Small Wars Journal

El Centro

PIPE DREAMS: The Taliban and Drugs from the 1990s into Its New Regime

Wed, 09/15/2021 - 2:51pm
Perhaps nowhere in the world has a country and the international community faced an illicit drug economy as deeply entrenched as in Afghanistan. After toppling the Ashraf Ghani government in August of this year, the Taliban has announced its intention to rid Afghanistan of drugs. They tried to ban opium production in 2000 with limited success, This analysis by SWJ-El Centro Fellow Vanda Felbab-Brown provides a retrospective view of the Taliban's opium control initiatives from the 1990s to the present. She concludes that maintaining these suppression efforts would be wickedly difficult and could internally destabilize the Taliban.

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The state of police violence in the Americas ZFTWARNING Mon, 09/13/2021 - 2:32pm
This article reviews the lethal violence statistics featured in the "Homicide Monitor"—a data visualization tracking international murder rates—confirms that Latin America and Caribbean countries are indeed suffering from a disproportionately high burden of lethal force by police compared to other parts of the world. Notwithstanding norms and standards urging restraint, countries like Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico report some of the highest levels of police killings on the planet.
Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 43: Former Rio de Janeiro Prison Secretary Arrested for Collusion with the Comando Vermelho ZFTWARNING Fri, 09/10/2021 - 5:36pm
On 17 August 2021, the ex-Secretary of Prisons (Secretaria de Administração Penitenciária – Seap), Raphael Montenegro, was arrested for corruption after meeting with a Comando Vermelho (CV or Red Command) leader in the Federal Prison in Catanduvas, Paraná. He was fired from his position the day of his arrest. Montenegro was offering to transfer gang members to less restrictive state prisons in Rio de Janeiro and overlook the gang’s activities and prison expansion in exchange for reducing violence in Rio.

The Forensic Crisis in Mexico

Thu, 09/09/2021 - 4:37pm

The Forensic Crisis in Mexico: More than 52 thousand unidentified dead people in Mexico according to official figures: MNDM Report

Mexico is experiencing a profound forensic crisis in terms of human identification: there are 52,000 unidentified deceased persons, according to official figures obtained by the Movement for Our Disappeared in Mexico (Movimiento por Nuestros Desaparecidos en México).

The Movimiento por Nuestros Desaparecidos en México (Movement for our Disappeared in Mexico – MNDM) has issued a report “La Crisis Forense en México: más de 52 mil personas fallecidas sin identificar("The Forensic Crisis in Mexico: more than 52,000 unidentified deceased persons"). The report in Spanish notes that the situation regarding unidentified deceased persons has reached crisis proportions.

A press release in Spanish about the report is available here. A synopsis of the report in English follows.

MNDM comprises 74 local collectives of families with disappeared family members (desaparecidos) located across 22 states in Mexico and three in Central America. The movement is also composed of several human rights organizations that have compiled a report exposing the forensic crisis that has resulted in the lack of identification of over 52,000 deceased Mexicans. The movement argues that the leading cause of the current forensic problem is the rise in violence and human rights violations caused by the war on drugs and the militarized approach taken by the Mexican government to combat it. They expose several problems with the current forensic system, including the lack of experts specialized in forensic identification and the lack of adequate training of many scientists assigned to forensic identification. Another issue is the low budgets allocated to forensic institutions and problems with the coordination of databases.

The report was created by using data provided under transparency laws in Mexico and the firsthand experience of families that have tried to find their missing family members. The report shows that of the 52,000 deceased, 60 percent are in mass graves in public cemeteries, while a shocking 22 percent of the deceased have an unknown or undetermined location.

The Mexican government and the UN have taken an essential step in addressing this forensic crisis by creating the Extraordinary Mechanism of Forensic Identification (Mecanismo Extraordinario de Identificación Forense – MEIF).

The MEIF is tasked with helping identify the 52,000 deceased and was formed on 4 December 2019. Its operations were delayed by the lack of a coordinating group. Fortunately, the government recently announced the coordinating group on 30 August 2021. The MEIF is important as it reflects the government's acknowledgment that the ordinary mechanisms to deal with the identification of deceased persons in Mexico are not currently sufficient.

“La Crisis Forense en México: más de 52 mil personas fallecidas sin identificar also provides several other recommendations to help transform the ordinary forensic services in Mexico. Among these recommendations are the expansion, improvement, and autonomy of forensic services in Mexico and updating protocols for forensic identification. They also suggest the need for the approval of technical protocols in archeology, anthropology, necropsy, and odontology and the creation of national data banks to help with forensic identification, such as a national bank for forensic data. Most importantly, they seek to end the illegal practice of burying people who have not been identified into collective mass graves and continue international cooperation to help resolve this forensic crisis.

