project by the PRI in the 1980s and the party’s 
embrace of neoliberal political economy, meanwhile, reduced the size of 
the state and brought it back into the service of the country’s capitalist 
class, whose economic interests now operate at the global level. 45 And 
it is this phase of state formation that has occasioned the growth of 
organized crime in the country. 

Borrowing from recent work on the role of science and technology 
in the “co-production” 46 or “composition” 47 of the state, this study has 
examined the federal government’s adoption of surveillance technolo- 
gies as an effort to reform the state by remaking its coercive capacity 
through prohesion. If the previous chapter revealed resistance to this 
project of state reformation, then the present chapter describes a set 
of activities — improvisational tactics launched by program administra- 
tors, state officials, and ordinary employees in their meetings with com- 
pany representatives, conferences with state leaders, and interactions 
with everyday drivers — that helps decide the fate of state reformation. 

That authorities and state workers in Mexico improvise to meet their 
goals should not surprise us. For all the explanatory weight that Charles 

Statecraft I 173 

Tilly placed on “capital and coercion” in the emergence of the national 
state, he also noted that “rarely did Europe’s princes have in mind a 
precise model of the sort of state they were producing” and that “the 
principal components of national states [arej . . . usually formed as 
more or less inadvertent by-products of efforts to carry out more imme- 
diate tasks, especially the creation and support of an armed force .” 48 
This inventive element of state formation has been noted within Mexico 
as well, as scholars have noted that “the stable, centralized rule of the 
PRI . . . rested on a series of tacit deals and trade-offs.” In this sense, 
the Mexican state is a “negotiated state .” 50 

These processes of negotiation and improvisation are important to 
consider, not only because they are so central to state formation, but 
also because they draw attention to a human element in state formation 
beyond capital, coercion, culture, and technology. That is, REPUVE 
administrators had to have the ability to negotiate with Banjercito to 
overcome barriers to customs offices’ participation in the program. 
CEDI planners had to have the wisdom to know that programs tied to 
Mexico’s schools held greater legitimacy with the populace. And fed- 
eral legislators, with no state-based options for controlling cell phones, 
had to have the flexibility to abandon a failed plan and redirect the 
governance of mobile telephony through the private sector. In brief, 
the histories of the REPUVE, CEDI, and RENAUT demonstrate that 
reforming the state through surveillance technologies requires a good 
dose of managerial tact from program planners and administrators. 

To give proper emphasis to these skill-based improvisational activi- 
ties that are integral to the fate of state projects, it seems appropriate to 
name them formally. To this end, we might repurpose the word “state- 
craft.” Statecraft is a term that has traditionally denoted international 
diplomacy. But the term itself, in accentuating craft, or work requir- 
ing particular skill, captures well the practical, hands-on dimensions 
of state formation. Thus, to apply that term here, it could be said that 
Mexico’s experiences in trying to adopt surveillance technologies to 
fight insecurity reveal the importance of statecraft in state formation. 

Identifying the role of statecraft in state formation is not to argue 
that the fate of the state is decided by statecraft alone. The notion of art 
or improvisation inherent in the term indicates the lack of control that 
those practicing statecraft have as a condition of their work. In the cases 
of the RENAUT, CEDI, and REPUVE, the availability of resources, the 
extant organization of the state, the positions of major businesses rela- 
tive to the programs, the opinions of the public, the technical designs 

174 I Statecraft 

of the programs, and so forth were all forces that conditioned program 
outcomes. But what statecraft underscores is how state administrators 
and planners are still able to problem-solve and construct the state 
when confronted with such obstacles. 

The improvisational nature of statecraft lends state formation an 
unpredictable character. That is, if tactics such as those outlined in this 
chapter give authorities a hold on automobility, mobile telephony, and 
personal identification, they are not the holds that were planned. In 
Sonora, where the application of chips has been successful, the REPUVE 
program functions and is understood, as the quotations at the start of 
this chapter indicate, as a technology allowing local residents to pass 
freely through federal tollbooths rather than a program for locating 
suspicious vehicles or ensuring “legal certainty.” In Baja California, 
Colima, Chiapas, Guanajuato, Jalisco, and Nuevo Leon, personal iden- 
tity cards have been distributed to Mexicans, but only those under the 
age of eighteen, and are thus understood as tools to facilitate youth 
access to schools and public services rather than tools for all Mexicans 
to integrate and secure various forms of personal identification. Mobile 
telephones, meanwhile, while intended to be secured by the govern- 
ment’s Interior Secretariat, end up being the responsibility of private 
actors considered better situated and skilled to handle them. 

Uncertainty does not mean that statecraft is random. In the modi- 
fications made to programs, state administrators take advantage of 
extant ideas and arrangements of the state that are already operational. 
This is clearest in the practice of programmatic piggybacking, where 
institutions that enjoy popular legitimacy (public schools) and mate- 
rial infrastructures that are in use (tollbooths) are employed to advance 
fledgling programs. But it can also be seen in encouraging state agen- 
cies’ authority to tax (the case of Banjercito) or accommodating the 
legal claims of citizens (Free Transit in Sonora). So, then, if statecraft 
entails uncertainty, it is a patterned uncertainty that gravitates toward 
past and present state forms. 

Saying this, past performance does not guarantee future results. And 
whichever hold that statecraft allows authorities over collective agencies 
in society cannot be permanent. For instance, the Calderon administra- 
tion’s attempt to circumvent the state by deputizing cellular service pro- 
viders to track mobile devices was met with strong public opposition 51 
and challenged by the National Commission on Fluman Rights before 
the Supreme Court. Although the law was ruled constitutional, 51 once 
Enrique Pena Nieto assumed the presidency in 2013, his administration 

Statecraft I 175 

sought to make its own imprint on the governance of telecommunica- 
tions by pursuing the Telecom Law, a series of reforms widely criticized 
as a threat to net neutrality . 53 

The Personal Identity Card for Minors, meanwhile, was met with 
skepticism and confusion by those it was intended to benefit: the parents 
of Mexican schoolchildren. “How do I know that they won’t misuse 
our children’s data?” asked Veronica Lopez, mother of one child whose 
school was registering students. “A lady said that this would help a lot 
because something like this is already done in Europe. But, for us, it’s 
new.” For its part, the lower house of the Mexican Congress sued to 
halt the program on the grounds that collecting iris scans and finger- 
prints from minors represented a violation of privacy. 1 The Supreme 
Court upheld the program’s constitutionality, but the new administra- 
tion eventually halted distribution of Identity Cards for Minors and 
launched an investigation of the program’s use of state funds / 6 all while 
reemphasizing the federal government’s intention to realize a national 
identity card for all Mexicans . 57 Meanwhile, the Federal Electoral Insti- 
tute, in its attempt to maintain its voter card as Mexico’s primary form 
of personal identification, went forward with a redesign of the card 
that would meet the security requirements demanded by the federal 
government . 58 

Finally, the Mexican government’s attempts to implement the 
REPUVE at border crossings by allowing Banjercito and customs offi- 
cers to charge for inspections led to lawsuits sponsored by the PAN.' 
The lawsuits resulted in Banjercito’s suspending the program at those 
sites, leaving vehicles crossing into the country outside the registry. 
Thus, despite the efforts of authorities to improvise different ways to 
implement these surveillance technologies, the government’s hold on 
mobile telephony, personal identification, and automobility remains 

These considerations, like the histories shared in the second chap- 
ter, suggest a metamorphic and temporal quality to state formation. 
The tactics that succeed in gaining a hold over collective agencies are 
defined and transformed by the resistance they encounter. And the suc- 
cess of these tactics can be fleeting as new forces push back against state 
arrangements to control them. New tactics must then be adopted to 
provide a grip over collective agencies anew. 

What results from the state’s adoption of surveillance technologies 
is not prohesion, then, whereby the state attaches itself to the materi- 
ality of collective agency en masse and brings its diverse assortment 

176 I Statecraft 

of governmental agencies together into a single network, but a further 
hybridization of strategies and tactics that mocks the unifying impulse 
of prohesion. This does not mean that prohesion has failed to take 
root in Mexico. The REPUVE database exists and is used by public 
authorities and private actors to provide “legal certainty” about the 
provenance of certain vehicles. Vehicles circulating in Sonora, cross- 
ing over the Mexican-US border, operating in Zacatecas, Tlaxcala, and 
other states, and purchased from new-car dealers have tags attached 
to them. And arches able to read tags have been installed in select 
sites. But the vision of a technologically secured future, such as that 
presented to forum attendees in Tlaxcala, remains a distant reality as 
the REPUVE is blended into existing modes of governance and govern- 
mental infrastructures — tolling systems in Sonora and customs houses 
at the border — in order to make the program work. Rather than unify- 
ing the identification of individuals under a single biometric standard, 
the Personal Identity Card for Minors adds another level to personal 
identification and more bureaucracy to its governance. And the Geolo- 
cation Law fails to bring governmental agencies together at all, casting 
the responsibility for security over mobile telephony outside the state. 
Thus, the power of the state is not a static force or entity that maps 
onto the state’s political blueprints, but a stochastic one that emerges 
through authorities’ statecraft with other actors, forces, and modes of 

In the end, the true importance of statecraft lies in what it reveals 
about the continued influence of civic engagement in the formation of 
the security state. In Sonora, political pressure from ordinary citizens 
and local politicians translated into the realization of a constitutional 
right that had previously been ignored. And at the border, that same 
pressure resulted in the suspension of import fees. Thus, the story of 
surveillance technologies is one in which ordinary people can remain 
central to the outcomes that these technologies help produce. In this 
sense, statecraft can be read as an opportunity for ordinary Mexicans 
to continue to have a voice in the shape of government. And it is to this 
point that the concluding chapter turns. 


Grasping Surveillance 

It’s not easy to believe in the government. But we have to 
believe in something. We need to come together to make 
the government better, to trust it more. I have to take on 
my responsibility independent of whether I believe in the 
government or not. We have to meet our responsibility. So, 

I see this program independently of whether the authorities 
do what they’re supposed to. We as citizens should fulfill our 
obligation. At the end of the day, we have to think of the 
future, in our welfare, independent of the difficulties. And 
that means acting with values, involving ourselves in social 
activities and programs. Without participation, it would be 
worse for everyone. 

— Zacatecas resident registering with the REPUVE 


Having left office at the end of 2012, Felipe Calderon and his crusade 
against insecurity have passed from the public stage in Mexico. But the 
problem of insecurity has not. During his campaign and first years in 
office, Enrique Pena Nieto sought to shift the public’s attention away 
from security issues and toward economic and social policy. The hall- 
mark of this effort was the Pact for Mexico, an accord signed by the 
president and leaders of the three major political parties to put aside 
political differences and move the country forward through coopera- 
tion in five key areas. These included agreements for (1) “a society of 
rights and liberties,” which “achieves the inclusion of all social sectors 
and reduces the high levels of inequality that exist today between the 
people and regions of our country”; (2) “economic growth, employ- 
ment, and competitiveness,” whereby the “state should generate the 
conditions that permit for economic growth that results in the creation 


178 I Grasping Surveillance 

of stable and well-paying jobs”; (3) “security and justice,” whose “prin- 
cipal objective . . . will be the recovery of peace and liberty to diminish 
violence”; (4) “transparency, accountability, and combatting corrup- 
tion,” which recognizes that “transparency and accountability are two 
tools of democratic states to elevate the confidence of citizens in their 
government”; and (5) “democratic governability,” in which “the politi- 
cal plurality of the country is a undeniable reality derived from a long 
and incomplete process of democratic transition.” 1 

While the pact was criticized as an antidemocratic measure bypass- 
ing the authority of the Congress, 2 it did help set a different tone for 
the new government. And the Pena Nieto administration built upon 
the pact by passing education reform aimed at increasing assessment 
of student learning and teacher training; telecommunications reform 
seeking to break media monopolies; and energy reforms designed to 
modernize the oil sector by privatizing Mexican Petroleums (PEMEX), 
the state-owned oil company that is a symbol of national identity dating 
back to Lazaro Cardenas’s nationalization of the country’s oil reserves 
in 1938. 

Reality, however, has not followed the president’s script. According 
to federal crime statistics, homicides have supposedly decreased since 
Pena Nieto took office. But independent reporting has found the rate 
consistent with the Calderon era, with over fifty-seven thousand deaths 
recorded in the first twenty months of the Pena Nieto administration. 4 
And if the Pact for Mexico succeeded in capturing the public’s atten- 
tion during this time, the disappearance of forty-three students from the 
Raul Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa in September 
2014 dramatically disrupted the federal government’s efforts to man- 
age the public’s perception of insecurity. The kidnapping and presumed 
assassination of the young men who had dedicated themselves to careers 
in teaching, carried out by the local mayor in conjunction with police 
forces and a local crime syndicate, rekindled the wrath of a public fed 
up with the state’s complicity in crime. The crimes, together with the 
inability of state authorities to locate the students’ bodies, fueled dem- 
onstrations across the country under the banner of “Fue el Estado!” (It 
was the State!). In response, Pena Nieto did what Felipe Calderon and 
Vicente Fox had done before him: he announced the creation of a new 
federal police force — the National Gendarmerie — styled after France’s 
and Chile’s militarized national police forces, which would regain ter- 
ritory lost to organized crime through the increased use of cutting-edge 
technology and intelligence gathering. 5 

Grasping Surveillance I 179 

Outside Mexico, meanwhile, adoption of surveillance technolo- 
gies to combat insecurity continues apace. Regionally, the problems 
of violence and organized crime plaguing Mexico exist in other Latin 
American countries, and national governments have turned to anony- 
mized mobile device reporting, vehicle control systems, integrated tele- 
communications networks, video surveillance cameras, and the like in 
response. In the United States, the killing of innocent people by drone 
strikes in the Middle East, ongoing revelations about the National Secu- 
rity Agency’s massive domestic and international spying operations, and 
the use of excessive force by local police forces have drawn criticism. 
This criticism has prompted the federal government to define the use of 
drones for targeted killings, limit domestic data collection, and reduce 
the transfer of used military equipment to domestic police forces . 9 But 
reliance on surveillance technologies against insecurity remains. Glob- 
ally, national governments use surveillance technologies in many of the 
same applications described in this book, and authoritarian regimes buy 
wares from US, Canadian, and European companies to monitor and 
punish dissenters who are defined as security threats. 

With these trends as a backdrop, what lessons does this examination 
of the Calderon administration’s RENAUT, CEDI, and REPUVE pro- 
grams hold? This concluding chapter attempts to answer this question 
by reviewing four thematic binaries central to understanding surveil- 
lance technologies and the state: visibility/tactility, strength/weakness, 
determinism/emergence, and fatalism/engagement. These ideas, taken 
together, underscore that while surveillance technologies might envi- 
sion a future of tighter governmental control through grabbing hold of 
the materiality of society, the structure of society that has taken shape 
over the course of modernity ensures that a space for political action 
remains, which opens up opportunities for the citizenry to shape the 
fate of surveillance technologies and governance in the future. 


Thinking on surveillance tends to privilege sight as a human sense. This 
is understandable. A fairly recent term dating back to the French Revo- 
lution’s Reign of Terror, when surveillance committees were formed 
to monitor suspicious people and political dissidents, “surveillance” 
derives from the French prefix sur (over) and root veiller (to watch) 
and means “to watch over .” 11 It was in this sense that Michel Fou- 
cault used the word in Discipline and Punish (whose French title is 

180 I Grasping Surveillance 

Surveiller et punir), the seminal work that helped popularize the term 
in the academy. 

The emphasis on visibility and sight has endured in our imagina- 
tions. Recent scholarship in surveillance studies has shifted this under- 
standing, however, by describing how information technologies such 
as radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, biometric cards, mobile 
devices, personal computers, and the networks that link these devices 
have transformed surveillance into “dataveillance .” 12 The histories of 
the mobile telephone registry, personal identity card, and automobile 
registry in Mexico provide detailed case studies of the technical and 
administrative procedures required to collect data on communications, 
personal identity, and mobility. And what these cases show is that sur- 
veillance technologies operate not only through visibility and watching 
over people, but also through tactility and taking hold of and remain- 
ing in touch with the materiality of both people and things. Creating a 
national identity card based on biometric data requires that the human 
body be probed and contacted in different ways. Fingers need to be 
touched and recorded. Irises need to be scanned. These data are then 
encoded into bar codes and other formats that are stored both in the 
card and the digital databases of the government. Those databases of 
the state must then be integrated to eliminate redundancies. Creat- 
ing a national automobile registry requires that the body of the car be 
examined, inspected, and touched in order to record three instances 
of a vehicle identification number inscribed on it. That information is 
then scanned into government databases and inscribed into RFID tags 
that are applied directly to vehicles’ windshields. The public and pri- 
vate databases related to automobility are then merged to ensure “legal 

This emphasis on touch and adhesion is why it is meaningful to speak 
of prohesion rather than surveillance. If surveillance is understood as 
“watching over people” for the sake of affecting their behavior, the 
histories of surveillance technologies in Mexico reveal an operation in 
which authorities use technological means to manipulate the stickiness 
or viscosity of the things that energize social life so as to better order 
society. With these technologies, authorities in Mexico continue an 
effort dating back to the founding of the nation to manage the material- 
ity of communications, identification, and mobility. 

The distinction between visibility and tactility is important for under- 
standing the logic of governmental power today. For the state authori- 
ties of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries studied by Foucault, 

Grasping Surveillance I 1 8 1 

surveillance and the constant monitoring of people allowed behaviors 
to be observed, comparisons between individuals to be made, ranks 
to be assigned, and knowledge to be generated that formed the basis 
of diverse disciplines or fields of social-scientific expertise. “In short,” 
Foucault noted on surveillance, “it normalizes.” 1 ’ Through this opera- 
tion, surveillance provided the basis for discipline, for ordering the cha- 
otic masses of the natural and social worlds into individualized subjects 
and units. For federal authorities in Mexico who sought to realize the 
National Registry of Mobile Telephone Users (RENAUT), Citizen Iden- 
tity Card (CEDI), and Public Registry of Vehicles (REPUVE), prohesion 
enabled registers of the objects and subjects circulating in society to 
be generated, evidence of their existence to be recorded, a connection 
to their materiality to be established, and comparisons between those 
things and officials records to be made. This is not a power interested 
in individualizing and normalizing the masses, as those individuations 
have already been made. It is rather a power seeking to match those 
objects and subjects that circulate in society with the data that exists 
about them and to localize them or ascertain their presence at a par- 
ticular time and place. Prohesion, then, allows for the authentication of 
both people and things. And by this operation, prohesion provides the 
basis for security, for holding onto or preserving the order of subjects 
and objects in the world as it is. 

