Small Wars Journal

El Centro

Criminal Armed Groups Compete with the State and Each Other

Thu, 07/14/2022 - 5:03pm

SWJ-El Centro Senior Fellows John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker discuss their recent curated collection Competition in Order and Progress: Criminal Insurgencies and Criminal Governance in Brazil in "Criminal Armed Groups Compete with the State and Each Other" at the Urban Violence Research Network Blog "Word on the Street" today.

Police Brazil

Their curated collection looks at the competition for power among Brazil's criminal armed groups (CAGs). and the state.  

The text includes research notes and works by Robert J. Bunker, John P. Sullivan, Pablo A. Baisotti, as well as a “Foreword: A Practitioner-Academic Dialogue on Criminal Insurgency and the Crime-Terror Nexus in Brazil” by Rashmi Singh, essays by José de Arimatéia da Cruz and Becky Kohler da Cruz, Robert Muggah, Christian Vianna de Azevedo, Luis Jorge Garay-Salamanca, Eduardo Salcedo-Albarán and Guillermo Macías, Matthew Aaron Richmond, Carlos Frederico de Oliveira Pereira, Natalie D. Baker and Gabriel Leão, Andrea Varsori, and Steven M. Nogera. 

Back matter includes a conclusion by the editors joined by José de Arimatéia da Cruz, an afterword by Robert Muggah and Ilona Szabó, and a postscript in English and Portuguese by Carlos Frederico de Oliveira Pereira.  The appendices include works by Paul Rexton Kan, Pablo Baisotti and Alma Keshavarz. The text concludes with a set of recommended additional readings.

Their article "Criminal Armed Groups Compete with the State and Each Other" is at the "Word on the Street" Blog.


John P. Sullivan, "Criminal Armed Groups Compete with the State and Each Other," Word on the Street (Urban Violence Research Network), 14 July 2022.


The edited collection John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker, Eds. Competition in Order and Progress: Criminal Insurgencies and Governance in Brazil, a Small Wars Journal–El Centro Anthology was published in March 2022.


Drug Networks and Weak States: Infrastructural Capacity and Transnational Power in Central America’s “Northern Triangle”

Mon, 06/27/2022 - 4:49pm
Transnational drug networks have posed a fundamental challenge to the political systems of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras in the 21st century. These “Northern Triangle” nations of Central America were among the most violent in the world in the early 2010s, and their governments have struggled to exert even the most basic kinds of political authority as they have been caught up in the global drug trade. This article analyzes how these conditions came about, their impact on these nations, and how vulnerable national governments have responded in recent years to the challenges posed by transnational drug networks. It does so in the context of the capacity of Northern Triangle governments to confront the power of transnational drug networks, with reference to the concept of “state infrastructural capacity.” The article employs this concept to describe the drug networks’ usurpation of basic national government functions in recent decades. And it assesses recent attempts by these national governments, often in collaboration with outside forces, to cope with and challenge the power of transnational drug networks in this same theoretical context. The larger conclusion points to shocking cases of transnational drug network power, but also significant and unexpected efforts by seemingly powerless national governments to counter it.

About the Author(s)

Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 50: Criminal Car Bombings, Explosives, Drones, and Organizational Adaptation in Ecuador

Fri, 06/17/2022 - 11:10pm
A series of car bombings by criminal gangs in Ecuador demonstrates the challenge of criminal enterprises directly confronting the state. In a recent (29 May 2022) car bombing in front of a police station (Unidad de Vigilancia Comunitaria/Community Surveillance Unit – UVC) in La Florida, Guayaquil, a taxi exploded. The day before, police conducted a controlled removal of an explosive device left in front of a local business. Officials claim the attack was a response to the removal of gang graffiti associated with Los Tiguerones prison gang.

About the Author(s)

What the “Bad Guys” Teach Us About Contemporary Conflict—An Opinion Essay

Wed, 06/15/2022 - 1:48am
A new and dangerous dynamic is at work around the world today. The new dynamic involves the migration of political power (i.e., the authoritative allocation of values in a society) from the traditional nation-state to unconventional non-state actors such as transnational criminal organizations, Maoist-Leninist insurgents, militias, private armies, enforcer gangs, and other modern mercenaries. These actors promulgate their own rule-of-law and have the capability to seriously threaten the security and well-being of the global community. That hegemonic activity must inevitably result in an epochal transition from the traditional Western nation-state system and its values to something else dependent on the values—good, bad, or non-existent—to the winner.

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Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 49: Paraguayan Prosecutor Assassinated in Jet Ski Attack in Colombia

Sun, 05/15/2022 - 6:29pm
Anti-mafia prosecutor, Marcelo Pecci from Paraguay was assassinated on a beach in Barú, Colombia near Cartagena while on his honeymoon with his wife who witnessed the murder. The attack—with the hallmarks of a “transnational hit”—occurred on Tuesday, 10 May 2022 when a pair of attackers infiltrated the beach riding a jet ski. Pecci specialized in prosecuting transnational organized crime and narcotics trafficking cases.

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Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 48: “Novo Cangaço” Style Urban Raid in Guarapuava, Paraná (PR), Brazil

Mon, 05/09/2022 - 7:04pm
A gang of about 30 armed criminals attacked an armored car company’s place of business in Guarapuava, Paraná (PR) at approximately 2200 hours (10 PM), Sunday 17 April 2022. The quadrilha (gang) used “Novo Cangaço” tactics, including explosives, blockades, and the use of hostages as “human shields.” They directly confronted police in the early stages of the robbery/assault to inhibit their response activities.

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Commentary: It Starts at the Top in Honduras: The Case of Juan Orlando Hernández, Drug Trafficking, and Organized Crime

Fri, 04/22/2022 - 6:05pm
Commentary by SWJ−El Centro Fellow Jonathan D. Rosen on the arrest and extradition of Juan Orlando Hernández, the former president of Honduras. The indictment and arrest reveals the intricate state-organized crime nexus in that Northern Central American Country.

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New Global Cities in Latin America and Asia: Welcome to the Twenty-First Century

Tue, 04/19/2022 - 4:24pm

Small Wars Journal−El Centro Fellow Pablo Baisotti has published a new book New Global Cities in Latin America and Asia: Welcome to the Twenty-First Century.  The book assesses the role of global cities while examining their social difficulties: organized crime, drug trafficking, slums, and economic inequalities. Dr. Baisotti includes researchers from a range of fields to interpret the role and future of megacities in Latin America and China. 

Baisotti Cover

The book is divided into two parts: Part I. Asia,: Center of growth and globalism and part II. Latin America: Opening , Globalization, and Crisis. Part II contains two chapter of specific interest to SWJ−El Centro readers. These are: Chapter 9, "Urban Conflict and Transnational Crime in Latin American Cities by SWJ−El Centro Senior fellow John P. Sullivan and Chapter 11, "Economy, Inequalities, and Cities: Chinese Influence in Latin America. New Global Cities in Latin America and Asia is available in Kindle, Hardcover, and Paperback formats. 

Source: Pablo Baisotti, New Global Cities in Latin America and Asia: Welcome to the Twenty-First Century. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 2022.