She maps violence in the tracks of the drug cartels


Already when Melissa Rubio studied economics at University De Los Andes in Bogota, Colombia, she began to dream of a future as a researcher. She was particularly interested in the connection between economic factors and the crime that surrounded her in everyday life. When the time came to choose a postgraduate education, she discovered that several leading researchers in the subject were at the School of Business, Economics and Law in Gothenburg.

Melissa Rubio. Photo by Carina Gran
Photo: Carina Gran

As part of her postgraduate education, Melissa Rubio worked a number of sharp projects. In one paper, she examines how drug-related violence affects trust in Colombian communities. Initially, the research work was about locating the hotbeds of conflict.

“A ton of coca leaves is needed to produce one kilogram of cocaine, so handling requires large land areas. Often, the cocaine is produced in nearby laboratories, which in turn requires labor. The drug cartels must exert a great deal of force to control both agricultural land and communities. I started by studying which biological conditions are optimal for cocaine cultivation. With the help of satellite images, I then got detailed information on temperature, humidity etc and was able to map out where it was appropriate to grow coca. It turned out that it was possible to predict the level of violence in different areas based on that map,” says Melissa Rubio.

But the research climate is the warmer

It may seem paradoxical to travel to Gothenburg to learn how to do research on violence and crime in developing countries, but the competence and the research climate decided.
“I heard about researchers like Randi Hjalmarsson and Anna Bindler and was told that the School of Business, Economics and Law was a good place to learn the craft of research. And that turned out to be right. I have very encouraging supervisors and professors in an environment where you discuss ideas with people from all over the world. It has made my research process very rich. I'm not so fond of the winter here, but the research climate is the warmer,” says Melissa Rubio.

This is an article from the School's Magazine 2019