The distinction between discipline and security has been drawn 
before, if not in these terms. Foucault already in 1978 described secu- 
rity as a third form of power distinct from sovereign and disciplinary 
power.’’ What Foucault termed security can be equated to what Gilles 
Deleuze referred to as “societies of control,” where “we no longer find 
ourselves dealing with the mass/individual pair” present in the disci- 
plinary society — “individuals have become ‘dividuals,’ and masses, 
samples, data, markets, or ‘banks.’” The dataveillance technologies 
of the control society are used to “social sort” 1 ' individuals in countless 

a. “Baldly,” Foucault writes, “we could say that sovereignty is exercised within the 
borders of a territory, discipline is exercised on the bodies of individuals, and security is 
exercised over a whole population,” where population “will be considered as a set of pro- 
cesses to be managed at the level and on the basis of what is natural in these processes.” 
Put more plainly, security for Foucault is liberal governance, where the state intervenes 
in social relations so as to create “natural” relations that will provide the conditions for 
the organic growth of the economy, health, and so forth (Foucault, Security, Territory, 
Population, n). 

1 82 I Grasping Surveillance 

social settings: safe/legitimate and dangerous/illegitimate travelers at 
borders , 1 desirable and undesirable citizens on the streets , 17 automo- 
bility and pedestrian mobility at urban intersections , 1 good risks and 
bad risks for criminal rehabilitation in courts and prisons , 19 and so on. 
In Mexico, the phone registry, personal identity card, and automobile 
registry were launched with security as the explicit goal. Authorities 
wanted to sort between legitimate phones and stolen devices, suspicious 
and reputable individuals, and dubious and trustworthy motor vehicles. 

But if this has been said before, examination of the Mexican govern- 
ment’s attempts to implement prohesive technologies raises additional 
points. Significantly, discipline and security exhibit different concerns 
on the part of authorities relative to the worlds they look to govern. 
Discipline entails a missionary logic of transforming and ordering an 
external world thought to be defined by chaos, disorder, and danger. 
In the face of the plague, the healthy individual can be created. Out of 
the unimpressive military recruit, the efficient soldier can be crafted. 
From the untrained child, the educated student can be molded. From 
the common criminal, the reformed citizen can be made. Through the 
artful application of disciplinary techniques — enclosure, partitioning, 
functional sites, ranks, examinations, time tables — whatever mass of 
social or natural material can be broken down and remade into individ- 
ual, productive units. Security, in contrast, carries a custodial logic of 
preserving that order or advantage that has been won over the world. In 
the face of terrorist or criminal risk that would disrupt the social order, 
the terrorist can be sorted out to preserve the status quo. In the face of 
environmental risk that would threaten the natural conditions neces- 
sary to maintain the population, the pollutant can be identified and 
neutralized to protect the natural order. In the face of disease risks, the 
infected person can be isolated to maintain the health of the population 
as a whole. Through the artful application of security techniques — the 
recording of identities, the tagging of bodies, the monitoring of infor- 
mation, the analysis of statistics — whatever collection of ordered ele- 
ments can be preserved from risks and threats. 

A conservativism is present with security, a fear or anxiety of loss, 
that is absent with discipline. Discipline is oriented outward and toward 
the future; it sets out into the world to colonize and conquer. Security is 
oriented inward and toward the present ; 20 it sets up apparatuses to keep 
the world as it is. In contemporary society, a culture of insecurity reigns, 
which produces “the insecurity subject” who “is afraid but can effec- 
tively sublimate these fears by engaging in preparedness activities .” 21 

Grasping Surveillance I 183 

In Mexico, the context of insecurity breeds a fear that automobiles can 
easily be stolen, that mobile telephones can be taken and used to extort 
money, and that family members can be kidnapped. Security measures 
are intended to provide the confidence that individuals will be able to 
maintain their hold on these valued items and their place in this valued 
social order. 

More importantly, the distinction between surveillance and pro- 
hesion illustrates how discipline and security differ with relation to 
subjects. At its core, discipline involves subjectification — creating enclo- 
sures, partitioning people, and erecting functional sites where constant 
surveillance provides the means for shaping the human soul and creat- 
ing the subject. Mexican authorities in the early twentieth century pur- 
sued roadway safety by responsibilizing motorists, by requiring them 
to pass driving tests, mark registration numbers on their vehicles, and 
carry infraction booklets to enable monitoring by police officers. But 
security is largely indifferent to human subjectivity. At its core, security 
involves conservation — creating inventories of things, tagging each one, 
and keeping them monitored through prohesion to protect the social 
order that modernity has brought forth. Mexican authorities today pur- 
sue automotive security by certifying motor vehicles, inspecting their 
vehicle identification numbers, and tagging them with RFID chips to 
automate monitoring by electronic scanners. 

In contrast to discipline and surveillance, security through prohesion 
casts its focus beyond the human subject and its soul to the materiality 
of things that underlie collective agency in society. To stop the terrorist 
or criminal, security through prohesion would disable the automobiles, 
phones, and weapons that enable wrongdoing. Such a strategy matches 
what has been termed “targeted governance,” 1 " where problems such as 
alcoholism are managed through drug interventions that target specific 
aspects of the person’s biological being rather than more holistic (and 
complicated) interventions that seek to discipline the self. Prohesion 
combats crime through the targeted governance of telephones and cars 
rather than more holistic interventions against the norms and conduct 
of persons. 

A certain distrust of the human subject is detected here — individuals 
cannot be trusted to preserve the social order themselves. As Benja- 
min Goold has noted, “The increased use of surveillance technologies 
might send a particularly negative message to members of the public 
about how the state views them and the extent to which they can expect 
the state to trust them .”" 3 If everyone is a suspect, the simplest way to 

184 I Grasping Surveillance 

secure society is to connect the circuits of control directly to the materi- 
ality of collective agency. 

As the case studies of monitoring programs in Mexico demonstrate, 
this distrust extends to the state itself. In addition to adhering sentinels 
to the materiality of collective agencies, prohesion also attempts to inte- 
grate the state agencies that have emerged over the course of modernity 
to govern society. State authorities in charge of telecommunications, 
tax rolls, automobile licenses and registrations, voter rolls, population 
rolls, and so forth are made to cohere to one another to improve the 
state’s hold on collective agency. But whereas the “interoperability” 
and “integration” of monitoring systems ' 4 are often perceived as an 
indication of the potency of dataveillance, they here speak to the lack of 
trust in authorities by authorities . 13 In Mexico, this lack of trust is pro- 
nounced. State officials openly say that police officers and other state 
employees cannot be trusted to carry out the law and protect the social 
order.' The telephone registry, personal identity card, and vehicle reg- 
istry are ways in which the governance of telecommunications, personal 
identity, and automobility can be streamlined to increase efficacy. In 
a sense, then, prohesion evidences a belief that humans, be they the 
governed or the governors, simply cannot be entrusted with that which 
security aims to preserve. 

As Foucault noted on multiple occasions, the presence of security 
as a new mode of power does not signify the passing of discipline or 
sovereign power. They coexist. Nevertheless, the shift to security with 
prohesion as the means for carrying it out would have serious conse- 
quences. Operating by attaching to the substance of our daily lives, 
prohesion can be particularly invasive. Personal privacy is under assault 
in various ways under the new surveillance, as the details of our lives 
get collected by private companies specializing in data management, 
are traded between public and private entities, or are hacked by digital 
criminals. Security can also be unjust. The poorest and most vulner- 
able in society are surveilled the most .' 7 As a consequence, the divisions 
between the haves and have-nots are reinforced, an outcome that aligns 
with the conservative logic of security to preserve the social order. 

In addition to invasions of privacy and the deepening of social 
inequalities, prohesion reveals a further, more worrisome dimension 
of security. In its aversion to human subjectivity, prohesion threatens 
the individual subject. Discipline sought to mold human subjectivity 
through constant attention to the minute details of people’s lives. It 
represented a culmination of sorts in a “great tradition of the eminence 

Grasping Surveillance I 185 

of detail, [in which] all the minutiae of Christian education, of scholas- 
tic or military pedagogy, all forms of ‘training’ found their place easily 
enough” in the disciplinary society. Security, however, disregards the 
toilsome, costly, mundane work of keeping watch over people in favor 
of simply attaching to the materiality of society. As a result, the forma- 
tion of the subject is no longer a priority. Others have noted an analo- 
gous dynamic in speaking of the “data doubles” and “doppelgangers ” 29 
that dataveillance creates and acts upon in place of physical, autono- 
mous subjects .’ 0 As Charlotte Epstein has put it, “When the human 
body is no longer so clearly upheld as the recipient of rights, as the sub- 
ject of politics, it is not so clear that it is anything more than just a living 
object, or indeed an animal-to-be-managed.’” In security, people are 
reduced from political subjects to physical bodies to be administered. 

Beyond this, basic elements of the liberal political order designed 
to promote subjectivity find themselves under assault in security. In 
attempting to secure the social order through materiality rather than 
subjectivity, prohesion alters the individual’s grip on the world in sub- 
tle but fundamental ways. For one, choice is moderated by mandatory 
actions that are required in the security society. The REPUVE requires 
motorists in Mexico to enroll in the automobile registry and adhere 
RFID tags to their vehicles. The CEDI requires citizens in Mexico to 
possess personal identification cards. And the RENAUT requires mobile 
telephone users in Mexico to register their phone numbers with the gov- 
ernment. The cost of not doing so is the risk of not being able to access 
key services central to daily life in contemporary society. Drivers who 
do not register their vehicles could be restricted from accessing road- 
ways activated by RFID stickers. People without identification cards 
could be denied social services. And callers who do not register their 
phones could be threatened with cessation of their cellular service. In 
the same way, air travelers throughout the world have little choice but 
to comply with nebulous requirements to publicly disrobe at security 
checkpoints and even less power to remove their personal communica- 
tions and data from governmental and private-sector databases. 

Second, property rights are slowly chipped away as the state seeks to 
attach itself to the things of daily life. Drivers in Mexico are mandated 
to have state-issued RFID devices adhered to their windshields, with 
little choice as to where the admittedly unsightly sticker is placed. The 
stickers are present and registered with the state at the point of sale, they 
cannot be legally removed, and they must be replaced if the windshield 
is replaced. The windshield ceases to belong to vehicle owners in the 

1 86 I Grasping Surveillance 

way it once did. Consequently, while drivers have never possessed their 
vehicles entirely (the plate that legally identifies the car belongs to the 
state and laws commonly proscribe tinted windows and other modifica- 
tions), the state’s placement of RFID stickers colonizes a new portion of 
the automobile — the windshield — which further limits ownership. Simi- 
larly, mobile telephones that are not registered with the state or do not 
comply with protocol requirements are denied access and operability, 
thus requiring the purchase of a new device that is already connected to 
networks of control. Vehicles and telephones still belong to their right- 
ful owners, but in attempting to secure these objects, users are required 
to surrender aspects of ownership to the state and programs that would 
protect them. 

Third, self-determination is restricted by biometric identification. 
Electronic identity cards that identify individuals according to their bio- 
logical material rather than their names result in a diminished space for 
individuals to define themselves before authorities. This can be seen as 
an extension of a long trend in Mexican history. Indigenous peoples of 
Mexico were forced to identify themselves within the naming practices 
and structure of Hispanic society. But under security, even that dimin- 
ished capacity to name oneself is removed. With biometric information, 
one’s biology “anchors” identity. 3 ' 

Thus, security by prohesion — by diminishing choice, private prop- 
erty, and self-determination — threatens those fundamental elements of 
liberal society that ensure subjectivity. And the modern liberal subject is 
left at risk. Paradoxically, then, if the disciplinary society and visibility 
carried the goal of subjectifying society, then the tools being used to 
defend that social order, that subject, and the material things by which 
it defines itself serve to slowly extinguish the subject. 

b. This concern resonates with arguments that critical theorists of a generation ago 
made concerning technology. The “Megamachine” of modern industrial society, cau- 
tioned Lewis Mumford, would eventually “reduce all forms of life and culture to those 
that can be translated into the current system of scientific abstractions, and transferred 
on a mass basis to machines and electronic apparatus” (Mumford, “Technics and the 
Nature of Man,” 315). But an important distinction can be made. While the Megama- 
chine and Technique (Ellul, “Technological Order”) reduced the subject to one dimension 
(Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man), they still required a substantial investment of human 
action and oversight in order to cultivate that dimension. With security, the subject is 
bypassed altogether and the conditions under which she or he would develop, even along 
a single trajectory of technical specialization and market consumption, are restricted. 

Grasping Surveillance I 187 


If security through prohesion offers a troubling vision of the power at 
work in security surveillance technologies, solace can be found in the 
fact that this power encounters such difficulty in taking root. Of the 
three programs examined in this book, one was abolished by the Mexi- 
can Senate because of its failings, one is stuck in limbo awaiting action 
from the Pena Nieto administration, and one is operating in a weakened 
form that fails to fulfill the vision of automobile security intended in its 
design. In this sense, weakness is a central aspect of security and prohe- 
sion in Mexico. 

Failure is a topic that surveillance scholars have treated in the past. 
The surveillant state has been referred to as the Big Bungler rather than 
Big Brother, an authority “driven mad by too much power and too 
much speed .” 33 Errors are common in the data that public and private 
entities gather about us, which “can lead to death in hospitals, stolen 
elections, and wrongful arrests .” 34 The substance of life itself can throw 
security technologies off. Facial-recognition technologies are doomed to 
fail “since identity is inherently a hybrid and unstable construct — at the 
very least, individuals age, take different jobs, acquire and lose creden- 
tials, marry and divorce, etc. — it can never be completely and absolutely 
stabilized .” 35 And multiple standards for the recording and storage of 
information can spoil government attempts to implement a national 
identity card. 36 ’ c 

But if failure has been recognized in the literature, perhaps it has not 
received the emphasis it deserves. Within society, we feel either trepida- 
tion or relief, depending on our political affiliation, when government 
designs for surveillance are announced or leaked to the public. And 
this reveals the confidence we have in these plans. Militarized drones 
unsettle us because they illustrate how the conduct of warfare and kill- 
ing is escaping human control and becoming automated. The unimagin- 
ably vast snooping activities of the US National Security Agency (NSA) 
revealed by Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, and Laura Poitras 
concern the critical minded of us because they imply that the minutiae 
of our daily phone and electronic communications are open to inspec- 
tion. The adoption of national identity cards disturbs us because it 

c. These failures have not, however, turned governments off of surveillance technolo- 
gies. As Clive Norris has noted, “nothing succeeds like failure” when it comes to using 
technology in the pursuit of security (Norris, “Success of Failure”). 

1 8 8 I Grasping Surveillance 

signifies the erection of new walls and boundaries that will break our 
contact with the Other and endanger our free society. In short, our fears 
about the negative consequences that accompany surveillance technolo- 
gies rest on the assumption that these technologies have the strength 
they claim to have. And in the face of this power, as the move to adopt 
the legal concept of the “right to be forgotten” in the European Union 
demonstrates, all we as concerned individuals and groups can do is ask 
that this power be fallible, that it forget. 

It is beyond debate that technologies in contemporary society carry 
a capacity for tracking and oversight unlike anything that has come 
before. Militarized drones are certainly unleveling the playing field for 
the conduct of war. NSA surveillance over personal communication, 
Big Data or otherwise, is an affront to the notion of a free society. 
Biometric identity cards are a technological step in the direction of 
increased control over personal identification. And these technologies 
do sometimes succeed in assassinating suspected terrorists at a distance, 
scooping up critical pieces of information to stop a crime, or achieving 
access control. But the continued insecurity of our world speaks to a 
fundamental weakness or fallibility of security systems. 

Perhaps the most telling example in this regard is the Boston Mara- 
thon bombings, where the brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev 
exploded two homemade bombs at the finish line of the foot race on 
April 15, 2013, killing three and injuring scores of others. Lost in the 
tragedy of the event and the drama of the subsequent manhunt is the 
fact that the multiple surveillance programs and various layers of sur- 
veillance technologies instituted since the September 11, 2001, terror- 
ist attacks failed to identify the two brothers as threats. This despite 
the fact that they were born in the conflict-torn Caucasus region of 
the Soviet Union, self-identified as Chechen, had previous encounters 
with the police for violent behavior, and learned bomb making from 
an online magazine published by al-Qaida. What is more, following 
the attacks, Senators Saxby Chambliss and Richard Burr reported that 
Russian intelligence officials had warned both the FBI and CIA about 
the brothers, including recordings of Tamerlan discussing attacks with 
his mother over the phone. 37 So, then, not only did the “surveillant 
assemblage” fail to capture these terrorists, but, to invoke a Marxist 
argument, it might be argued that these technologies have “deskilled” 
traditional intelligence work to the point where information provided 
by another country’s intelligence service was not acted upon in the man- 
ner one might expect. 

Grasping Surveillance I 189 

Similarly, the brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, who killed twelve 
and injured eleven during an attack on the offices of the satirical maga- 
zine Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January 2015, had been under surveil- 
lance by French authorities; Cherif had even been arrested and tried 
on terror charges in 2005 as he was heading to Iraq to fight US forces. 
Thus, authorities in France, who possess some of most sweeping powers 
to surveil the public and regularly deport alleged extremists without the 
procedural protections of the US legal system, were unable to prevent 
this attack. 38 Zarrar Shah, the technology chief of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the 
Pakistani terror group that carried out a series of coordinated attacks in 
Mumbai over the course of three days in November 2008 that left 164 
dead and 308 injured, used Google Earth to plot the attacks and was 
being monitored by British, Indian, and US authorities. Yet, the surveil- 
lant assemblage proved too weak to stop these attacks. 39 Ismaaiyl Brin- 
sley, the gunman who ambushed two New York City police officers in 
December 2014, had earlier in the day shot his girlfriend in Baltimore. 
Baltimore police, using pinging technology to locate Brinsley’s mobile 
phone, notified New York City police that he was in Brooklyn and 
was posting messages on his girlfriend’s Twitter account saying that he 
would kill two New York City officers. 40 But this, too, failed to stop the 
attack. And the events that bookend the birth of the massive US home- 
land security state — both the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and 
Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing about NSA domestic spying — speak 
to the failure of surveillance. Multiple agencies had information about 
the September 11 attackers, but this information was not acted upon. 
And Snowden’s revelations demonstrate the permeability of a surveil- 
lant assemblage that relies on private firms to provide public security. 

Mexico, meanwhile, was rocked in 2014 by the disappearance of the 
forty-three Rural Teachers’ College students in Iguala, Guerrero. A fed- 
eral investigation implicated the mayor of Iguala and local police. The 
investigation found that the police had apprehended the students and 
turned them over to a local crime syndicate, Guerreros Unidos (United 
Warriors), which then presumably murdered them. Incredibly, despite 
the immense investment of technology and resources in the fight against 
crime, the federal government was unable to locate all but one of the 
students’ bodies. 

The legality and desirability of intrusive surveillance technologies 
in our lives will continue to be debated. But if these technologies are 
already operating, they might be expected to work at least at mod- 
est levels. As these examples show, however, security surveillance and 

190 I Grasping Surveillance 

prohesion not only sometimes fail but are fundamentally weak forms 
of protection. 