Source: La Crisis Forense en México: más de 52 mil personas fallecidas sin identificar. Movimiento por Nuestros Desaparecidos en México (MNDM). August 2021.

 

Messengers of a Drug War in the Cyberspace: The Case of Tamaulipas ZFTWARNING Tue, 09/07/2021 - 3:39pm
This research article applies Social Network Analysis (SNA) toward a preliminary understanding of the relationship between the various actors that communicate on social media platforms (essentially through Twitter), report situations of risk, and inform about matters of organized crime, violence, and insecurity in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. The analysis finds that dynamics of violence and organized crime in this region have spilled over into the cyberspace. It also identifies a close relationship between law enforcement agents, state and local politicians, local and national reporters, “citizen journalists,” as well as key anonymous social media users that represent a variety of interests—including possibly those of corrupt authorities and even organized crime. The present study highlights the preponderance of anonymous accounts when reporting about organized crime in Tamaulipas.
Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 42: Brazilian Gangs Utilize Human Shields, Explosives, and Drones in a New ‘Cangaço’ Style Urban Bank Raid in Araçatuba, São Paulo ZFTWARNING Sun, 09/05/2021 - 4:01pm
On Sunday 29 August 2021, at approximately 2200 hours, around 20 armed gunmen conducted a series of raids on three banks in Araçatuba, São Paulo, killing at least three. The armed commando wore bulletproof vests and helmets and used assault rifles, explosives, and drones. Hostages were also used as human shields to hamper their capture and facilitate escape. Blockades constructed from burning vehicles, as well as explosives were deployed to facilitate their escape during the ‘mega-robbery.’ Brazil has been plagued by this type ‘urban bank raid’ in recent years.

SWJ-El Centro Senior Fellows Interviewed on Mexican Cartel Tactics

Fri, 09/03/2021 - 6:24pm

SWJ-El Centro Senior Fellows Interviewed on Mexican Cartel Tactics

SWJ-El Centro senior fellows Dr. Robert J. Bunker and Dr. John P. Sullivan were interviewed by Chris Dalby at Insight Crime.  They discussed their recent edited collection Illicit Tactical Progress: Mexican Cartel Tactical Notes 2013-2020.

Illicit Tactical Progress

The interview in available in English as "How Mexico's Cartels Have Learned Military Tactics" and Spanish as "Cómo los carteles de México han aprendido tácticas militares." The book chronicles the evolution of tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by Mexican cartels and criminal armed groups (CAGs).

"As violence has continued to rise in Mexico year after year, criminal groups have adopted an increasingly militarized approach to their tactics, weaponry and training." – Chris Dalby

Sources:

Chris Dalby, "How Mexico's Cartels Have Learned Military Tactics." InSight Crime, 2 September 2021.

Chris Dalby, "Cómo los carteles de México han aprendido tácticas militares." InSight Crime, 2 de septiembre de 2021.

Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, Editors, Illicit Tactical Progress: Mexican Cartel Tactical Notes 2013-2020Bloomington: Xlibris, 2021.

SWJ El Centro Reseña del libro – Fuerzas Armadas, Guardia Nacional y violencia en México

Mon, 08/30/2021 - 3:35pm
Review of Raúl Benítez Manaut and Elisa Gómez Sánchez, Eds. "Fuerzas Armadas, Guardia Nacional y violencia en México" en español. The text assesses the implementation of Mexico's Guardia Nacional (National Guard) in light of concerns of insecurity and militarization.

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SWJ El Centro Book Review – Fuerzas Armadas, Guardia Nacional y violencia en México

Mon, 08/23/2021 - 8:33pm
English language review of Raúl Benítez Manaut and Elisa Gómez Sánchez, Eds. "Fuerzas Armadas, Guardia Nacional y violencia en México." The original text in Spanish assesses the implementation of Mexico's Guardia Nacional (National Guard) in light of concerns of insecurity and militarization.

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State Weakness and Transnational Power: Explaining the Crisis in Venezuela ZFTWARNING Fri, 08/20/2021 - 7:38pm
Venezuela, once one of the more prosperous and democratic nations in Latin America, is currently experiencing the region’s most severe political and economic crisis. This article focuses on the Venezuelan state during the crisis, and how its exercise of “despotic” capacity made it a repressive actor in relation to its citizens, and a weak actor in relation to powerful transnational groups. The larger outcome has been a Venezuelan nation increasingly vulnerable to transnational criminal organizations and other external forces.