Small Wars Journal

Counterinsurgency as an Approach to Organized Crime in Latin America

Counterinsurgency as an Approach to Organized Crime in Latin America by Yuri Neves - Georgetown Security Studies Review

The growing complexity and capabilities of criminal organizations in Latin America necessitate a new approach to fight crime in the region. The conditions that give rise to insurgencies, are similar to those that allow organized crime groups to prosper. Furthermore, both entities utilize similar strategies. Therefore, any policy that aims at defeating these groups should utilize counterinsurgency strategies (COIN).

While many have critiqued using counterinsurgency tactics to combat criminal organizations, many of these critiques are misguided or narrowly conceived. Counterinsurgency simply refers to tactics used to combat an enemy that relies upon, and blends in, with the civilian population. So, while counterinsurgency inevitably conjures images of security forces utilizing heavy duty military hardware against masses of populations, this is only one application of COIN doctrine. Using COIN strategies to combat organized crime is not the same as militarizing the police. Rather, it is an appreciation of the political causes of organized crime. Counterinsurgency campaigns can range from a “hearts and minds” approach, in which the focus is on winning the population’s support, to the kind of brutal tactics employed by the Sri Lanka government in their fight against the Tamil Tigers. While insurgencies differ in that they aim to overthrow the existing government, there are enough similarities with criminal organizations to make use of COIN tactics appropriate…

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Categories: El Centro