The Registry of Mobile Telephone Users, Citizen Identity Card, 
and Public Registry of Vehicles pursued by the Calderon administra- 
tion provide insight into the forces that account for the weakness of 
the weapons of the security state. First, apart from the technologies 
themselves, the turn to surveillance technologies speaks to a distinct 
weakness of government. In Mexico, the state simply cannot gov- 
ern the way it once did. The elevated levels of ordinary crime, the 
immense numbers of homicides, the underreported number of femi- 
cides, the common kidnappings, and the arms and drugs trafficking all 
illustrate the inability of the state at both the federal and state levels 
to provide security. 

Chapter 2 discussed the reasons for the weakening of the state and 
strengthening of criminal elements in Mexico. The dictatorial, single- 
party rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), whatever its 
shortcomings as a democratic form of government, provided a central- 
ization of political power that proved able to manage drug trafficking 
and the violence that can accompany it. Democratization has brought 
about free, competitive elections at different levels of government and 
increased civilian control over the political process. But this progress 
has changed political dynamics in the country, decentralizing power 
and weakening the clientelist relationships that historically corralled 
drug violence. At the same time, the death of Amado Carrillo Fuen- 
tes, leader of the Juarez cartel, the original jefe de los jefes (boss of the 
bosses), precipitated the current and ongoing wave of violence because 
it created a power vacuum that various regional cartels and criminal 
organizations sought to fill. The lack of a monopoly over criminal activ- 
ities in Mexico by either the state or crime bosses has resulted in a rise 
of formerly unauthorized forms of violence, such as kidnappings, extor- 
tions, and street robberies. 4 " 

These transformations in Mexico’s political landscape were accom- 
panied by changes in the country’s economy. The shift from a statist, 
protectionist economy controlled by the PRI to a neoliberal political 
economy governed by free-market policies has expanded the gross 
domestic product and enriched Mexico’s upper and upper-middle 
classes as well as regions along the northern border. 4 ’ But this wealth 
has not been shared equally; the poverty rate (as measured by income 
required for basic living expenses) has remained stuck at 50 percent 
of the population, 44 indicating increasing income inequality. Crime, 

Grasping Surveillance I 19 1 

then, has become one way for people living at the margins of society to 
pursue economic gain. 

Thrown into this social mix is the transformation of Mexican cul- 
tural life through exposure to global media, which simultaneously 
weakens certain forms of traditional national identity while strength- 
ening others — pulquerias and siestas gradually disappear as tastes and 
times change in concert with global norms, while narcocorridos that 
glamorize and romanticize the fatalist pursuit of drug wealth rise in 
popularity as a distinctly Mexican form of cultural expression. Together 
with an active feminist movement 45 pushing for reproductive rights and 
other protections, as well as other forms of global consciousness, these 
changes weaken the legitimacy of traditional authorities and ways of 
doing things. Thus, over the past decades, the Mexican state has con- 
tracted in accordance with the precepts of neoliberal governance, which 
has reduced its ability to govern, while the society it oversees has con- 
tinued to expand, evolve, and transform as it absorbs new technolo- 
gies and means of expression and it experiments with new freedoms 
presented by democratic governance. With less ability to govern, and 
an unreliable police force with which such governance could not be 
entrusted, the Mexican government turned to surveillance technologies 
as a way to reform itself to govern in a global world. 

Second, the national government’s failure to fully implement surveil- 
lance technologies has shown that it is prone to weakness. Resistance 
has been central in this regard. Resistance meets authorities’ efforts to 
create the security state at various points. Mobile phone users suspi- 
cious of the federal government’s registry refused to register their lines 
honestly. And the poor design of the registry left it unclear how users’ 
phone lines could be verified and who would even have the responsibil- 
ity for doing so. Drivers unaware or uninterested in the federal gov- 
ernment’s automobile registry in the states where it was being offered 
failed to register their vehicles. And many states refused to participate 
in the program altogether, their reluctance motivated by politics and a 
fear of wasting precious security resources on a flailing federal program. 
The Citizen Identity Card failed to launch due to opposition from the 
government office responsible for issuing a rival identity card. 

Resistance is an established topic within surveillance studies. John 
Gilliom, for instance, in his examination of an electronic payments sys- 
tem that monitors public assistance in Ohio, demonstrates how poor 
women’s defiance of welfare rules constituted an everyday form of resis- 
tance that opposed the power of the state as “overseers of the poor .” 46 

192. I Grasping Surveillance 

And Gary T. Marx has provided an authoritative accounting of the 
myriad ways in which people resist everyday forms of monitoring, such 
as drug testing in the workplace, a list that includes “refusal” (to take 
a test), “discovery” (of the date of a random test), “avoidance” (not 
going to work on testing day), “switching” (a clean drug sample for a 
tainted one), “distorting” (consuming substances to neutralize the drug 
test), “masking” (one’s identity to testers), and “countersurveillance” 
(testing on oneself to ensure success).” Marx observes that such strate- 
gies “should serve as humbling reminder of need for skepticism in the 
face of unreflective paranoia and oversold technical surveillance fixes 
introduced into heterogeneous social contexts.” 47 

Supporting Marx’s conclusion, the histories of security surveillance 
in Mexico encourage a broader definition of resistance — any force, 
whether human or not, that has the effect of obstructing the intended 
plans and intentions or established relational patterns of authorities (see 
chapter 4) — to take fuller account of the variety of difficulties inher- 
ent in establishing new modes of oversight and governance in society. 
It is not only that people, whether private citizens, CEOs, or elected 
officials, oppose these tactics and authorities. But time, space, and the 
technologies themselves intervene as well. Given these diverse forces, 
prohesion fails to acquire the power that it was designed to possess. 

Implicit in this definition of resistance and central to understanding 
the weakness of surveillance technologies are the concepts of “distrib- 
uted agency” 4 * and “assemblages” 49 introduced earlier in this work. A 
car is not simply a car, a phone is not simply a phone, and a person is 
not simply a person. They are rather elements situated in a larger net- 
work of associations between people, organizations, things, and ideas 
that enliven them. This is “vibrant matter.” 50 And having authorities 
take hold of those things — phones, people, automobiles — in turn means 
engaging with the range of associations that give them agency. The 
RENAUT, CEDI, and REPUVE largely failed to take hold of mobile 
telephony, personal identification, and automobility in Mexico because 
these collective agencies are distributed across a wide network of users, 
providers, regulatory agencies, and material things that enables their 
activity. To get a grasp on mobile telephony, it is not enough to simply 
have users register their numbers with the appropriate authority. Mobile 
service providers, the governmental agencies regulating telecommunica- 
tions, the designers of phones, the placement of cellular towers, and so 
forth must be integrated into the program as well. To take control of 
the wheel of automobility, the government must ensure not only that 

Grasping Surveillance I 193 

car companies provide records of sales to the government’s database 
and adhere RFID stickers to windshields, but also that state govern- 
ments and customs officials do the same with vehicles circulating in the 
country or crossing national borders. 

Daniel Neyland, in an innovative examination of governmental 
efforts to control “everyday objects of terror” — letter bombs, sharp 
objects and liquids on airplanes, and so on — makes a similar point 
about the inherent difficulty of securitizing things. “The example of 
objects in airports,” Neyland notes, “suggests that successive actions to 
build networks of governance around categories of objects (such as liq- 
uid containers and sharps), connecting various people (airport manag- 
ers, passengers, security and check-in staff) and things (boards, plasma 
screen TVs, leaflets) in order to reorient actions around the object in 
focus and establish its new ontological status as a matter of concern are 
messy in practice.” Quite simply, he concludes, “it seems that ontolo- 
gies are stubborn and routinized.” 51 

What is most interesting about the ontological stubbornness of things 
is the manner in which older structures of governance get in the way of 
newer ones. The principal opposition to the Citizen Identity Card came 
from the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE). The main challenge to the Pub- 
lic Registry of Vehicles was the opposition or lack of participation of the 
states. Both the IFE and the federated states of Mexico are bodies that 
govern in Mexico. Historically, they emerged as authorities worked to 
solve particular problems of governance that faced the nation. The IFE 
was created to provide legitimacy to a fledgling democratic electoral sys- 
tem that did not have the trust of the public following the dubious presi- 
dential elections of 1988. The states came into existence as a means for 
governing Mexico’s outer territories of that could not be effectively ruled 
by centralized authorities, giving birth to “the negotiated state.” 52 These 
are state forms that were “co-produced” over time in conjunction with 
those things and phenomena they were designed to govern. However, the 
security state encounters them as obstacles that prevent the implementa- 
tion of prohesion. These thoughts cast in sharper contrast the weakness 
of weapons whose strength authorities are always assuring us of. 


But to say that surveillance technologies are fundamentally weak is not 
to say that the state in Mexico lacks power. Through these programs, 
federal authorities can require sujetos obligados (obligated subjects) like 

194 I Grasping Surveillance 

automobile manufacturers and entidades federativas (federated entities) 
to deliver data about the production, sales, and registration of vehicles 
to the REPUVE database; local, state, and federal law enforcement use 
the database to search for and identify stolen vehicles; states such as 
Sonora are able to employ RFID technology as a tolling solution or 
the basis for tax collection; and this progress provides the federal gov- 
ernment a basis for further extending this surveillant assemblage into 
other states and state agencies in the future. The federal government 
has also been able to distribute four million personal identity cards 
to schoolchildren in several states throughout Mexico. Even with the 
failed mobile telephone registry, the state was able to register nearly 
eighty-three million mobile phone numbers, or 90 percent of all num- 
bers in Mexico; and when the registry was ultimately terminated, the 
federal government succeeded in quickly transferring responsibility for 
monitoring telecommunications to service providers. 

These outcomes and this arrangement of power, however, are not 
what the state had planned. This is not the secure future that prohesion 
as a novel form of governmentality promised. It is rather the unexpected 
result of authorities negotiating with the people, organizations, rules and 
laws, things, and concepts that had resisted the programs. This arrange- 
ment of power is, as noted in the last chapter, the product of statecraft. 

The improvisational character of social life has been highlighted by 
several influential works in the social sciences. The best-known version 
of this idea is “bricolage,” which Claude Levi-Strauss used to denote tin- 
kering or “someone who works with his hands and uses devious means 
compared to those of a craftsman” 54 in order to distinguish premodern 
forms of knowledge from their modern, scientific counterparts. In a 

d. “The bricoleur is adept at performing a large number of diverse tasks,” Levi-Strauss 
claims, “but, unlike the engineer, he does not subordinate each of them to the availability 
of raw materials and tools conceived and procured for the purpose of the project. His 
universe of instruments is closed and the rules of his game are always to make do with 
‘whatever is at hand’” (Levi-Strauss, Savage Mind, 17). This notion of making do with 
whatever is at hand has been adapted to a variety of works in the social sciences, perhaps 
most apropos to the topics discussed here by Claudio Ciborra, an organizational theorist, 
who in describing the successes and failures of strategic information systems within or- 
ganizations, comments that “in order to achieve a new SIS (strategic information system) 
design the issue is neither to try to generate the most creative application idea, nor to 
realize the design through a careful planning and implementation method. The real issue 
is being able to overcome those cognitive and institutional barriers that prevent users and 
designers [from] seeing, appreciating, and utilizing all those potential applications already 
surrounding the members of an organization” (Ciborra, Labyrinths of Information, 44). 

Grasping Surveillance I 195 

similar vein, Andrew Pickering describes scientific and engineering work 
as “a mangle of practice,” a “practical, goal-oriented and goal-revising 
dialectic of resistance and accommodation” by which scientific knowl- 
edge and technological artifacts emerge in time. 5 ’ And most closely 
related to the current book, James Scott’s research on the state argues 
that state-initiated social-engineering programs, like the collectivization 
of Soviet farms or the construction of high-modernist cities like Brasilia, 
are doomed to fail and that human societies would be better served by 
governance based on “metis,” that is, “folk wisdom” or “knowledge 
that can only come from practical experience .” 56 

Recognizing the presence of tinkering and improvisation in the 
deployment of surveillance technologies has important consequences 
for understanding the power of the state. Most importantly, it identi- 
fies a skill-based, human component of state formation that cannot be 
reduced to larger structural forces, be they the authority of rulers, the 
composition of state power, the accumulation of capital, the culture of a 
society, or the design of technologies. Such forces clearly mattered in the 
outcomes of the RENAUT, CEDI, and REPUVE. But the successes and 
failures these programs experienced had as much to do with the skill of 
state officials and administrators, like Samuel Gallo, in recognizing an 
opportunity to connect, for example, the REPUVE to an existing state 
program and negotiate with those authorities to “make things stick.” 
And to develop the point further, there is nothing — not the skill of the 
state practitioner, the authority of the lawmaker, the design of the pro- 
gram, the beliefs of the population, the wealth of the company, or any- 
thing else — that can guarantee that a particular modification will actually 
take. In the case of the REPUVE, some improvisations worked. In the case 
of the RENAUT, most did not, which left monitoring of mobile telephony 
in Mexico outside the organizational structure of the federal government. 
The outcomes of the state’s adoption of surveillance technologies to fight 
insecurity are thus decided in good measure through trial and error. 

Over the past two decades, there has been increasing acceptance of 
the idea that social phenomena do not have singular causes but are “co- 
produced” through the interaction of various elements. The social order 
is, in other words, emergent. The concept of “emergence,” which is cen- 
tral to science and technology studies and “assemblage thinking,” offers 
a needed exit out of the disabling “structure versus agency” debate in 
the social sciences. ' 7 Applied to politics, the concept of emergence avoids 
having to explain the formation of the state as resulting directly from 
either the plans of great statesmen or the structure of capital, coercion, 

196 I Grasping Surveillance 

or culture . 58 As the second chapter illustrated, central dimensions of 
the Mexican state took shape over time through authorities’ evolving 
efforts to maintain control over communication, identification, and 
mobility in society. And as the last chapter recounted, even when plans 
for reforming the state are known in advance, the shape that reform 
ultimately takes can only be settled in practice. 

These ideas are relevant to surveillance studies. Regularly, works on 
surveillance give the impression that these technologies are transforming 
the world in line with their technical design. Security as a mode of gov- 
ernance based on the social sort has arisen because electronic identity 
cards allow biometric data to be stored simultaneously in the cards and 
government databases. Security is marked by a diminution of democ- 
racy because private corporations are intimately involved in the plan- 
ning, development, and deployment of surveillance systems, and these 
companies are not accountable to the public as elected officials are. 
Personal privacy has already passed into history in the surveillance soci- 
ety, because the bits of information that we are constantly generating 
through our electronic communications, online searches, plastic-card 
purchases, and so on are scooped up by public agencies and private- 
sector actors that use the data without our consent. Statements such 
as these, simplified perhaps but not uncommon, reveal a determinist 
mode of thinking where direct lines are drawn between particular social 
phenomena and surveillance technologies, or where the social conse- 
quences of surveillance technologies are predicted in advance. This 
thinking is not technological determinism. It is technology, in conjunc- 
tion with multinational corporations or secretive state security agencies, 
that determines outcomes. 

It was this tendency toward determinism that prompted thinking 
about society in terms of emergence in the first place/ And remaining 

e. Before “emergence,” explanations for the creation of scientific knowledge, tech- 
nological objects, and their impact on the social world were told in the language of the 
sociology of scientific knowledge or the social construction of technology. These social 
constructivist perspectives viewed facts, such as those resulting Robert Boyle’s pneumatic 
experiments (Shapin, “Pump and Circumstance”), and artifacts (Pinch and Bijker, “So- 
cial Construction of Facts and Artefacts”), such as the design of bicycles, as the result of 
cultural forces (the interests of scientists, the creation of dissemination outlets with which 
to publicize research and widen the witnessing of science, the replication of experiments 
before influential public figures who could lend increased legitimacy to science, the forma- 
tion of a particular vocabulary for describing science and demarcating it from other fields 
of engagement with the natural world believed less rigorous, social mores dictating the 
propriety of dress for men and women, and so on). 

Grasping Surveillance I 197 

sensitive to emergence is vital, since it can reveal processes of social 
change and state reformation that surveillance technologies may be cre- 
ating. With this in mind, a few points on the emergent nature of surveil- 
lance technologies are in order. 

First, we should expect the unexpected. Surveillance technologies 
might sometimes function according to design. But they should be 
expected to morph as the practices of statecraft fit them into partic- 
ular settings. The REPUVE and the CEDI took root in Mexico, but 
they did so in forms and with functions distinct from those planned by 

Second, the relevance of things is relative. Certain elements of social 
arrangements that were once unimportant or nonexistent can become 
central to the governance of society, while others that were once central 
can become inconsequential. Programs such as the RENAUT, CEDI, 
and REPUVE are intended to insert new elements — computer software, 
biometric identity cards, RFID tags — into existing distributions of col- 
lective agency to increase the government’s hold over communications, 
personal identification, and mobility. But statecraft can involve unex- 
pectedly giving new purpose to old elements. State planners used the 
toll plazas already constructed in Sonora to their advantage in order to 
install RFID readers to serve the REPUVE program, just as they used 
public schools throughout the country to register schoolchildren for the 
CEDI. Statecraft can also involve getting rid of old elements that were 
once central to the social order. Old laminated cards that people once 
used for tolls in Sonora are slowly passing out of use. And old elements 
that were never part of an assemblage to begin with, such as the consti- 
tutional right to free transit, which was not being respected in Sonora, 
can gain new life through the alignment of forces that statecraft and 
surveillance technologies bring about. 

Third, problems can sometimes become solutions. It is interesting 
to consider how the shape of a particular assemblage can have conse- 
quences for its governability. All of the surveillance programs described 
in this work failed to meet their designs. In the case of the CEDI and 
REPUVE, the main point of resistance that dogged the programs came 
from the state itself, from the extant political structure for governing 
personal identity and automobility in Mexico. The RENAUT, how- 
ever, encountered no such opposition. A structure of state agencies 
never coalesced around the mobile phone — a more recent technology 
that appeared when neoliberal political economy had already made 
regulation a mostly private affair — as it had around personal identity 

198 I Grasping Surveillance 

or the automobile or the land-line phone. Counterintuitively, how- 
ever, the very political structure that inhibited the implementation of 
the REPUVE could, because of its permanence, later be recrafted by 
program administrators to make the program stick. The RENAUT, by 
contrast, having no existing state structure for program administrators 
to graft onto, was simply terminated, the responsibility for governance 
turned over to those in possession of the necessary infrastructure: pri- 
vate service providers. 

