Small Wars Journal

El Centro

Malignant Legions: Treating the Strategic Cancer of the Cartel de los Soles SWJED Tue, 12/18/2018 - 6:41pm
Mapping the Cartel de los Soles in order to identify individuals that were entrenched in the network but untargeted by U.S. sanctions, as well as discover subgroups and seams which could be influenced as a means to provide opportunity to the opposition.
Mexican Cartel Strategic Note No. 26: Grenade Attack on US Consulate in Guadalajara Followed by CJNG Narcomantas Denying Responsibility SWJED Mon, 12/17/2018 - 12:45am
While grenade use by cartels and gangs in Mexico isn’t novel, this attack nevertheless represents a strategic progression by once again demonstrating the willingness of criminal cartels to attack US targets in Mexico and wage information operations in order to influence enforcement initiatives by both the United States and Mexico.

Wars in All but Name

Clausewitz defined war as “a continuation of politics by other means” linking war with political objectives. But what if kinetic violence to break the will of an enemy is systematically organized but has no conventional political objective? Would it still be war? Its objectives might well be to control people and territory; to provide unquestioned order for a community; to regulate behaviors.

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El Centro Field Note No. 5: Grillo “The Cricket”—a Santa Muerte Adherent & Sicario for Multiple Cartels

This essay is an excerpt from a longer field investigation conducted by Falko Ernst in Michoacán in 2015. The author met with this sicario four times to interview him about his life story. The full story was originally published as “The Life and Death of a Mexican Hitman” on 17 October 2018 by the International Crisis Group.

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SWJ-El Centro Book Review: "El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency"

Mexico’s cartels have become a global problem. From the manufacture and sale of drugs, to human trafficking, turf wars, among other criminal acts, narcos have an international footprint. Ioan Grillo’s "El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency", is an account of how Mexico’s cartels were once drug smugglers who later radically transformed into “paramilitary death squads”

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Bolsonaro Gets Boost from Military Allies

Brazilian President-elect Jai Bolsonaro’s reverence for the military is well-known, but he’s unlikely to bring Brazil back to a military dictatorship after taking office on Jan. 1. How he tackles the country’s crime and corruption problems is another question. There were more than 63,000 homicides in Brazil in 2017, and the military has become the primary force against the gang problem.

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El Centro Field Note No. 4: Hotel El Mayo, Culiacán Interview - Active Sinaloa Cartel Sicario ‘El Gordo’

In 2016, Voeten and Engels made the documentary ‘Calais: Welcome to the Jungle’, a multilayered documentary on a squalid refugee camp in Northern France ( ). For Canvas TV in Belgium they made ‘Sacrifice’ in 2017 as a short documentary on rituals in the Mexican Drug Violence for which they interviewed sicarios in Ciudad Juárez and Culiacán.

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Why Are People Fleeing Central America? A New Breed of Gangs Is Taking Over

Why Are People Fleeing Central America? A New Breed of Gangs Is Taking Over by Robbie Whelan, Photographs by Juan Carlos – Wall Street Journal




Gangs such as MS-13 and Barrio 18 prey on their own neighborhoods in a violent, chaotic model spreading through the region.

The Congress of El Salvador agreed in April to extend the authority of jailers to keep gang leaders in solitary confinement. Over the next five days, the two reigning street gangs killed more than 100 people.


With the highest homicide rate of all countries in the world, El Salvador is a nation held hostage.


Law-enforcement officials estimate that one gang, MS-13, operates an extortion racket with little pressure from authorities in 248 of the 262 of the country’s municipalities. It battles for neighborhood control with another gang, Barrio 18, which runs its own protection scheme in nearly as many regions.


Politicians must ask permission of gangs to hold rallies or canvass in many neighborhoods, law-enforcement officials and prosecutors said. In San Salvador, the nation’s capital, gangs control the local distribution of consumer products, experts said, including diapers and Coca-Cola . They extort commuters, call-center employees, and restaurant and store owners. In the rural east, gangs threaten to burn sugar plantations unless farmers pay up.


They have grown so pervasive that “you don’t know where the state ends and the criminal organizations begin,” said Mauricio Ramírez Landaverde, El Salvador’s minister of justice and security, who oversees the national police force…

Read on.