Small Wars Journal

El Centro

SWJ-El Centro Book Review – Blood Gun Money: How America Arms Gangs and Cartels ZFTWARNING Tue, 04/06/2021 - 8:41pm
Review of Ioan Grillo's "Blood Gun Money: How America Arms gangs and Cartels" by Dr. Robert J. Bunker.

ELN’s Territorial Expansion: Is “Strategic Limbo” A Window of Opportunity?

Thu, 03/18/2021 - 2:05am
The formal demobilisation of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) after the 2016 peace agreement with the Colombian government has resulted in a multiplicity of armed actors vying over former FARC territory and resources throughout the country. Conflicts over a monopoly of illicit economies (such as the production and trafficking of coca products including cocaine, the control of illegal mines, extortion rackets etc.) has continued to fuel violence, particularly worsening on the Colombian/Venezuelan border. In recent years, the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, the ELN) has continued to expand its presence throughout Colombia, particularly capitalising on territorial vacuums since 2017 where FARC is no longer present, and in some other regions where the organisation has reportedly built alliances with other armed groups. Furthermore, the ELN has seized the opportunity to continue to territorially expand into Venezuela.

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The Narco Hybrid-Threat

Thu, 03/18/2021 - 12:06am
Although a plethora of literature has already debated what should be categorised as a hybrid threat, most of the research is still based on contesting the definition rather than an analysis of specific case studies. With this in mind, this paper posits that the rapid development of tactics used by Mexican narco-cartels has allowed these organisations to build a solid structure of influence. A structure that has amplified their efforts to coerce the state while increasing their capacity to dislocate social life and erode state institutions. Thus, by evaluating the Sinaloa Cartel’s strategic and operational methods, it demonstrates how these organisations deserve a place in the hybrid threat category.

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COVID-19 is reconfiguring organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean

Tue, 03/02/2021 - 3:59pm
Latin America and the Caribbean are suffering from the twin epidemics of COVID-19 and organized crime and violence. On the one hand, a third of all the world’s COVID-19 related fatalities occurred in the region's sprawling unequal cities, especially its most vulnerable neighborhoods. On the other, the region clocks over a third of all global homicides despite registering less than a tenth of the global population. Some 43 of the 50 most violent cities on the planet (with populations over 250,000 people) are located there.

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SWJ-El Centro Announces New Slate of Fellows/Associates for 2021

Mon, 03/01/2021 - 9:29pm

SWJ-El Centro Announces New Slate of Fellows/Associates for 2021

Small Wars Journal-El Centro (SWJ-El Centro) is pleased to announce the Class of Fellows and Associates for 2021. Fellows have already made significant and distinguished contributions to the field through the course of their career. Associates are actively engaged in research or practice in the region and in transnational organized crime or insurgency. 


New El Centro Fellows are Dr. Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, Dr. Alexandra Phelan, and Dr. Teun Voeten:

  • Dr. Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera is Associate Professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University. She holds a PhD in Political Science from The New School for Social Research. Her areas of expertise are Mexico-U.S. relations, organized crime, immigration, border security, social movements and human trafficking. She is author of Los Zetas Inc.: Criminal Corporations, Energy, and Civil War in Mexico (University of Texas Press, 2017; Spanish version: Planeta, 2018).
  • Dr. Alexandra Phelan is Deputy Director of Monash Gender, Peace and Security Centre (Monash GPS), and a Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Monash University. Her research interests include insurgent governance and legitimation activities, insurgent women, political violence and organised crime with particular focus on Latin America. Alex completed her PhD in 2019 at Monash University. Alex is editor of Terrorism, Gender and Women: Toward an Integrated Research Agenda (Routledge 2020).
  • Dr. Teun Voeten is a war photographer. Voeten studied philosophy and cultural anthropology in the Netherlands. Since 1990, he covered conflicts in Israel, Rwanda, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Liberia, Lebanon, Sudan. In 2012, he published the photo book Narco Estado: Drug Violence in Mexico. In 2018, he obtained his PhD. His totally rewritten study appears as a Small Wars Journal book: Mexican Drug Violence. Hybrid Warfare, Predatory Capitalism and the Logic of Cruelty.

The new El Centro Associate is Daniel Weisz Argomedo:

  • Daniel Weisz Argomedo is a PhD candidate in Political Science at the University of California Irvine with a focus on International Relations and Comparative Studies. He is currently writing his dissertation on the war on drugs and its impact on women’s security in Mexico. He holds an M.A. in Political Science from San Diego State and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Alberta. He wrote "Climate Change, Drug Traffickers and La Sierra Tarahumara" for the special issue on climate change and global security at the Journal of Strategic Security.

SWJ-El Centro wishes departing Associate Marisa Mendoza and Intern Angelo Thomas Godspeed as they pursue their academic careers.

Dr. Robert J. Bunker

Dr. John P. Sullivan

Senior Fellows, SWJ-El Centro

SWJ El Centro Book Review – In the Vortex of Violence: Lynching, Extralegal Justice, and the State in Post-Revolutionary Mexico

Thu, 02/25/2021 - 3:53pm
Review of Gema Kloppe-Santamaría, "In the Vortex of Violence: Lynching, Extralegal Justice, and the State in Post-Revolutionary Mexico" by Daniel Weisz.

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Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 35: Mara Salvatrucha Training Camp Dismantled by Honduran Police

Sat, 02/20/2021 - 9:38pm
Honduran police investigators dismantled a Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) operations center on Friday, 19 February 2021. MS-13 members were arrested in the compound, which also included a narcolaboratorio (drug laboratory). The camp was located in a mountainous region on the highway from Tegulcigalpa to Olancho, Honduras. Drugs and small arms were seized during the raid—Operación DeI Impacto (Operation Impact).

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Criminal Distancing: Drug Cartels and the State during Covid-19

Tue, 02/02/2021 - 6:24pm
Drug cartels and gangs are embracing both familiar and new tactics to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic resulting in challenges to states. These challenges include" disruption, penetration, and adaptation. Additional research and data is needed to gauge the impact of this criminal exploitation and its influence on states.

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