Finally, as emergent phenomena, security surveillance technologies 
will take different meanings based on the context into which they are 
fit. In Sonora, the REPUVE is valued nearly universally as a means for 
establishing and respecting the right to free transit that was fought for 
and established in the Mexican Revolution. In Zacatecas, the REPUVE 
is understood and approached more cautiously as another govern- 
ment program promising security. At border crossings, meanwhile, 
the REPUVE is viewed negatively as another scheme to squeeze tax 
revenue out of individuals who import their vehicles from abroad. In 
sum, what surveillance technologies do and what they mean emerge in 
time and practice. This is how the power of surveillance technologies 


Emergence has surprising political consequences. Thinking about sur- 
veillance is often tinged with a dystopian outlook that minimizes the 
potential of individual and collective action to influence a surveillant 
assemblage composed of national governments, transnational corpo- 
rations, and advanced technologies.” This skepticism is matched by 
popular reactions to controversies such as the NSA spying programs, 
reactions that vary from support (belief that surveillance technologies 
keep society safe), to indifference (belief that people should have noth- 
ing to hide), to impotence (belief that surveillance technologies are inva- 
sive but nothing can be done about it). 

But the emergent nature of surveillance technologies means that 
individuals, despite the design of prohesion as a mode of governance 
that would control society by bypassing people altogether, still influ- 
ence government in meaningful ways. The lowly bureaucrat plays a key 
role in tailoring surveillance technologies to fit existing assemblages of 
collective agency. And ordinary citizens, through organized efforts to 
resist a phone registry, parental expressions of uneasiness about the 

Grasping Surveillance I 199 

collection of schoolchildren’s biometric data, or mere gossiping about 
state surveillance, help determine whether and how these efforts stick. 

If ordinary people remain central to the outcomes of surveillance 
technologies in society, what are we to do? Which types of actions 
might influence the presence of surveillance technologies in our lives? 
How might “participatory democracy [be] enacted through work in 
and on material objects” such as surveillance technologies? 

A sensible place to begin answering these questions is with the efforts 
activists are already making to engage the surveillant assemblage. Here, 
it is appropriate to mention the whistleblowers in the employ of the 
national security state — Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden — who 
brought attention to the operation and scale of state security surveil- 
lance by releasing classified information about their work. The actions 
of these individuals, undertaken with the assumption that their lives 
would be destroyed, were brave and daring. And they resulted in public 
awareness about the abuses of the US national security state, an essen- 
tial first step to broader action. Increasing awareness about the work- 
ings of surveillance in the world today is the goal of a wider network of 
activists as well, including the more academically minded Surveillance 
Studies Centre housed at Queen’s University in Canada and civil liber- 
ties organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the 
Electronic Privacy Information Center. These groups have organized to 
pass key legislation or support litigation establishing individual rights 
against state surveillance. Representative of this collective labor is the 
“right to be forgotten” established by the European Court of Justice. 
The court’s ruling in Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v. Agenda Espaiiola 
de Proteccion de Datos, Mario Costeja Gonzalez provides all individu- 
als in Europe the right to prohibit Google and other search engines from 
linking to items that are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, 
or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed 
and in the light of the time that has elapsed.” 

Efforts such as these concern the encroachment of surveillance on 
fundamental civil liberties. Generally, the surveillance in question is 
undertaken in the name of national security or by companies involved 
in information commerce. Such efforts, then, resemble the organized 

f. Indeed, in the wake of the Snowden disclosures, the US Congress decided to phase 
out the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records, and allies of the United States subject to 
its surveillance have drafted resolutions in the United Nations calling for a cessation of 
such surveillance. 

200 I Grasping Surveillance 

resistance to state surveillance described in this book, such as the 
digital mobilization of phone users in Mexico against the RENAUT 
and the subsequent campaigns against Pena Nieto’s telecommunica- 
tions reform, which activists saw as a threat to net neutrality. Taken 
together, individuals in these instances can be seen working to ensure 
freedom — to preserve a free space in society unfettered by surveillance 
technologies, which is a condition for democracy. 

These efforts, though, assume that surveillance is unsuitable to any 
civic purpose. This might seem like a trivial qualification, since the mas- 
sive sweep of information that takes place under the NSA’s domestic 
surveillance program so clearly violates our sense of basic decency and 
liberty. But there are many examples in which activists have worked to 
extend the surveillant power of the state to areas of social life often kept 
in the dark. A clear example is gender violence, such as intimate partner 
abuse and sexual assaults, where offenders are enabled by the deference 
the state has historically paid to family privacy and by the stigma of 
being a victim of such crimes. While legal measures have been passed to 
protect women from physical and sexual abuse, the power of such laws 
often proves ineffective against assailants unafraid of criminal sanc- 
tion. In response, antiviolence advocates across the United States, for 
instance, have campaigned for legislation that would establish monitor- 
ing programs featuring GPS technology to track abusers who repeat- 
edly violate restraining orders and would alert victims when they are 
nearby. ' Using surveillance technology to confront gender violence is 
relevant to Mexico too, where femicides are a prominent form of crime. 
To combat them, activists have advocated for the use of information 
technology and mobile devices to publicize the problem and give poten- 
tial victims the ability to access help / 3 

As these examples illustrate, the situations where activists might 
campaign for more state surveillance often involve crime rather than 
national security or data commercialization. In these instances, people 
look to extend the surveillant power of the state to provide the pro- 
tection of the law to individuals who are not receiving it. But like the 
examples of national security and data commercialization, it is assumed 
that a rule of law exists in society and that authorities have an interest 
in extending surveillance. 

g. It should be noted that in Mexico, women’s advocates have often accused the gov- 
ernment of apathy toward victims of femicides. 

Grasping Surveillance I 201 

High State 
Interest in 

Low Civic 
Interest in 





High Civic 
Interest in 

Low State 
Interest in 

figure z 6 . Values at stake in surveillance politics. 

These considerations help mark out a pair of axes — civic interest in 
surveillance and state interest in surveillance — against which a politics 
of surveillance can be measured. Where civic interest in surveillance is 
low but state interest high, as in the cases of national security and data 
commerce, activism can be thought to concern freedom. Where civic 
interest in surveillance is high and state interest is too, as in the case 
of gender violence, activism can be thought to concern equality. Those 
working to end gender violence are interested in ensuring women equal 
protection before the law (fig. 26). 

Campaigns centered around equality reflect what David Lyon has 
referred to as the “care” dimension of surveillance technologies, at 
work in hospitals and schools, that accompanies the more discussed 
“control” dimension. Such campaigns also embody his call for surveil- 
lance governed “by an ontology of peace rather than of violence” and 
“an ethic of care rather than control.” 64 They also relate to the “con- 
viviality” of technology that Torin Monahan has called for, describing 
technologies that “not only afford but also invite modification on the 
part of users, support diverse modes of expression, and enable power 
equalization among people.” 65 

In contrast to the scenarios involving national security and crime, 
where state interest in surveillance is a constant, there are others where 
it is not. In New York City, for instance, public outcry over the conduct 
of its police force, including the disproportionate use of stop-and-frisk 
tactics on poor and racial and ethnic minorities, pushed Mayor Bill de 
Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton to implement a pilot 

202 I Grasping Surveillance 

program in which police officers wear body cameras to monitor their 
interactions with the public. While unpopular with the officers, who 
contend that the cameras will deter people from wanting to talk to them 
and violate their privacy, 67 police use of such body cameras is expand- 
ing in the United States. At the national security level, the US War on 
Terror has been conducted in a shadowy realm — involving extralegal 
tactics such as extraordinary rendition, black sites, and secret intelli- 
gence court rulings — that activists seek to bring to light. 

In these instances, authorities engage in violence — police use of 
excessive or illegitimate force, the CIA abduction of terror suspects — 
that they wish to keep from public view. Against these machinations 
of power, activists use surveillance technologies — body cameras, flight 
records, maps — to document the illicit actions of the state. In contrast to 
subjects concerned with freedom, who use the rule of law to oppose the 
state’s expansion of surveillance, and subjects concerned with equality, 
who use the rule of law to support the state’s expansion of surveillance, 
individuals here find themselves without a true rule of law. In these 
settings, they use surveillance technologies to foster accountability and 

This politically progressive use of surveillance technologies has been 
pursued by activists in Mexico to document and publicize the assassi- 
nation of journalists. The map and accompanying database assembled 
through the Mi Mexico Transparente (My Transparent Mexico) proj- 
ect provides a register of the number and type of attacks suffered by 
journalists. This register functions as an ongoing surveillant document 
that announces the threat faced by journalists to members of the state 
and criminal community who might prefer to silence reporting. 

Another innovative use of surveillance technology involved the Yo 
Soy 132 (I Am 132) movement that captured international attention 
in 2012 during Enrique Pena Nieto’s presidential campaign. In May 
2012, the then PRI candidate presented his political platform at the 
prestigious Ibero-American University, in the prosperous Santa Fe area 
of Mexico City. During the question and answer session, Pena Nieto 
angered students when he aggressively defended his actions as gover- 
nor of the state of Mexico in the 2006 Atenco case, in which hun- 
dreds of state police were sent to break up a protest against the planned 
construction of a new airport. During the police action, two hundred 
activists were arrested, two were killed, and twenty-six women were 
sexually assaulted. 65 Following the candidate’s response, students broke 
out with chants of “Assassin!” and “Get out!” 

Grasping Surveillance I 203 

Media coverage of the event downplayed the protest by attributing 
it to elements outside the university rather than Ibero students, mem- 
bers of one of the more respected institutions in Mexico. Responding 
to what they saw as the media’s attempt to appease the popular can- 
didate’s political camp, 13 1 Ibero students produced a YouTube video 
showing them with their identity cards as a way of documenting their 
status as Ibero students and their opposition to Pena Nieto. The video 
went viral. And supporters of the students responded on Twitter by 
announcing “Yo Soy 132.,” or “I am 132,” adding themselves to the 
list of young people against the candidate. Thus, against a media and 
political establishment that dismissed dissenting voices as disreputable 
malcontents not worthy of society’s respect, the Ibero students and their 
supporters used the tools of surveillance to announce their presence and 
opposition to authorities. 

Finally, in addition to activists who oppose the state’s support of sur- 
veillance in pursuit of freedom, activists who endorse the state’s support 
of surveillance to fight for equality, and activists who support surveil- 
lance against the state for accountability, it stands to reason that there 
are contexts in which neither the public nor the state have an interest 
in surveillance, or at least an interest that would support democratic 
ideals. This raises what can be called a true sphere of personal privacy, 
where the details of the nonpublic lives of both governors and gov- 
erned would be respected and not subject to surveillance. The sexual 
liaisons of public officials (US president Bill Clinton or French president 
Francois Hollande come to mind, assuming no crimes were involved) 
or other details of public leaders’ personal lives could be imagined as 
of no significance for the welfare of the country. And the same assump- 
tions could be made of the intimate personal details of citizens’ lives. 
The fact that there is knowledge about public officials’ personal lives 
or that the state surveils personal aspects of citizen’s lives indicates a 
certain perversion of democratic ideals that has come to masquerade as 
political controversy. 

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the political battles over 
reproductive rights. The steady push to criminalize abortion in those 
countries where it is protected under law functions as an effort to 
increase control over the private lives of women, serving in turn to 
diminish their capacity to be full subjects in society. And surveillance 
plays a central role in this contest. The US state of Indiana, for instance, 
recently considered, although ultimately did not pass, a measure that 
would have required doctors to partner with and publicize the names of 

204 I Grasping Surveillance 

other medical professionals — “backup doctors” — who might treat any 
complications or emergencies related to an abortion in a nearby hospi- 
tal. Through such legislation, antiabortion activists sought to publicize 
the names of doctors who perform abortions, which would presumably 
expose them to intimidation . 70 

Surveillance over people’s personal lives works to the detriment of 
democratic governance. In these contexts, then, efforts to protect wom- 
en’s right to control their own bodies or to establish that right where 
it does not exist count as political actions in support of subjecthood. 
In this regard, the movement to decriminalize abortions in Mexico can 
be understood as not only an extension of women’s rights but also the 
creation of a social and legal notion of personal privacy that is critical 
to democracy. 

This description of the differing relationships between subjects and 
surveillance in democratic society is surely too neat. The categories 
overlap in practice. Many citizens express no concern that surveillance 
in the name of national security infringes on basic liberties and free- 
doms. Others would be opposed to the expansion of surveillance in the 
name of crime fighting, even to combat gender violence, since it would 
invariably encroach on a sphere of life thought private. Many people 
consider government secrecy in policing, intelligence, and warfare criti- 
cal to security. And others believe that freedom of speech provides the 
legal justification for peering into the private details of people’s lives. 
Quite simply, not all people are the same, nor are all governments the 
same when it comes to surveillance . 71 But the purpose of this thought 
exercise is not to close the door to thinking about surveillance tech- 
nologies, but to open it in order to think about them differently in the 
hope that they might effect a wider change in how we interact with 

With this in mind, we might return to El Bunker and consider again 
the architectures of authority found around Mexico City’s Chapulte- 
pec Park. The subterranean Federal Police Intelligence Center serves as 
an apt symbol for contemporary approaches to security governance. It 
operates out of view of ordinary citizens while attempting to remain 
in contact with them through its array of advanced surveillance tech- 
nologies. And its technical struggles prove equally emblematic of the 
failings of this strategy. Historical data are unmanageable, interagency 
communications are unreliable, state agencies are reluctant to share 
data, and manual processes of information management at the local 
level slow data processing and accuracy. It is doubtful that constructing 

Grasping Surveillance I 205 

more bunkers will prove decisive in Mexico’s War on Crime. If build- 
ing edifices like Chapultepec Castle above the people bore little fruit in 
terms of achieving a better society, it should not be surprising that con- 
structing fortresses like El Bunker below them should prove disappoint- 
ing as well. Only by building structures that require those in positions 
of power to see eye to eye with those in whose name they govern can a 
more just and secure future be brought into view. 



1. De la Luz Gonzalez, “‘Cerebro’ tecnologico enfrentara criminales.” 

2. Christie Digital, Federal Police Intelligence Center of the Public Security 

3. “Para combatir al crimen, inaugura presidente el Centro de Inteligencia 
de la Policia Federal.” 

4. Resendiz and Morales, “EPN.” 

5. Sarakki Associates Incorporated, Mexico’s National Command and 
Control Center Challenges and Successes. 

6 . Terra, “Policia Federal muestra interior del Centro de Inteligencia.” 

7. La Jornada, “Construira el gobierno un bunker secreto para labores de 
inteligencia antinarcoticos”; Guzman Roque, “El ‘Bunker’ mas grande de AL es 
inaugurado por GDF.” 

8. Lyon, Surveillance Society, 2. 

9. Marx, “Surveillance and Society,” 1-2. 

10. Whitaker, “A Faustian Bargain? America and the Dream of Total 
Information Awareness.” 

11. Marx, “Technology and Social Control.” 

12. Lyon, Surveillance after September 11. 

13. Wood, Konvitz, and Ball, “The Constant State of Emergency? 
Surveillance after 9/1 1.” 

14. Lyon, Surveillance Society. 

15. Simmons, “Why 2007 Is Not Like 1984.” 

1 6. Goodin, “NSA Repeatedly Tries to Unpeel Tor Anonymity and Spy on 
Users, Memos Show.” 

17. Flaggerty and Ericson, “New Politics of Surveillance and Visibility.” 


20 8 I Notes 

18. Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control.” 

19. Norris and Armstrong, Maximum Surveillance Society. 

20. Ceyhan, “Technologization of Security”; Amoore and de Goede, 
“Governance, Risk and Dataveillance in the War on Terror.” 

21. Ball and Webster, “Intensification of Surveillance.” 

22. Bogard, “Welcome to the Society of Control.” 

23 . Monahan, “Electronic Fortification in Phoenix Surveillance Technologies 
and Social Regulation in Residential Communities.” 

24. Polgreen, “With National Database, India Tries to Reach the Poor.” 

25. Leo and Richman, “Mandate the Electronic Recording of Police 

26. Sweet and Cass, “How to Fight Crime in Real Time.” 

27. Bogard, “Welcome to the Society of Control.” 

28. Jang, Hoover, and Joo, “Evaluation of Compstat’s Effect on Crime.” 

29. Markon and Nakashima, “NSA Director Says Surveillance Programs 
Thwarted ‘Dozens’ of Attacks.” 

30. Guzik, “Discrimination by Design.” 

31. Aas, Gundhus, and Lomell, Technologies of Insecurity; Manning, 
Technology of Policing; Willis, Mastrofski, and Weisburd, “Making Sense of 
COMPSTAT”; Silverman, “Compstat’s Innovation.” 

32. Brodeaur and Leman-Langlois, “Surveillance Fiction or Higher Policing?” 

33. Gates, “Identifying the 9/11 ‘Faces of Terror.’” 

34. Lee and Schwartz, “Beyond the ‘War’ on Terrorism.” 

35. Brown and Duguid, Social Life of Information. 

36. Bornstein, “Antiterrorist Policing in New York City after 9/11”; Lyon, 
Surveillance after September 11. 

37. Norris, “Success of Failure.” 

38. Cratty, “FBI Uses Drones in U.S., Says Mueller.” 

39. Replogle, “Senate Immigration Bill Calls for a Drone-Patrolled Border.” 

40. Monahan, Surveillance in the Time of Insecurity, 4; Gates, Our Biometric 

41. See Monahan, Surveillance in the Time of Insecurity. 

42. Simon, Governing through Crime. 

43. See Braverman, “Governing with Clean Hands”; and Braverman, 
“Civilized Borders.” 

44. Haggerty and Ericson, “Surveillant Assemblage”; Haggerty, “From Risk 
to Precaution.” 

45. Norris and Armstrong, Maximum Surveillance Society. 

46. Ibid. 

47. Cole and Lobel, Less Safe, Less Free. 

48. Amoore and de Goede, “Governance, Risk and Dataveillance in the War 
on Terror”; Lyon, Surveillance after September 11; Lyon, Surveillance Society. 

49. Sparks, “Fast Capitalism/Slow Terror”; Amoore and de Goede, 
“Governance, Risk and Dataveillance in the War on Terror.” See also 
Braverman, “Civilized Borders.” 

50. Smith, “Exploring Relations between Watchers and Watched in 
Control(led) Systems”; Monahan, “‘War Rooms’ of the Street.” 

Notes I 209 

51. Feeley and Simon, “New Penology.” 

52. Goold, “Technologies of Surveillance and the Erosion of Institutional 

53. See Electronic Frontier Foundation,; and Electronic Privacy 
Information Center, 

54. Marx, “Surveillance and Society.” 

55. Gilliom, “Struggling with Surveillance.” 

5 6. Graham and Wood, “Digitizing Surveillance.” 

57. Smith, “Exploring Relations between Watchers and Watched in 
Control(led) Systems.” 

58. Chrisafis, “NSA Surveillance.” 

59. Fortin, “Nigerian Citizens Call for Transparency amid Suspicions of 
Shady Government Deal for Internet Surveillance.” 

60. Polgreen, “With National Database, India Tries to Reach the Poor.” 

61. Hookway, “Thailand’s Dummy Cops Are Really Watching This Time.” 

62. Wilson, “Road Pricing.” 

63. Doyle, Lippert, and Lyon, Eyes Everywhere. 

64. Murakami Wood, “Globalization and Surveillance.” 

6 5. Murakami Wood, “Cameras in Context.” 

66. Firmino, Bruno, and Botello, “Understanding the Sociotechnical 
Networks of Surveillance Practices in Latin America.” 

67. Davis, “Age of Insecurity”; Arteaga Botello, “Surveillance Studies.” 

68. Pereira and Davis, “New Patterns of Militarized Violence and Coercion 
in the Americas.” 

69. Arias and Goldstein, “Violent Pluralism”; Toro and Serrano, “From 
Drug Trafficking to Transnational Organized Crime in Latin America.” 

70. Arias and Goldstein, “Violent Pluralism.” 

71. Ibid. 

72. O’Donnell, “Reflections on Contemporary South American 

73. Freeman and Sierra, “Mexico: The Militarization Trap.” 

74. De la Luz Gonzalez and Mejia, “Cae ‘La Barbie’ cerca del DF.” 

75. Hickey, Encyclopedia of Murder and Violent Crime. 

76. Benitez Manaut, “Containing Armed Groups, Drug Trafficking, and 
Organized Crime in Mexico.” 

77. Garcia, “Alertan por niveles de impunidad en Mexico.” 

78. Instituto Nacional de Estadistica y Geografia, “Encuesta nacional de 
victimizacion y percepcion sobre seguridad publica 2014.” 

79. Ibid. 

80. Consulta Mitofsky, Mexico: Confianza en instituciones. 

81. Guzik, “Security a la Mexicana.” 

82. Michel and Gomez, “Avanza ley contra secuestro”; Gomez and Michel, 
“Comisiones del Senado avalan Ley de Seguridad Nacional.” 

83. Sabet, Police Reform in Mexico. 

84. Cook, Rush, and Ribando Seelke, Merida Initiative. 

8 5 . BBC Mundo, “Mexico: Entre la responsabilidad y la censura de los medios. ” 

86. Avila Perez, “Margarita Zavala.” 

2io I Notes 

87. Cook, Rush, and Ribando Seelke, Merida Initiative. 

88. Thompson and Mazzetti, “U.S. Sends Drones to Fight Mexican Drug 

89. Yin, Case Study Research. 

90. See Arias and Goldstein, Violent Democracies in Latin America; and 
Guzik, “Security a la Mexicana.” 

91. Rubin and Babbie, Essential Research Methods for Social Work. 

92. Scott, Seeing Like a State. 

93. Aas, Sentencing in the Age of Information. 

94. Gilliom and Monahan, Supervision. 

95. Lyon, Identifying Citizens. 

96. Haggerty, “Visible War.” 

97. Barrett, “One Surveillance Camera for Every 11 People in Britain, Says 
CCTV Survey.” 

98. Mann, Nolan, and Wellman, “Sousveillance.” 

99. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, in, 141. 

100. Bogard, Simulation of Surveillance, 21. 

101. Clarke, “Information Technology and Dataveillance.” 

102. Marres and Lezaun, “Materials and Devices of the Public”; Braun and 
Whatmore, Political Matter. 

103. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 10. 

104. For research on surveillance and the body, see Littlefield, “Constructing 
the Organ of Deceit”; Epstein, “Embodying Risk”; Monahan and Wall, 
“Somatic Surveillance”; Bogard, “Welcome to the Society of Control”; Lyon, 
Surveillance Society; and Haggerty and Ericson, “Surveillant Assemblage.” 

103. Moore, Criminal Artefacts Governing Drugs and Users. 

106. Amoore, Politics of Possibility. 

107. Gates, “Biometrics and Post-9/11 Technostalgia.” 

108. For such other works, see Marx, Windows into the Soul; Manning, 
Technology of Policing; and Breckenridge, “Elusive Panopticon.” 

109. Marx, Windows into the Soul, chapter 14. 

no. Carroll, Science, Culture, and Modern State Formation. 

in. Jones, Desert Kingdom How Oil and Water Forged Modern Saudi 

1 1 2. Barry, Material Politics. 

1 13. Medina, Cybernetic Revolutionaries Technology and Politics in 
Allende’s Chile. 

1 14. Tilly, Coercion, Capital, and European States, AD 990-1992. 

1 1 3. Jasanoff, States of Knowledge. See also Braun and Whatmore, Political 
Matter; and Marres and Lezaun, “Materials and Devices of the Public.” 

1 16. DeLanda, New Philosophy of Society; Anderson et al., “On Assemblages 
and Geography.” 

117. See Latour, Pandora’s Hope; and Pickering, Mangle of Practice. 

1 1 8. See Deleuze and Guattari, Thousand Plateaus; DeLanda, Philosophy 
and Simulation. 

1 19. Levi-Strauss, Savage Mind. 

120. Scott, Seeing Like a State. 

Notes I 2i i 

121. Velasco, Insurgency, Authoritarianism, and Drug Trafficking in 
Mexico’s “Democratization”; Moser, “Editor’s Introduction: Urban Violence 
and Insecurity. ” 

122. Arias and Goldstein, Violent Democracies in Latin America; Serrano 
and Toro, “Del narcotrafico al crimen transnacional organizado en America 

123. Guzik, “Security a la Mexicana.” 

124. Arteaga Botello, “Video-vigilancia del espacio urbano; Velez, “Insecure 

123. Anderson et al., “On Assemblages and Geography.” 


1. Secretaria de Gobernacion (SEGOB), “Inicio del registro para obtener la 
Cedula de Identidad para Menores.” 

2. Arteaga Botello and Fuentes Rionda, “Nueva logica de la seguridad en 

3. Milenio, “Inauguran centro de mando en Huixquilucan.” 

4. Arteaga Botello, “Video-vigilancia del espacio urbano.” 

5. Cook, Rush, and Ribando Seelke, Merida Initiative. 

6 . Ribando Seelke and Finklea, U.S. -Mexican Security Cooperation. 

7. Thompson and Mazzetti, “U.S. Sends Drones to Fight Mexican Drug 

8. Meserve and Ahlers, “Drone Crash in El Paso under Investigation.” 

9. Thompson and Mazzetti, “U.S. Sends Drones to Fight Mexican Drug 

10. Jasanoff, States of Knowledge. 

11. Bennett, Vibrant Matter. 

12. El Universal, “Promulgan registro nacional de celulares.” 

13. Secretaria de Comunicaciones y Transportes, “Decreto por el 
que se reforman y adicionan diversas disposiciones de la Ley Federal de 
Telecomunicaciones”; Comision Federal de Telecomunicaciones, “Reglas del 
registro nacional de usuarios de telefonia movil.” 

14. El Universal, “Promulgan registro nacional de celulares.” 

15. Bolanos, “Floy, el ultimo adios a Silvia Vargas Escalera.” 

1 6. Duarte, “Secuestro de Marti conmociona a Mexico.” 

17. Martinez and Morales, “Exige Marti que gobiernos se coordinen contra 

18. Secretaria de Gobernacion (SEGOB), “Preguntas frecuentes.” 

19. El Universal, “Promulgan registro nacional de celulares.” 

20. Registro Nacional de Poblacion (RENAPO), “(Que es la Cedula de 
Identidad Personal (registro de menores de edad)?” 

21. El Universal, “Enterate (Para que servira la Cedula de Identidad?” 

22. Transparencia Mexicana, “Informe.” 

23. Mejia, “Empresa extranjera hara cedula.” 

24. El siglo de Torreon, “ Arranca el registro publico de vehiculos”; Secretaria 
de Seguridad Publica, “Sobre REPUVE.” 

2i2 I Notes 

25 .El Siglo de Torreon, “Arranca el registro publico de vehiculos.” 

2 6 . De la Luz Gonzalez, “Obligatorio, el chip vehicular, dice SSP.” 

27. El Siglo de Torreon, “Inicia Calderon el programa de identificacion 

28. Ponce, “Inicia a nivel nacional el Registro Publico Vehicular en 

29. Nunn, “Cities, Space, and the New World of Urban Law Enforcement 

30. Manning, Technology of Policing. 

31. Marx, “Surveillance and Society.” 

32. Haggerty and Ericson, “New Politics of Surveillance and Visibility”; 
Amoore and de Goede, “Governance, Risk and Dataveillance in the War on 

33. Sparks, “Fast Capitalism/Slow Terror” 

34. Amoore and de Goede, “Governance, Risk and Dataveillance in the War 
on Terror.” 

35. Foucault, Security, Territory, Population, 352-35. 

36. Lyon, Surveillance after September 11. 

37. See Arteaga Botello, “Video-vigilancia del espacio urbano.” 

38. See Murakami Wood, “Globalization and Surveillance.” 

39. Castillo, “A la fosa comun, 97% de los cuerpos no identificados en la 
guerra antinarco de Calderon.” 

40. Van Dijk, van Kesteren, and Smit, Criminal Victimisation in International 

41. Scott, Seeing Like a State, 1. 

42. Ibid., 185. 

43. Ibid., 72. 

44. Ibid., 65. 

45. Ling, Mobile Connection; Geser, “Is the Cell Phone Undermining the 
Social Order?” 

46. Urry, “‘System’of Automobility.” 

47. Lyon, Identifying Citizens, 61 1. 

48. Callon, “Some Elements of a Sociology of Translation.” 

49. Pickering, Mangle of Practice, 170. 

50. Diaz del Castillo, Memoirs of the Conquistador Bernal Diaz del Castillo. 

51. Diaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva Espaha, 

52. Ibid., 220. 

53. Garcia Martinez, “Los anos de la conquista,” 183; MacLachlan, 
Criminal justice in Eighteenth Century Mexico, 14-15. 

54. Garcia Martinez, “Los anos de la conquista,” 179. 

55. Cope, Limits of Racial Domination. 

5 6. Garcia Martinez, “Los anos de la conquista,” 193-95; MacLachlan, 
Criminal justice in Eighteenth Century Mexico, 27-28. 

57. Cope, Limits of Racial Domination. 

58. Carrera, “Locating Race in Late Colonial Mexico.” 

59. Cope, Limits of Racial Domination, 16. 

Notes I 213 

60. Hausberger and Mazfn, “Nueva Espana: Los anos de autonomi'a,” 292. 

6 1. Ibid. 

6 2. Cope, Limits of Racial Domination. 

6 3. Ibid., 1 6. 

64. Ibid., 18. 

65. Ibid. 

66. Carrera, Imagining Identity in New Spain. 

67. Vanderwood, Disorder and Progress: Bandits, Police, and Mexican 
Development, 15. 

68. Garcia Martinez, “Los Anos de Expansion.” 

69. Vanderwood, Disorder and Progress. 

70. Garcia Martinez, “Los anos de expansion.” 

71. Vanderwood, Disorder and Progress, 18. 

72. MacLachlan, Criminal Justice in Eighteenth Century Mexico. 

73. Callon, “Some Elements of a Sociology of Translation.” 

74. Serrano Ortega and Zoraida Vazquez, “El nuevo orden”; Buffington, 
“Periodization and Its Discontents,” 98. 

75. Buffington, Criminal and Citizen in Modern Mexico. 

76. Ibid.; Buffington, “Periodization and Its Discontents.” 

77. Warren, “Mass Mobilization versus Social Control,” 44. 

78. Ibid. 

79. Jusidman, “El padron electoral en el camino de la democracia en 

80. Warren, “Mass Mobilization versus Social Control”; Buffington, 
Criminal and Citizen in Modern Mexico. 

81. Jusidman, “El padron electoral en el camino de la democracia en 

82. Kuntz Ficker and Speckman Guerra, “El Porfiriato.” 

83. Van Hoy, Social History of Mexico’s Railroads. 

84. Van Hoy, “La Marcha Violenta?,” 9. 

85. Ibid. 

86. See also Muller, Public Security in the Negotiated State, for other 
instances of the central role of local strongmen in the development of modern 

87. Van Hoy, “La Marcha Violenta?,” 51. 

88. Van Hoy, Social History of Mexico’s Railroads, 209. 

89. Ibid., n.p. 

90. Aboites and Loyo, “La construction del nuevo estado”; Gonzales, 
Mexican Revolution, 1910-1940; Hernandez Chavez, “El estado nacionalista, 
su referente historico”; Matute Aguirre, “La encrucijada de 1929.” 

91. See Joseph and Nugent, “Popular Culture and State Formation in 
Revolutionary Mexico,” 7. 

92. Ervin, “Statistics, Maps, and Legibility.” 

93. Ibid. 

94. Ibid., 162. 

95. Ervin, “1930 Agrarian Census in Mexico”; Ervin, “Statistics, Maps, and 

zi4 I Notes 

96. Hernandez Serrano, . . . y se formaron caminos, 3 6 . 

97. Garda Martinez, The Highway of Mexico (1891-1991), 30. 

98. Ibid., 34. 

99. Ibid. 

100. Hernandez Serrano, . . . y se formaron caminos, 140. 

101. Ibid., 146. 

102. Ibid.; Garda Martinez, Highway of Mexico, 42. 

103. Ibid., 36. 

104. Ibid., n.p. 

105. Ibid. 

106. Jusidman, “El padron electoral en el camino de la democracia en 

107. Ibid. 

108. Campos and Penna, Confianza en las instituciones. 

109. Carroll, Science, Culture, and Modern State Formation; Passoth and 
Rowland, “Actor-Network State.” 

no. Jasanoff, States of Knowledge, 14. 
in. Hausberger and Mazin, “Nueva Espana.” 

1 1 2. Tanck de Estrada and Marichal, QReino o Colonia?.” 

1 13. Bennett, Vibrant Matter. 

114. Carroll, “Hillary Clinton.” 

1 1 3. Koonings, “New Violence, Insecurity, and the State.” 

1 1 6. Marquez and Meyer, “Del autoritarismo agotado a la democracia 

1 17. CONEVAL (Consejo Nacional de Evaluacion de la Politica de 
Desarrollo Social), “Evolucion de las dimensiones de la pobreza, 1990-2010.” 

1 1 8. Dresser, “Mexico: From PRI Predominance to Divided Democracy.” 

119. Serrano, “States of Violence.” 

120. Levy, Bruhn, and Zebadua, Mexico: The Struggle for Democratic 
Development, 273-75; Hernandez, Narcoland. 

1 21. Rubenstein, “Mass Media and Popular Culture in the Postrevolutionary 

122. Shirk and Cazares, “Introduction: Reforming the Administration of 
Justice in Mexico,” 19. 

123. Nelson Reames, “Profile of Police Forces in Mexico.” 

124. Ervin, “1930 Agrarian Census in Mexico,” 537. 

125. Latour, “Where Are the Missing Masses?” 

126. Ibid. 


1. Recillas Enecoiz, “El automovil gris.” Quotations from the film are all 
my translations. 

2. Navitski, “Spectacles of Violence and Politics,” 136. 

3. La Cultura Jun'dica, “El orden constitucional y la banda del Automovil 

4. Navitski, “Spectacles of Violence and Politics.” 

Notes I 215 

5. Roman, “Robo de autos credo 86% en seis anos.” 

6. El Informador, “Delincuentes bloquean vias carreteras a Miguel Aleman 
y a Reynosa.” 

7. De la Luz Gonzalez, “Coche-bomba mata a 3 en Juarez.” 

8. Urry, ‘“System’of Automobility.” 

9. Asociacion Mexicana de Distribuidores de Automotores, Un siglo en 

10. Fernandez Christlieb, Modernas rnedas de la destruction, 18. 

11. Ibid., 33. 

12. Fernandez Christlieb, Modernas ruedas de la destruction. 

13. Asociacion Mexicana de Distribuidores de Automotores, Un siglo en 
movimiento, 17-19. 

14. Plana, Industrias, siglos XVI al XX, 108; Zegarra Ballon T, Censo de 
automoviles en America Latina, 61. 

15. Zegarra Ballon T, Censo de automoviles en America Latina, 61. 

16. Fernandez Christlieb, Modernas ruedas de la destruction, 34. 

17. Zegarra Ballon T, Censo de automoviles en America Latina, 61-64. 

18. Ibid., 59-61. 

19. Urry, ‘“System’of Automobility,” 25. 

20. Asociacion Mexicana de Distribuidores de Automotores, Un siglo en 

21. Ramirez de la O, “Impact of NAFTA on the Auto Industry in Mexico.” 

22. Zegarra Ballon T, Censo de automoviles en America Latina, 65. 

23. Fernandez Christlieb, Modernas ruedas de la destruction, 35. 

24. Ibid., 34. 

25. Asociacion Mexicana de Distribuidores de Automotores, Un siglo en 
movimiento; Roxborough, Unions and Politics in Mexico. 

26. Zegarra Ballon T, Censo de automoviles en America Latina, 9; Womack, 
Mexican Motor Industry, 1 10-12. 

27. Asociacion Mexicana de Distribuidores de Automotores, Un siglo en 
movimiento, 34. 

28. Ibid., 49-50. 

29. Asociacion Mexicana de Distribuidores de Automotores, Un siglo en 
movimiento, 66-68. 

30. Womack, Mexican Motor Industry, 112. 

31. Asociacion Mexicana de Distribuidores de Automotores, Un siglo en 
movimiento, 73-75. 

32. Ramirez de la O, “Impact of NAFTA on the Auto Industry in Mexico,” 

33. Plana, Industrias, siglos XVI al XX. 

34. Womack, Mexican Motor Industry, 107-9. 

35. Asociacion Mexicana de Distribuidores de Automotores, Un siglo en 
movimiento, 105. 

36. Economist, “Steaming Plot.” 

37. Case, “Mexico Surpassing Japan as No. 2 Auto Exporter to U.S.” 

38. Fernandez Christlieb, Modernas ruedas de la destruction, 108-10. 

39. Ibid., n.p. 

2i 6 I Notes 

40. Ibid., 56-8. 

41. Ibid., 56. 

42. Ibid., in. 

43. Ibid., n.p. 

44. Ibid., 17. 

45. Urry, “‘System’of Automobility,” 25. 

46. Fernandez Christlieb, Modernas ruedas de la destruction, 37, 99. 

47. Simon, “Driving Governmentality.” 

48. McShane, “Origins and Globalization of Traffic Control Signals.” 

49. Sanger, “Girls and the Getaway.” 

50. Simon, Governing through Crime. 

51. Gusfield, Culture of Public Problems. 

52. Secretarla de Comunicaciones y Obras Publicas (SCOP), SeguridadL 

53. World Health Organization, Global Status Report on Road Safety. 

54. Zegarra Ballon T, Censo de automoviles en America Latina. 

55. World Health Organization, Global Status Report on Road Safety. 

5 6. Secretarla de Comunicaciones y Obras Publicas (SCOP), Seguridad!, 7. 

57. Ibid., n.p. 

58. Ibid., 29. 

59. Ibid. 

60. Ibid. 

6 1. Sanchiz, Manual del “chauffeur,” 322. 

6 2. Ayuntamiento de Ciudad Juarez, Reglamento de vehiculos para la 
municip alidad de C. Juarez, 11. 

63. Sanchiz, Manual del “chauffeur,” 322. 

64. Ayuntamiento de Ciudad Juarez, Reglamento de vehiculos para la 
municipalidad de C. Juarez, 10. 

6 5. Secretarla de Comunicaciones y Obras Publicas (SCOP), Seguridad!, 23. 

66. Sanchiz, Manual del “chauffeur,” 321. 

67. Ibid., 322. 

68. Secretarla de Comunicaciones y Obras Publicas (SCOP), Seguridad!, 28. 

69. Sanchiz, Manual del “chauffeur,” 311. 

70. Ayuntamiento de Ciudad Juarez, Reglamento de vehiculos para la 
municipalidad de C. Juarez, 6. 

7 1. Ibid., 7. 

72. Ibid., 11. 

73. Ibid., 10. 

74. Ibid. 

75. Ibid., 11, 22. 

7 6. Ibid., 20-21. 

77. Rose, O’Malley, and Valverde, “Governmentality.” 

78. Scott, Seeing Like a State. 

79. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 184. 

80. Simon, “Driving Governmentality,” 555-5 6. 

81. Valverde, “Police Science, British Style.” 

82. Fernandez Christlieb, Modernas ruedas de la destruction, 45-63. 

83. Beck, Risk Society, 21. 

Notes I 217 

84. Centro de Estudios del Sector Privado para el Desarrollo Sustenable 
(CESPEDES), “Normatividad amiental y emisiones vehiculares en Mexico,” 33. 

85. Asociacion Mexicana de Distribuidores de Automotores, Un siglo en 
movimiento, 70. 

86. Secretaria de Medio Ambiente, Elementos para la propuesta de actual- 
izacion del programa "Hoy No Circula. ” 

87. Fernandez Christlieb, Modernas ruedas de la destruccion. 

88. O’Connor, “Mexico City Drastically Reduced Air Pollutants since 

89. Beck, Risk Society. 

90. Latour, “Give Me a Lab and I Will Raise the World.” 

91. Ibid. 

92. Roman, “Robo de autos credo 86% en seis anos.” 

93. De la Luz Gonzalez, “Coche-bomba mata a 3 en Juarez.” 

94. Davis, “Policing and Regime Transition:.” 

95 .El Espectador, “Adios al ‘vocho’, el taxi del pueblo.” 

96. Ley del Registro Publico Vehicular, 1. 

97. Ibid., 3. 

98. El Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica, 
Libro Blanco, 23. 

99. Ibid., 26; Castro Medina, Criminalistica en la identifcacion de vehiculos 
automotores, 20; Asociacion Mexicana de Distribuidores de Automotores, Un 
siglo en movimiento, 104. 

100. El Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica, 
Libro Blanco, 26. 

1 01. Lutz and Roht-Arriaza, “Cavallo Case”; El Secretariado Ejecutivo del 
Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica, Libro Blanco. 

102. Lutz and Roht-Arriaza, “Cavallo Case.” 

103. Castro, “Perfil de Ricardo Miguel Cavallo.” 

104. El Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica, 
Libro Blanco, 27. 

103. Ley del Registro Publico Vehicular, 3. 

106. El Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica, 
Libro Blanco, 1. 

107. Ibid., 20-21. 

108. Ibid., 21. 

109. Ibid. 

no. Ibid., 2. 

in. Ibid., 21. 

112. Ibid., 28. 

1 13. El Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica, 
Libro Blanco, 55-56. 

1 14. Ley del Registro Publico Vehicular, 3. 

1 1 5. Camara de Diputados del H. Congreso de la Union, “Reglamento de la 
Ley del Registro Publico Vehicular,” 2. 

1 1 6. Ibid., 9. 

1 17. Ley del Registro Publico Vehicular, 6-7. 

2i 8 I Notes 

118. Camara de Diputados del H. Congreso de la Union, “Reglamento de la 
Ley del Registro Publico Vehicular,” 2. 

1 19. El Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica, 
Libro Blanco, 1. 

120. Ley del Registro Publico Vehicular, 3. 

121. El Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica, 
Libro Blanco, 39-60. 

122. Camara de Diputados del H. Congreso de la Union, “Reglamento de la 
Ley del Registro Publico Vehicular,” 9. 

123. El Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica, 
Libro Blanco, 7. 

124. Ibid., 6. 

123. Ibid., 7-8, 66-67. 

126. Ibid., 64. 

127. Ibid., 65. 

128. Ibid., 66-67. 

129. Ibid., 66-68. 

130. Prado, “Presume SSP su plataforma Mexico.” 

131. Lyon, Surveillance after September 11, 8-10. 

132. Jasanoff, States of Knowledge. 

133. Virilio, Information Bomb. 

134. Nellis, “Mobility, Locatability and the Satellite Tracking of Offenders,” 

135. Ibid., n.p. 

136. Latour, “Where Are the Missing Masses?” 

137. Clarke, “Information Technology and Dataveillance,” 498. 

138. Foucault, Discipline and Punish. 

139. Poster, Mode of Information, 93. 

140. Marx, “Surveillance and Society,” 2. 

141. Haggerty and Ericson, “Surveillant Assemblage,” 605. 

142. Lyon, Surveillance Society, 3. 

143. Online Etymology Dictionary, 

144. Hacking, Taming of Chance. 

145. Foucault, Discipline and Punish. 

146. Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control”; Rose, Powers of Freedom. 

147. Secretaria de Comunicaciones y Transportes, “Decreto por el 
que se reforman y adicionan diversas disposiciones de la Ley Federal de 
Telecomunicaciones”; Comision Federal de Telecomunicaciones, “Reglas del 
registro nacional de usuarios de telefonia movil.” 

148. Secretaria de Gobernacion, “Preguntas frecuentes.” 

149. Registro Nacional de Poblacion (RENAPO), “jQue es la Cedula de 
Identidad Personal (registro de menores de edad)?” 


1. El Universal, “Promulgan registro nacional de celulares.” 

2. Secretaria de Gobernacion (SEGOB), “Preguntas frecuentes.” 

3. Vargas, “Privacy Rights under Mexican Law.” 

Notes I 219 

4. Notimex, “Titular de Cofetel defiende ‘exito’ de Renaut.” 

5. Posada Garcia, “Movistar perdera la concesion si incumple la ley, advierte 

6. Soliloquio2i, “Trucos para evadir RENAUT.” 

7. El Pop, “Las fallas del CURP y como registrar anonimamente tu celular 
en el RENAUT.” 

8. Monroy, “Extorsiones aumentan 40% por Renaut.” 

9. Olivares Alonso, “Concretar la Cedula de Identidad significa echar a la 
basura $40 mil millones, advierten.” 

10. Campos and Penna, Confianza en las instituciones. 

11. El Siglo de Torreon, “Inicia Calderon el programa de identification 

12. Scott, Weapons of the Weak. 

13. Ewick and Silbey, Common Place of Law. 

14. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 95. 

15. Scott, Weapons of the Weak, 29. 

1 6. Olson, Logic of Collective Action. 

1 7. Jenkins, “Resource Mobilization Theory and the Study of Social 

18. McAdam, McCarthy, and Zald, Comparative Perspectives on Social 

19. Touraine, “Introduction to the Study of Social Movements.” 

20. Melucci, Nomads of the Present. 

21. Benford and Snow, “Framing Processes and Social Movements.” 

22. Goodwin, Jasper, and Polletta, Passionate Politics. 

23. Polletta, “‘It Was Like a Fever.’” 

24. Barclay, Bernstein, and Marshall, Queer Mobilizations. 

25. McCann, Rights at Work. 

2 6. Scott, Weapons of the Weak, 290-96. 

27. Ibid., 296. 

28. Ibid., n.p. 

29. Merry, “Resistance and the Cultural Power of Law.” 

30. Merry, “Resistance and the Cultural Power of Law,” 15. 

31. Zureik et al., Surveillance, Privacy, and the Globalization of Personal 

32. Morales Zebadua, “Breve historia de pifias en la protection de los datos 
personales en Mexico.” 

33. Olvera, “Poblacion desconfia de los registros.” 

34. El Diario de Yucatan, “La Cedula de Identidad, a debate.” 

35. Villanueva, “Mi columna semanal.” 

36. Scott, Seeing Like a State, 299-300. 

37. Guadarrama, “El Renaut dio como resultado un fracaso millonario.” 

38. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Collusion 
and Corruption in Public Procurement. 

39. Chacon, “Advierten opacidad en Repuve.” 

40. Ibid. 

41. Raphael, “El chip de Campa.” 

220 I Notes 

42. De la Luz Gonzalez, “Federation y los estados compartiran gastos.” 

43. Ewick and Silbey, Common Place of Law. 

44. Ibid. 

45. Ramirez, “Inoperate el registro vehicular.” 

46. Mendoza, “Comparecen los titulares de SCT, Cofetel, y Cofeco ante 
Comision de Comunicacion.” 

47. Muller, Public Security in the Negotiated State; Pansters, “Zones of 
State-Making”; Van Hoy, Social History of Mexico’s Railroads. 

48. Funetes, “Buscan poseer la marca Repuve.” 

49. Garcia Martinez, “Los anos de expansion.” 

50. Arias, Drugs and Democracy in Rio de Janeiro. 

51. Powell, “Political Violence, Everyday Political Violence, and Electoral 
Processes during the Neoliberal Period in Mexico.” 

52. Morris, Political Corruption in Mexico. 

53. Muller, Public Security in the Negotiated State; Pansters, “Zones of 
State-Making; Van Hoy, Social History of Mexico’s Railroads. 

54. Quiroz and Zepeda, “Gobernacion para expedir la CIC obligo al gobi- 
erno federal a diferir el plan.” 

55. Marquez and Meyer, “Del autoritarismo agotado a la democracia 
fragil”; Morris, Political Corruption in Mexico. 

5 6. Sanchez Ley, “30 millones con datos falsos en el Renaut.” 

57. El Universal, “Registro de celulares, sin mucho exito: Cofetel.” 

58. El Informador, “Sin avance, comprobacion de identidad de usuarios 
inscritos en Renaut.” 

59. Santillan, “20 mil vehiculos dados de alta en el Repuve Tlaxcala.” 

60. Washington State Department of Transportation, “List of Vehicles with 
Metallized Windshields.” 

61. Ervin, “1930 Agrarian Census in Mexico.” 

6 2. Muller, Public Security in the Negotiated State. 

6 3. Lin, “Silenced Technology”; Verrips and Meyer, “Kwaku’s Car.” 

6 4. Callon, “Some Elements of a Sociology of Translation.” 

65. Latour, “Give Me a Lab and I Will Raise the World.” 

66. Pickering, Mangle of Practice. 

67. Ibid. 

68. Jasanoff, States of Knowledge. 

69. Anderson et al., “On Assemblages and Geography.” 

70. Scott, Weapons of the Weak, 296. 

71. Merry, “Resistance and the Cultural Power of Law,” 23. 

72. Molyneux, “Mobilization without Emancipation?”; Alvarez, Engendering 
Democracy in Brazil. 


1. El Diario, “Esperan hasta 30 horas por Repuve.” 

2. Herrera, “Se quedan a dormir para poder sacar engomado de REPUVE.” 

3. El Diario, “ . . . Y acampan por Repuve.” 

4. El Heraldo de Chihuahua, “Reinicia actividad el 6 de enero Registro 
Publico Vehicular.” 

Notes I 2.2.1 

5. Rodriguez, “Pernoctan en el parque por el Repuve.” 

6., “Registro vehicular abre sus puertas los sabados.” 

7. Holguin, “Piden condonar los adeudos en ‘plaqueo.’” 

8. Pulso, “Policias ayudaran a compradores a verificar status de autos.” 

9. ADN Sureste, “SSPO equipa con tecnologia de punta patrullas de Polici'a 

10. Aguirre and Zepeda, “La Cedula de Identidad va, pero no por ahora.” 

11. Milenio, “Entrega Calderon primeras Cedulas de Identidad Personal 
para Menores.” 

12. Presidencia de la Republica, “Diversas intervenciones en el inicio del 
registro para obtener la Cedula de Identidad Personal.” 

13. Becerril and Ballinas, “El Senado pone fin al fallido registro de usuarios 
de celular.” 

14. Reyes, “InfoDF pide a la Segob eliminar datos del Renaut”; Medieta, 
“Exige el IFAI destruir los datos reunidos con el derogado Renaut.” 

15. Informador, “La Segob borra la base de datos del Renaut.” 

1 6. Avina, “Piden cambios al Registro Publico Vehicular.” 

1 7 . Notimex, “ Se alista el sector automotriz para negociar con nue va legislatura. ” 

18. Herrera Madrano, “Circulan 10 mil autos robados en Tamaulipas.” 

19. Sanchez, “Arranca Registro Publico Vehicular en Michoacan.” 

20. Notimex, “Aprueba Congreso de SLP que REPUVE sea obligatorio 
hasta 2014.” 

21. Martinez, “Instalo finanzas 8 mil chips del Repuve.” 

22., “Impuesto a coches importados.” 

23. Lopez Galicia, “Imponen otro cobro a importadores de autos.” 

24., “Impuesto a coches importados.” 

25. Lopez Galicia, “Imponen otro cobro a importadores de autos.” 

26. Juarez Alfaro, “Rechazan el Repuve.” 

27. Castro, “Denuncia la UIVAC cobro ilegal que hace banjercito.” 

28. Quiroz and Zepeda, “Gobernacion para expedir la CIC obligo al gobi- 
erno federal a diferir el plan.” 

29. Ibid. 

30. El Universal, “Respalda Unicef proyecto de Cedula de Identidad Personal 
para Menores.” 

31. Campos and Penna, Confianza en las instituciones. 

32. Notimex, “Detallan beneficios de la Cedula de Identidad personal.” 

33. Radial Sur, “‘Libre transito’ para gente del sur.” 

34. Becerril and Ballinas, “El Senado pone fin al fallido registro de usuarios 
de celular.” 

35. El Informador, “La Segob borra la base de datos del Renaut.” 

36. Milenio, “Telcel y Movistar desactivaran telefonos celulares robados.” 

37. Hernandez, “Facilitaran el bloqueo de celulares robados para frenar 
extorsion. ” 

38. Guadarrama, “Renaut alterno ha dado de baja 12 mil 200 celulares.” 

39. Sanchez Ley, “Inutil, registro de celulares.” 

40. Excelsior, “Segob emite decreto de Ley de Geolocalizacion o monitoreo 

222 I Notes 

41. Juarez, “EFF considera ‘alarmante’ la nueva Fey de Geolocalizacion 

42. Ervin, “1930 Agrarian Census in Mexico.” 

43. Tilly, Coercion, Capital, and European States, AD 990-1992; Scott, 
Seeing Like a State. 

44. Corrigan and Sayer, Great Arch. 

45. Knight, “Modern Mexican State.” 

46. Jasanoff, States of Knowledge; Carroll, Science, Culture, and Modern 
State Formation; Passoth and Rowland, “Actor-Network State.” 

47. Anderson et al., “On Assemblages and Geography.” 

48. Tilly, Coercion, Capital, and European States, AD 990-1992, 25-26. 

49. Knight, “Modern Mexican State,” 192. 

50. Muller, Public Security in the Negotiated State. 

51. Flores, “La Ley de Geolocalizacion entra en vigor en Mexico.” 

52. Rodriguez Manzo, “Geolocalizacion en el pais de Las Maravillas.” 

53. Milenio, “Equivocada, iniciativa de Pena sobre telecom.” 

54. Zarate, “Desconocen beneficios de Cedula de Identidad.” 

55. Mejia, “La corte analiza queja por cedula.” 

56. Badillo, “La moral de los magnates Gates Y Slim.” 

57. Quiroz, “Cedula de Identidad sigue en pie.” 

58. Monroy, “Nuevo diseno de la credencial del IFE encriptara datos”; 
Nacif Hernandez, “El INE frente al robo de identidad.” 

59. Fierro, “Llevara angulo fraude fiscal del REPUVE a la Camara de 

60. Rebolledo, “Ilegal, cobro de Repuve por Banjercito, acusan.” 

61., “Veracruz, primer lugar en registro vehicular.” 


1. Pacto por Mexico, 

2. Buscaglia, “Mexico’s Deadly Power Vacuum.” 

3. El Pais, “Mexico reformista.” 

4. Semanario ZETA, “Los muertos de EPN.” 

5. Ortega, “Gendarmeria Nacional sera una policia cercana a la gente.” 

6. Valenzuela Zuniga et al., Technological Innovation for Security in Latin 

7. Pickier, “Experts Say Drone Strikes Appear in Bounds of US Law.” 

8. Steinhauer and Weisman, “U.S. Surveillance in Place since 9/1 1 Is Sharply 

9. USA Today, “Obama Bans Some Military Equipment Sales to Police.” 

10. Electronic Frontier Foundation, “Mass Surveillance Technologies.” 

11. Online Etymology Dictionary, 

12. Clarke, “Information Technology and Dataveillance.” 

13. Foucault, Discipline and Punish. 

14. Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control,” 5. 

15. Amoore and de Goede, “Governance, Risk and Dataveillance in the War 
on Terror”; Lyon, Surveillance after September 11; Lyon, Surveillance Society. 

Notes I 223 

1 6. Sparks, “Fast Capitalism/Slow Terror”; Amoore and de Goede, 
“Governance, Risk and Dataveillance in the War on Terror”; Braverman, 
“Civilized Borders.” 

17. Norris and Armstrong, Maximum Surveillance Society. 

18. Smith, “Exploring Relations between Watchers and Watched in 
Control(led) Systems”; Monahan, “‘War Rooms’ of the Street.” 

19. Feeley and Simon, “New Penology.” 

2.0. Bauman and Lyon, Liquid Surveillance: A Conversation. 

2.1. Monahan, Surveillance in the Time of Insecurity, 23. On the culture of 
insecurity, see also Molotch, Against Security. 

22. Valverde, “Targeted Governance and the Problem of Desire.” 

23. Goold, “Technologies of Surveillance and the Erosion of Institutional 
Trust,” 21 1. 

24. Lyon, “National IDs in a Global World: Surveillance, Security, and 
Citizenship”; Lyon, Surveillance after September 11. 

25. Aas, Sentencing in the Age of Information. 

2 6. Poire Romero, “It Doesn’t Come Easy — Mexico’s Fight for Security.” 

27. Gilliom, Overseers of the Poor; Norris and Armstrong, Maximum 
Surveillance Society. 

28. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 141. 

29. Poster, Mode of Information. 

30. Ibid.; Norris and Armstrong, Maximum Surveillance Society; Haggerty 
and Ericson, “Surveillant Assemblage.” 

31. Epstein, “Embodying Risk,” 185. 

32. Amoore and de Goede, “Governance, Risk and Dataveillance in the War 
on Terror,” 1 6. 

33. Brodeaur and Leman-Langlois, “Surveillance Fiction or Higher 
Policing?,” 196. 

34. Haggerty and Ericson, “New Politics of Surveillance and Visibility,” 17. 

35. Gates, “Identifying the 9/11 ‘Faces of Terror,’” 431. 

3 6. Breckenridge, “Elusive Panopticon,” 47. 

37. Bender and Bierman, “Russia Contacted FBI ‘Multiple’ Times on 
Concerns about Alleged Boston Marathon Bomber.” 

38. Keating, “No One in Europe Is Tougher on Terror Than France.” 

39. Glanz, Rotella, and Sanger, “In 2008 Mumbai Attacks, Piles of Spy 
Data, but an Uncompleted Puzzle.” 

40. Barker and Baker, “New York Officers’ Killer, Adrift and 111 , Had a 

41. Dresser, “Mexico: From PRI Predominance to Divided Democracy.” 

42. Benitez Manaut, “Containing Armed Groups, Drug Trafficking, and 
Organized Crime in Mexico.” 

43 . Marquez and Meyer, “Del autoritarismo agotado a la democracia fragil.” 

44. CONEVAL (Consejo Nacional de Evaluacion de la Politica de Desarrollo 
Social), “Evolucion de las dimensiones de la pobreza, 1990-2010.” 

45. Gorlier and Guzik, La politica de genero en America Latina: Debates, 
teorias, metodologias y estudios de caso; Guzik and Gorlier, “History in the 

224 I Notes 

4 6. Gilliom, “Struggling with Surveillance”; Gilliom, Overseers of the Poor. 

47. Marx, “Seeing Hazily (But Not Darkly) through the Lens,” 379. See also 
Marx, Windows into the Soul. 

48. Pickering, Mangle of Practice. 

49. Anderson et ah, “On Assemblages and Geography.” 

50. Bennett, Vibrant Matter. 

51. Neyland, “Mundane Terror and the Threat of Everyday Objects,” 38. 
For things as the subject of surveillance, see also Murakami Wood, “What Is 
Global Surveillance?” 

52. Muller, Public Security in the Negotiated State. 

53. Jasanoff, States of Knowledge. 

54. Levi-Strauss, Savage Mind. 

55. Pickering, Mangle of Practice, 22-23. 

56. Scott, Seeing like a State, 6. 

57. Sewell, “Theory of Structure.” 

58. Jasanoff, States of Knowledge; Carroll, Science, Culture, and Modern 
State Formation. 

59. Marx, Windows into the Soul. 

60. Marres and Lezaun, “Materials and Devices of the Public,” 496. 

6 1. Toobin, “The Solace of Oblivion.” 

6 2. Star-Ledger Editorial Board, “Track Domestic Abusers with GPS 

6 3. Inchaustegui Romer et ah, “Violencia feminicida en Mexico”; Cladem, 
“8 de marzo”; El Universal, “Investigan con tecnologia de punto feminicidios 
en Juarez.” 

64. Lyon, Surveillance Society, 153. 

6 5. Monahan, “Surveillance as Governance,” 95. 

66. Shallwani, “NYPD Unveil Two Cameras for Officers.” 

67. Lopez, “Why Police Should Wear Body Cameras — and Why They 

68. Chouza, “Organizaciones de periodistas crean un mapa de agresiones 
en Mexico.” 

69. Villamil, “Atenco, Ibero y a primavera mexicana en 2012.” 

70. Culp-Ressler, “GOP Lawmaker Refuses to Support Abortion Bill.” 

71. BBC News, “Germany and Brazil in UN Spy Draft.” 


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Metallized_Windshield_List_2o 1 3 .pdf. 

Whitaker, Reg. “A Faustian Bargain? America and the Dream of Total 
Information Awareness.” In The New Politics of Surveillance and Visibility, 
edited by Richard V. Ericson and Kevin D. TIaggerty, 141-70. Toronto: 
University of Toronto Press, 2006. 

Willis, James J., Stephen D. Mastrofski, and David Weisburd. “Making Sense 
of COMPSTAT: A Theory-Based Analysis of Organizational Change in 
Three Police Departments.” Law and Society Review 41, no. 1 (March 1, 
2007): 147-88. 

Wilson, Scott. “Road Pricing: Brazil to Have Compulsory Toll Tags by July 
2014 (SINIAV).” Road Pricing, August 14, 2012. http://roadpricing. 

Womack, James P. The Mexican Motor Industry: Strategies for the 1990s. 
Cambridge, MA: International Motor Vehicle Program, Massachusetts 
Institute of Technology, 1989. 

Wood, David, Eli Konvitz, and Kirstie Ball. “The Constant State of Emergency? 
Surveillance after 9/1 1.” In The Intensification of Surveillance: Crime, 
Terrorism and Warfare in the Information Age, edited by Kirstie Ball and 
Frank Webster, 137-50. London: Pluto Press, 2003. 

World Health Organization. Global Status Report on Road Safety. 
Geneva: World Health Organization, 2009. 
publications/ 2009/97 89 24 1 5 63 8 40_eng.pdf. 

Yin, Robert K. Case Study Research: Design and Methods. 5th ed. Los Angeles: 
Sage, 2013. 

Zarate, Luz. “Desconocen beneficios de Cedula de Identidad.” May 20, 2011. 

Zegarra Ballon T, Alberto. Censo de automoviles en America Latina. Mexico 
City: Editorial Ausonia, 1959. 

Zureik, Elia, Lynda Harling Stalker, Emily Smith, David Lyon, and Yolande 
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University Press, 2010. 


abortion rights, 203-4 
accountability, promoted through 

surveillance technologies, 201/zg., 

actor networks, 3 2 

agency: collective, 31-51, 59, 77, 136-40, 
183-84; distributed, 21-2, 33, 192; 
material, 28, 86, 138; prohesion and, 
95-97, 136-40, 183-84; as concern 
of governance, 31-51, 94-97, 

136-40, 183-84 
Agrarian Census, 44, 136, 172 
Agreement to Avoid Reusing Stolen 
Telephones, 170 

AMDA. See Mexican Association of 
Automobile Dealers (AMDA) 

AMIA. See Mexican Association for the 
Automotive Industry (AMIA) 
Arquitectura rustica para carros inseguros 
(Romero), 69/zg. 

assemblage, 4, 139, 192, 197-98; 

surveillant, 18, 9on, 93, 188-89, I 94? 
theory, 21, 195 
Atenco protests, 202 

Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College mass 
kidnapping, 2, 178, 189 
automobiles: accidents involving, 71-73; 

cultural dimensions of, 68; dealers of, 
115-16; economic policy involving, 
66-67; emissions of, 78-81; and 
free transit, 167-69, 174, 197-98; 

geography altered by, 67-68; 
governmentality of, 71-92; import 
of, 64, 66-67, I 47? 162-65; la 
tenencia tax on, 77, 158; materiality 
of, 133-35; producers of, 66-67, 
109-12, 1 1 6-1 8, 1 51; as resistance, 

1 3 3-3 5; roadways for, 39-40, 45-47, 
46/zg., 72, 78, 95; tolls on, 167-68, 
r69/zg. See also automobility, Public 
Registry of Automobiles 
automobility 14, 31-33, 57-61; definition 
of, 65; and discipline, 23, 71-77; 
drug trafficking enabled by, 30-31, 
57; governance of, 71-92, 93 fig.; 
insecurity of, 31, 57-61, 71-92; 
in Mexico, 64-92; and prohesion, 

64, 92-98; risk governance of, 23, 
78-81. See also automobiles 
Aztec empire. See Mexica empire 

banditry, 39-40, 96 
Banjercito, 162-65, 172-75 
Baudrillard, Jean 17 

biometrics, 4-5, 32; in Citizen Identity Card 
(CEDI), 26, 29, 54; and materiality, 
18, 91; 97, 188; and prohesion, 

97; in National Registry of Mobile 
Telephone Users (RENAUT), 99, 

170; in Mexico’s voter card, 48, 54, 
101, 137 

Blake Mora, Francisco, 26, 143, 165-67 


248 I Index 

body cameras, 202 
Bogard, William, 17 
Boston Marathon bombing, 5, 188 
bricolage, 22, 194; definition of, 194 
Bush, George W., 9, 27 

Cabrera, Juan Manuel, 56-57 
Cabrera, Margarita, 68, 70 fig. 
caciques, 34, 37 
caciquismo, 124 

Calderon, Felipe: fictitious RENAUT 
registrations under, 10 1, 128; 

Identity Card for Minors inaugurated 
by, 143; and Merida Initiative, 9, 27; 
and National Agreement on Security, 
28; REPUVE inaugurated by, 30; and 
War on Crime, 9-10, 27 
Camino Real del Tierra Adentro, 38-39, 48 
Campa Cifrian, Roberto, 1 13-14 
cars. See automobiles 
Cardenas, Cuauhtemoc, 48, 137 
Cardenas, Lazaro, 2, 44, 66, 172, 178 
Carranza, Venustiano, 2, 57 
Carrillo Fuentes, Amado, 9, 190 
castas, 37-38, 40 

Catholic Church, 8, 52; and cultural 

change in Mexico, 52; and personal 
identification practices during 
Conquest, 3 6n; popular support for, 
102; and state formation, 21, 40, 

44, 172 

Cavallo, Ricardo (Miguel Angel), 83-84, 

CEDI. See Citizen Identity Card (CEDI) 
Chapultepec Castle, 2, 205 
Chapultepec Park, 2, 204 
Charlie Flebdo massacre, 189 
Chichimecas, 39, 96 
Chichimeca War, 39 
chocolates (automobiles), 154 
Ciborra, Claudio, 19411 
cifra negra, 9 

Citizen Identity Card (CEDI), 10, 26, 165; 
difficulties implementing, 10 1-2; and 
Identity Card for Minors, 143-44, 
166-67, I 75”7fi; improvisations 
involving, 143-46, 166-67; overview 
of, 29-30, 54-55; perceptions of, 
166-67, I 755 as prohesion, 97; 
resistance to, 101-2, 107-8, 118, 
125, 165; successes of, 143-44 
clientelism, 51, 124, 190. See also caciques, 
Clinton, Bill, 203 
Clinton, Hillary, 50 

COFETEL. See Federal Commission of 
T elecommunications 

collective agency: as concern of governance, 
2-8, 31-51, 136-40. 172.-7 5. 183-84; 
evolutionary quality of, 28, 49-51, 
96; and distributed agency, 192, 197 
command centers, 27. See also Federal 
Police Intelligence Center 
common place of law, 104-5, 1 16-18, 

communication, 14-15, 31-33, 96-97; 
as collective agency, 3 1-3 3 , 

96-97; colonial governance of, 38; in 
contemporary society, 32; National 
Registry of Mobile Telephone 
Users (RENAUT) as strategy to 
control, 28-29, 53-55; and post- 
Revolutionary Mexico, 44-45; and 
Spanish Conquest, 33-34; as tactic of 
statecraft, 152-53 
conviviality, 201 

co-production: definition of, 48-49; of 

state, 20-21, 23, 28, 33-50, 77, 91, 
96, 139-140, 172, 193-195 
corruption, 155; as challenge to governance, 
22, 52-54, 82, 96-97, 112-15, 124, 
155; colonial roots of, 52-53; in the 
National Registry of Vehicles, 83-84; 
perceptions of, 106; as target of 
reform, 9, 150, 178, 202-3 
Cortes, Hernan, 33-37, 35/zg. 

Cosmic Thing , 68, 69 fig. 
crisis of governance, 15, 23, 28, 49-55, 96, 

critical mass, as tactic of statecraft, 158-62 

dataveillance, 18, 30, 92-93, 180-81, 

data insecurity, 106-8 
de Aguilar, Geronimo, 34 
de la Madrid, Miguel, 8, 51 
Deleuze, Gilles, 93, 181 
Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), 
125-26, party colors of, 1230 
democratization: in Latin America, 8, 12, 

51; in Mexico, 8, 23, 51-53, 81, 114, 
178, 190 

deskilling, by surveillance technologies, 188 
determinism, in understanding surveillance 
technologies, 21, 196 
de Zumarrago, Juan, 3 8n 
Diaz del Castillo, Bernal, 34-35 
Diaz, Porfirio, 16, 41-45, 65, 108, 

125, 172 

discipline, 97; over automobility, 23, 

Index I 249 

71-77; described by Michel Foucault, 
76, 179-81, i8in; security contrasted 
with, 181-84; subjectification under, 

Discipline and Punish (Foucault), 179 
displacement, 54, 92 
distributed agency, 21-27, 33> I 9 2 
drones, 5, 27, 179, 187-88 
drug cartels. See organized crime 
drug trafficking, in, 9-10, 27; enabled by 
automobility, 30-31, 57; enabled 
by free trade, 52; relation to state, 

51, 190 

dystopianism, 19-20, 23, 92, 198. See also 

EFF. See Electronic Frontier Foundation 
El Automovil Gris , 56-57, 81-82, 97-98 
El Bunker. See Federal Police Intelligence 

El Chapo. See Guzman, Joaquin (El Chapo) 
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), 7, 
170, 199 

Electronic Privacy Information Center 
(EPIC), 7, i99 

Elias Calles, Plutarco, 44, 46-51, 66 
el vocho, 68, 82 
El Vochol , 68, yoftg. 

emergence: concept of 194-98; as quality 
of state formation, 15, 20-22, 

24; in understanding surveillance 
technologies, 146, 171-76, 194-98 
Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico, 2, 41 
encomiendas, 37, 44n 
engagement, with surveillance technologies, 
199-205, 201 fig. 

EPIC. See Electronic Privacy Information 

Epstein, Charlotte, 185 
equality, promoted through surveillance 
technologies, 200-201 
Ericson, Richard, i8n, 9on, 93 
espanoles, 37. See also castas 
Executive Secretariat of the National 

System of Public Security (SESNSP), 

1 1 3-14; authority over Public 
Registry of Vehicles (REPUVE), 84; 
re-organization of, 128-29; REPUVE 
directorates within, 11, 87, 88/zg.; 
selection of RFID tags by, 89-90, 

FASP. See Support Funds for Public Security 

fatalism, in understanding surveillance 

technologies, 19-20, 198 
Federal Commission of Telecommunications 
(COFETEL), 128, 169, 171 
Federal Electoral Institute (IFE): creation 
of, 48; opposition to Citizen 
Identity Card (CEDI), 101-2, 

125, 137, 165-66, 175, 193; and 
voter card redesign, 175; and sale 
of voter rolls, 107-8. See also 
voter card 

Federal Police Intelligence Center, 1-2, 88, 

Federal Registry of Vehicles, 82-83, 96 
femicides, 200 
feminism, 105, 19 1 
Foucault, Michel, 76, 92, 103, 184; 
Discipline and Punish , 179; 
discipline described by, 76, 179-81; 
security described by, 31, 181, 184; 
surveillance studies influenced by, 

Fox, Vicente, 8, 82, 128, 178 
free transit, 167-69, 174, 197-98 
freedom, promoted through surveillance 
technologies, 199-200 
Fuentes, Carlos, 78n 

Garcia Luna, Genaro, 1, 30, ii4n 
gender violence, 105, 200-1, 204 
Geolocation Law, 170-71, 176 
Gilliom, John, 19 1 
Gonzalez Garza, Pablo, 57 
Goold, Benjamin, 183 

governmentality, 31; of automobiles, 76-77, 
81, 84, 90-2; and determinism, 194; 
of prohesion, 92-98; and surveillance 
studies, 19, 194 
Greenwald, Glenn, 187 
Guarda Mayor de Caminos, 40, 49 
Guzman, Joaquin (El Chapo), 2, 9 

Haggerty, Kevin, i8n, 92n, 93 
hesion, 95-97 
Hollande, Francois, 203 
Hoy No Circula, 79-81 
Huichol, 68, 70 fig. 

identity, threatened by surveillance, 4-5 
Identity Card for Minors, 143-44, 

166-67, I 75 _ 7 6. See also Citizen 
Identity Card 

identification, 14, 31-32, 96-97; 

Citizen Identity Card (CEDI) as 
strategy to control, 29, 53-55; as 
collective agency, 31-32, 96-97; 

250 I Index 

colonial governance of, 37-38; 
in contemporary society, 32; and 
Mexican Independence, 41-42; 
and post-Revolutionary Mexico, 
47-48; and Spanish Conquest, 36n; 
threatened by surveillance, 4-5 
Iguala mass kidnapping, 2, 178, 189 
IMEI. See International Mobile Equipment 
Identity (IMEI) 

indios, 37-38, 38n, 41. See also castas 
insecurity: of automobility, 57-61, 71-92; of 
data, 106-8; as justification for Public 
Registry of Vehicles (REPUVE), 

147, 160; in Latin America, 7-8, 

12, 22-23; i n Mexico, in, 8-9, 12, 
50-51, 57-58, 81-82, 96, 178, 190; 
perceptions of, 106-7, I 47 
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI): 

2000 presidential defeat of, 8, 51; 
2012 presidential victory of, 158; 
founding of, 44; neoliberalism 
embraced by, 172; perceptions of, 

147; political centralization under, 
126, 190; party colors of, 1230 
International Mobile Equipment Identity 
(IMEI), 170 

Jasanoff, Sheila, 48 

Juarez, Benito, 41 

Juarez plaza (drug trafficking), 9 

Kouachi brothers, 189 

labor unions, 66-67 
La Malinche, 34, 35/zg. 

Lashkar-e-Taiba, 189 
Latin America: automobiles in, 65; 
democratization in, 8, 12, 51; 
insecurity in, 7-8, 12, 22-23, I 79? 
organized crime in, 7-8, 22, 179; 
social movements in, 139 
Latin American Studies, 22 
Latour, Bruno, 49n, 8on 
legal certainty, 93/7#., 167, 176, 180; 

obstacles to, 138; description of, 63, 
85-87; REPUVE and, 63, 85- 90, 

legitimacy: and programmatic piggybacking, 
167, 171-73; of state programs, 140, 
166-69, I 93; °f science, i96n; of 
traditional authorities, 19 1 
Levi-Strauss, Claude, 194 
liberalism, 185-86; prohesion as threat to, 

Libre Transito, 167-69, 174, 197-98 

Los Pinos, 2 

Lyon, David, 93, 201 

mangle of practice, i46n; definition of, 195 

Manning, Chelsea, 7, 199 

maquiladoras, 66-67 

Marti, Alejandro, 28, 170 

Marx, Gary T., 3, i8n, 20, 92, 192 

material agency, 28, 86, 138 

materiality: as target of surveillance 

technologies, 18, 51-55, 180, 183-86; 
within science and technology studies, 
21; as target of prohesion, 15, 21, 24, 
64, 93fe, 94-98; as concern of state 
authorities, 23, 32-50, 81, 86; as 
challenge to governance, 32-50, 86, 
132-36, 138, 192-93; and security, 

Mayan, 34, 45 
megamachine, i86n 
Merida Initiative, 9, 27 
Merry, Sally Engle, 139 
mestizos, 12, 37-38. See also castas 
mestizaje, 38n, 41, 138 
metallic windshields, 134-35 
metis, 22; definition of, 195 
Mexica empire, 33-34, 78 
Mexican- American War, 41 
Mexican Association of Automobile Dealers 
(AMDA), 83n, 147-48, 165 
Mexican Association for the Automotive 
Industry (AMIA), 118, 147, 165 
Mexican Petroleums (PEMEX), 178 
Mexican Revolution, 42, 49, 56-57, i23n; 
elite dislocation by, 12; free transit as 
right from, 198; state formation after, 
13, 43-44, 136-37 

Mexico: 1990 Population Law of, 29, 

108, 143; Agrarian Census in, 

44-45, 136, 172; Agreement to 
Avoid Reusing Stolen Telephones 
in, 170; automobility in, 64-92; 
Catholic Church in, 26, 36n, 40, 

44, 52, 172; clientelism in, 51, 124, 
190; colonial period of, 36-43; 
constitution of, 99, 124-27, 137, 
167-68, 176, 197; corruption in, 

22, 52-53, 96-97, 112-15, 124, 

150, 155, 178; crisis of governance 
in, 15, 23, 28, 49-55, 96, 190-1; 
cultural change in, 8, 52, 81, 19 1; 
customs offices in, 67, 86, 115, 
162-65, 172-73; democratization 

Index I 251 

in, 8, 23, 51-53, 81, 114, 178, 190; 
drug trafficking in, 8-10, 51-52, 90; 
federalist political system of, 124-27, 
137, i 57~58, 162; Geolocation 
Law in, 170-71, 176; Independence 
period of, 40-43; insecurity in, 

8-9, 12, 50-51, 57-58, 96, 178, 

190; legitimacy of state in, 44-45, 
140, 167, 171-73, 191, 193; and 
National Agreement on Security, 

28; National Gendarmerie of, 178; 
neoliberalism in, 8, 51-53, 81, 96, 
172, 190; organized crime in, 8-9, 
50-2, 57-58, 81-82, 178, 190; Pact 
for Mexico in, 177-78; political 
parties in, 8, 44, 51, 123-24, 154-55; 
political turnover in, 125-27; 
populism in, 126; Post-Revolutionary 
period of, 43-48; privacy in, 99-100, 
106-07; regionalism in, 40, 120, 

124, 137, 193; Spanish Conquest of, 
33-36; state formation in, 14-15, 
20-23, 33-55, 171-76, 190; state 
theory of, 172-77; surveillance 
technologies in, 9-10, 26-33, 53“55> 
191-94; Telecom Law in, 175; voting 
in, 41-42, 47-48, 101; War on Crime 
in, in, 1-3, 9-10, 26-28, 97, 105, 
139-40, 205 

Mi Mexico Transparente, 202 
mobile devices, 17, 22, 32; International 
Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) 
of, 170; prohesion and, 97; service 
providers for, 99, 109, 170 
mobility, 14, 31-32, 95-97; as collective 
agency, 31-32, 95-97; colonial 
governance of, 3 8-40; in 
contemporary society, 14, 31-33, 65; 
and Mexican Independence, 42-43; 
and post- 

Revolutionary Mexico, 45-47; Public 

Registry of Vehicles (REPUVE) as 
strategy to control, 29-30, 58-64, 
81-92; and Spanish Conquest, 

33-36. See also automobility 
Monahan, Torin, i8n, 201 
Movistar, 99, 109, 170 
mulatos, 37. See also castas 
Mumford, Lewis, i86n 

NAFTA. See North American Free Trade 

Nahuatl, 34, 36n, 38n, 45 
narcocorridos, 19 1 

National Action Party (PAN), 82, 

125-26; 2000 presidential victory 
of, 8; lawsuits against Public Vehicle 
Registry (REPUVE), 175; perceptions 
of, 147; party colors of, i23n 
National Gendarmerie, 178 
national ID cards, 32, 187. See also Citizen 
Identity Card (CEDI) 

National Registry of Mobile Telephone 
Users (RENAUT), 10; difficulties 
implementing, 99-101; overview 
of, 28-29; perceptions of, 99-101, 
148; as prohesion, 97; resistance 
to, 99-101, 105-06, 108-09, ZI 8, 
128, 148; termination of, 144-45, 
169, 171 

National Registry of Vehicles (RENAVE), 
96, 163; overview of, 83-84; legacy 
of, 107-08, no, 148 
negros, 37. See also castas 
Neology company, 89, 153 
Neyland, Daniel, 193 
North American Free Trade Agreement 
(NAFTA), 8, 67, 83n, 15 1 
NSA. See United States National Security 
Agency (NSA) 

Obama, Barack, 27, 50 

oil nationalization, 44, 66, 178 

organized crime: in Latin America, 7-8, 

13, 22; in Mexico, 8-10, 51-52, 
57-58, 81-82, ii4n, 147; enabled by 
automobiles, 30-31, 57-58, 81-82; 
enabled by free trade, 22, 52, 172; 
under Pena Nieto administration, 178; 
relation to state, 50-51, 172, 190; as 
target of surveillance technologies, 
28-31, 57-58, 81-82, ii4n 
Ortega, Damian, 68, 69/zg. 

Pact for Mexico, 177-78 
PAN. See National Action Party 
PEMEX. See Mexican Petroleums 
Pena Nieto, Enrique, 158, 174-75, I 77 ? 

187, 200; 2012 presidential victory 
of, i27n; protests against, 202-3; 
reforms under, 177-78 
Pickering, Andrew, i46n, 195 
pinturas de casta, 38-40, 3 9/?#., 96 
Plataforma Mexico, 1, 31, 88, 90, 129 
plazas (drug trafficking), 9, 51 
Poitras, Laura, 187 
post-humanism, 21-22, 32, 138-40 
Poster, Mark, 92 

252 I Index 

presence, as objective of prohesion, 91-92, 
94, 181 

PRD. See Democratic Revolution Party 
PRI. See Institutional Revolutionary Party 
privacy, 200; concerns regarding Agrarian 
Census, 45; concerns regarding 
Geolocation Law, 170; concerns 
regarding Identity Card for Minors, 
173; in Mexican constitution, 99; 
perceptions of, regarding RENAUT, 
105-7; from surveillance, 201 fig., 
202-04; threatened by surveillance, 
4, 184, 196 

programmatic piggybacking, as tactic of 
statecraft, 165-69 

prohesion, 18, 21, 172, 175-76, 180, 194; 
and automobility, 64, 92-98; and 
biometrics, 97; Citizen Identity Card 
(CEDI) as, 97; description of, 15, 

24, 64, 92-98; freedom of choice 
threatened by, 185; governmentality 
of, 92-98, 130; limitations of, 130, 
192; materiality as target of, 15, 21, 
24, 64, 93/zg., 94-98; presence as 
objective of, 91-92, 94, 181; privacy 
threatened by, 184; property rights 
threatened by, 185-86; National 
Registry of Mobile Telephone Users 
(RENAUT) as, 97; Public Registry 
of Vehicles (REPUVE) as, 92-95; 
relation to security, 181-86; self- 
determination threatened by, 186; as 
state strategy, 92-98; subjecthood 
threatened by, 184-86; contrast with 
surveillance, 181-83; weakness of, 
192. See also hesion 
protector de indios, 3 8n 
Public Registry of Vehicles (REPUVE), 10, 
23, 54-55; autoridades federates 
within, 86-90; and customs offices, 

162- 65; database of, 86-89, 87/zg.; 
difficulties implementing, 102; 
improvisations involving, 145, 
150-52, 156-58, 162-65, 167-69; 
directorates of, 87-88, 88 fig., 148; 
entidades federativas within, 86-90; 
governmentality of, 64, 82-94; legal 
framework for, 82-92, 157, 163- 65, 
167-69; overview of, 29-30, 58-59, 
82-92; perceptions of, 146-50, 

163- 68; support for, 141- 43, 168; 
and Plataforma Mexico, 88, 90, 

129, 13 1; precursors to, 82-84; as 
prohesion, 92-95; registration into, 
58-59, 6ofig.-6^fig.; resistance to, 

102, 108, 110-36, 175; RFID tags 
of, 59, 60/zg., 86, 89-92, 1 12-15, 
124, 153-54, 165, 183; successes of, 
142-43, 149-50, 193-94; sujetos 
obligados within, 86-90, 109-118 

pulquerfas, 19 1 

railways, 14, 41-43, 43 fig; 45~46, 4 S ~49> 

64-65, 7 i 

Raul Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College 
kidnapping, 2, 178, 189 
RENAUT. See National Registry of Mobile 
Telephone Users (RENAUT) 
RENAVE. See National Registry of Vehicles 

REPUVE. See Public Registry of Vehicles 

research methods, 10-14 
resistance, 6, 21-22, 24, 45, 101-140, 

191-92; definitions of, 10 1-5, 118, 
136-40, 192; and distributed agency, 

103, 137-38; industrial forms of, 
109-18; popular forms of, 45, 
105-09; redefinition of, 136-40, 192; 
state forms of, 118-27, 193; technical 
forms of, 127-36 

Reyes, Alfonso, 78n 

RFID tags, 4, 7; passive versus active, 

89, 1 12-14, 11 4 n ; producers of, 

1 12-14, I2 '3 -2 4i an d prohesion, 
94-95; in Public Registry of Vehicles 
(REPUVE), 59, 6ofig., 86, 89-92, 
112-15, I2 4> I 53~54> 165, 183 
right to be forgotten, 188, 199 
risk governance, 6, 23, 182; of 
automobility, 78-81 
risk society, 78 

roadways, 45, 4 6/zg.; in colonial Mexico, 
39-40; and hesion, 95; in post- 
revolutionary Mexico, 45-47 
Romero, Betsabee, 68, 69/zg. 
rule of law, 8, 42-43, 200-2 

Salinas de Gortari, Carlos, 29, 47-48, 83, 
96, 108 

science and technology studies (STS): 

emergence in, 49n, 195, i96n; and 
materiality, 21; and state formation, 
20-22, 48-49, 138-40; post- 
humanism in, 21-22, 32, 138-40 
Scott, James, 32, 103-04, 109, 139, 195; 
Seeing Like a State , 3 2; Weapons of 
the Weak , 103-4 

Secretariat of Communications and Public 
Works (SCOT), 42, 48, 72 

Index I 253 

Secretariat of Public Security (SSP), 1, 30, 
ii4na, 118, 122, 128-29 
security (philosophical concept): definition 
of, 1 8 in; discipline contrasted with, 
181-84; inequality reinforced by, 

184; and materiality, 183; privacy 
under, 184; relation to prohesion, 
181-86; subjectification under, 

security (social problem): automobility 
and, 57-61, 71-92; of data, 

106-8; in Latin America, 7-8, 12, 
22-23; i n Mexico, in, 8-9, 12, 

22-23, 5° — 5 81-82, 96, 160, 178, 
190; commercialization of, 5-6; 
technologization of, 22, 23, 27, 


Seeing Like a State (Scott), 32 
SESNSP. See Executive Secretariat of the 
National System of Public Security 

September 11 terrorist attacks, 6, 188-89 
service provision, as tactic of statecraft, 

1 5 *-5 5 

Shah, Zarrar, 189 
siestas, 19 1 
Simon, Jonathan, 77 
Snowden, Edward, 7, 187, 189, 199 
social Darwinism, 41 
social sorting, 6, 31, 181, 196 
social movements, 103-04, 109, 139 
societies of control, 1 8 1 
sousveillance, 17 
Spanish Bourbons, 44n 
Spanish Hapsburgs, 52 
SSP. See Secretariat of Public Security (SSP) 
state: 28, 33, 40, 48-50, 77, 91, 96; 
circumvention of, as tactic of 
statecraft, 169-71; crisis of, 15, 23, 
28, 49-55, 96, 190-91; distrust of, 
108-09; formation of, 20-23, 28, 
33 - 50 . 77, 91, 96, 137-40, 144 - 46 , 
172-76, 193-98; legitimacy of, 140, 
166-69, I 7 I_ 7 3, 193; prohesion as 
strategy of, 92-98; redundancy of, 

52, 85-86, 96, 137-38, 193; and 
statecraft, 171-76; and surveillance 
technologies, 28, 50-55, 92-98, 
144-46; theories of, 172-77, 195-96; 
weakness of, 20, 190-93 
statecraft, 16, 21-22, 24; communication 
as tactic of, 152-53; critical mass as 
tactic of, 158-62; description of, 145, 
171-76; emergence and, 194-98; 
programmatic piggybacking as tactic 

of, 165-69; service provision as tactic 
of, 152-55; state circumvention as 
tactic of, 169-71; tactics of, 145, 

1 50- 171; taxation as tactic of, 
162-65; technical resilience as tactic 
of, 150-52; threats and incentives as 
tactic of, 1 5 6-5 8 

stochasticim, 146, 176 
strength, of surveillance technologies, 

subjectification, 76, 97, 203-4; under 

discipline, 183-84; and prohesion, 
184-86; under security, 183-84 
Sucaro, 11-12, 110-12, 117, 132, 148, 

151- 53 

Support Funds for Public Security (FASP), 
119, 122, 164 

surveillance: debates concerning, 4-7; 

definitions of, 3, 18 «, 179. See also 
surveillance studies, surveillance 

surveillance studies, 3-7, 16-20, 31, 91-93, 

187- 88, 196 

Surveillance Studies Centre, 199 
surveillance technologies, 26-27, 92-98; 
accountability promoted through, 
202-03; commercialization of, 5-6, 
27; deskilling by, 188; deterministic 
views of, 196; and emergence, 146, 
171-76, 194-98; engagement with, 
179, 199-205, 2.01 fig.; equality 
promoted through, 200-01; fatalistic 
views of, 198; freedom from, 
199-200; globalization of, 7-8, 

179; identity threatened by, 4-5; 
legitimizing, 166-69; materiality of, 
17-18; privacy from, 4, 203-04; 
and Mexican state, 9-10, 26-33, 
53-55, 191-95; resistance to, 6, 
101-40, 191-93, 197-99; social 
sorting through, 6, 31, 181; and 
state formation, 28, 50-55, 92-98, 
144-46; and statecraft, 194-98; 
strength of, 187-88; successes of, 

I 9 3-94; an d tactility, 179-186; and 
visibility, 179-86; weakness of, 5, 
15-16, 25, 99-102, 187-93, T 97 
surveillant assemblage, 18, 9on, 93, 

188- 89, I 94 

tactility, of surveillance technologies, 


Talsud company, 83 

targeted governance, 183 

taxation, as tactic of statecraft, 162-65 

254 I Index 

technical resilience, as tactic of statecraft, 

Technique, i86n 
TelCel, 99, i34n, 138, 170 
Telecom Law, 175 
Telefonica Mexico, 128, 170 
la tenencia, 77, 158 
Tenochtitlan, 35-36, 78 
threats and incentives, as tactic of statecraft, 
tianguis, 143 
Tilly, Charles, 172-73 
Tribuna de la Acordada, 20, 40 
Tsarnaev brothers, 5, 188 
Twitter, 100, 107, 189, 203 

United States National Security Agency 
(NSA), 187-89, 198, i99n, 200 
Urry, John, 65,71 

Veloz Motor Company (VMC), 11-12, 
110-12, 117-18, 148-53 
vehicle identification numbers (VIN), 59, 

63, 86; as hesion, 95; in Public 
Registry of Vehicles (REPUVE), 18, 
30, 59, 61/zg., 63, 86, 91, 130, 161, 
180, 183; standards for, 133 
Velazquez de Lorea, Miguel, 40 

verificacion vehicular, 79-8 1 
vibrant matter, 28, 50, 96, 192 
Viceroy Bernardo de Galvez, 2 
Villa, Francisco (Pancho), 57 
VIN. See vehicle identification numbers (VTN) 
visibility, and surveillance technologies, 25, 

Virgin of Guadalupe, 1 
von Humboldt, Alexander, 78na 
voter card, 29; biometrics of, 58, 54, 10 1, 
137; history of, 47-48, 137; as 
obstacle to Citizen Identity Card 
(CEDI), 101, 125, 137, 165-66; 
redesign of, 175 

Yellow Bug (Cabrera), 68, 70 fig. 

Yo Soy 132 movement, 202-03 

War on Crime, 1, 9-10, 140, 205; 

surveillance technologies in, 9-10 
weakness, of surveillance technologies, 25, 
179, 187-93 

Weapons of the Weak (Scott), 1 03-1 04 
weapons of the weak, 103-04, 136 

zambo, 37. See also castas 
Zapata, Emiliano, 57 
Zedillo, Ernesto, 83, 96 


With Mexico's War on Crime as the backdrop, Making Things Stick offers an inno- 
vative analysis of how surveillance technologies impact governance in the global 
society. More than just tools to monitor ordinary people, surveillance technologies are 
imagined by government officials as a way to reform the national state by focusing 
on the material things-cellular phones, automobiles, human bodies-that can enable 
crime. In describing the challenges that the Mexican government has encountered in 
implementing this novel approach to social control, Keith Guzik presents surveillance 
technologies as a sign of state weakness rather than strength and as an opportunity 
for civic engagement rather than retreat. 

“This book rethinks the idea of surveillance. Surveillance technologies are elements 
in an assemblage of other objects and people, so their materiality matters for how 
we understand surveillance and power. I very much welcome the focus on the rela- 
tionships between technologies, authorities, and those who are governed within their 
purview.” LOUISE AMOORE, author of The Politics of Possibility, Professor of Human 
Geography, Durham University 

“We live in an era of intense state surveillance and in a moment when we are both 
aware of the general outlines of the surveillance state and, yet, still mostly uncer- 
tain about how to think about what surveillance is. For readers anxious to put the 
surveillance state in a broader global and conceptual framework, it will be a must- 
read.” TOBY JONES, Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University 

“This is a very interesting work, filled with insight and built on solid empirical research. 
It shows a deep understanding of the role of surveillance in modern societies and, 
within that larger aim, focuses on creative and compelling ways in the case of Mexico." 
DIANE E. DAVIS, Charles Dyer Norton Professor of Regional Planning and Urbanism, 
Harvard University 

KEITH GUZIK is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado, Den- 
ver. He is the author of Arresting Abuse and the coeditor of The Mangle in Practice. 


A free ebook version of this title is available through Luminos, University of 
California Press’s new open access publishing program for monographs. 
Visit to learn more. 

Cover illustration: Damian Ortega, Cosmic Thing, 2002. 1983 Volkswagon 
Beatle, stainless steel, wire, and plexiglass, dimensions variable. Courtesy of 
the artist and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and Kuriman- 
zutto, Mexico City. 

ISBN T7fl-0-520-Efl404-3 

9 780520 284043