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The Cartel’s Colour

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The Cartel’s Colour

Pedro Cardoso

Corruption, money laundering and alliances with national and Brazilians’ drug dealers and with the Russian mafia. Mexico’s “El Chapo” Guzmán’s Sinaloa Cartel is in Portugal and has set up a cocaine transhipment base for central and northern Europe. The Mexican drug dealer sons control the cocaine shipment to Portugal.

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This article was originally published as “A cor do cartel” at the Portuguese magazine Expresso (Lisbon) on 17 August 2019.

A Portuguese version is available at https://mukuarimi.blogspot.com/2019/08/a-cor-do-cartel.html.

On 10 April 2007, a ship container with hundreds of boxes containing frozen octopuses arrived to Port of Leixões in Oporto, Portugal. The cargo came from Mexico. Final destination: Spain, probably Galicia. Alerted by its Spanish counterpart, the Portuguese Judicial Police (Polícia Judiciária – PJ) knew what to do. Amidst the octopuses that probably would end smothered in sweet pepper in some Galician tavern, the PJ found 100 fiberglass packages laden with 2,200 kilograms of cocaine. A label with large letters and a white horse printed on a black background guaranteed that this was a “Producto de Calidad” [quality product]. The quality of the shipment of this Mexican-accented “octopus” would yield 77 millions of euros in the European market, authorities estimated at the time. A Portuguese hotel owner was arrested.

“Operation Octopus” exposed the Mexican cartels’ tentacles in the European cocaine market, which until then was dominated by the Colombians. In the following years, groups such as the Sinaloa Cartel, Los Zetas, and the Gulf Cartel deeply settled in Portugal and in other European countries, as Expresso (the Portuguese newspaper) revealed last April.

A report from the Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República – PGR, in Spanish) of Mexico, filtered by the local press in late 2017, confirmed Portugal as a territory of Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán’s [Sinaloa] cartel. One more country on a list of 42 targeted criminal organizations worldwide. Sinaloa is with “the fastest growing international group” in Mexico, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) acknowledged in last year’s “Drug Threat Assessment.”

And it´s “the most powerful drug cartel in the world,” says Michael Vigil, former director of DEA’s International Operations to Expresso. The decline of rival groups played in favour of the accelerated internationalization of [the] Sinaloa [cartel]. In recent years, murders, arrests and infighting have thrown the bloodthirsty Zetas and the old Gulf Cartel into a downward spiral of power and strength. In Mexico and in Europe, the Sinaloa Cartel, and the increasingly international and highly violent Jalisco New Generation cartel (“beware of this Mexican group,” warn the specialists), are filling in the blanks.

In this dangerous chess game of many pawns, Portugal “is essentially a country overflowing with cocaine” of Colombian origin and a Mexican stamp, points out Michael Vigil. A small fraction stays in domestic territory for domestic consumption, but most of the drug goes to central and northern Europe, where it´s sold at much higher prices. The profit is direct. In 2016, the European cocaine market earned more than € 5,7 billion, according to figures from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

Twelve years after the first cocaine seizure linked to international drug trafficking by Mexican groups, Portugal remains a key piece of a billionaire business that moves in the shadows of the country’s ports, airports and roads.

A Patchwork Blanket

“Sinaloa is like a patchwork blanket we never finish weaving”, the editor-in-chief of the Rio Doce newspaper tells Expresso. Andrés Villarreal knows what he is talking about. The weekly is a powerful voice in the heart of the cartel’s territory, in Culiacán, capital of the state of Sinaloa.

We then take the pieces and stitch them one by one, with the long stitches of Michael Vigil. After several contacts and days waiting, in a quick 10-minute call, the former DEA director sets the scene: “I can’t give you names, and basically this is all we know:  ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán’s sons are responsible for shipping drugs from the Sinaloa Cartel to Portugal. The profit logic is rising: Sinaloa buys the cocaine in Colombia for a certain price, it inflates the sale value to criminal organizations in Portugal, and they transport it to northern and central Europe, where they get even greater [profit] margins. In Portugal, Sinaloa delivers the cocaine to Portuguese, Brazilian and Russian drug traffickers”.

The relationship between Mexican and intermediaries in Portugal is somewhat blurred. But there are loose ends that have to be pulled. In the Judicial Police report that Expresso consulted in April, the Portuguese authorities admitted the presence of the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC) on national territory. It’s the only Brazilian organization of the list. And “the only” from that country with international metastases, Thiago Rodrigues reflected. The researcher of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Psychoactive Studies in Brazil comments that “the PCC began its internationalization in Paraguay, Bolivia and also in Peru.” “The connection with Portugal was reinforced “about ten years ago, on an Atlantic route with logistical bases in Guinea-Bissau and Nigeria.” Although there are “coincidences with the Sinaloa evolution,” the scholar believes that “with the available information, it is not possible to say whether or not there is a connection between the PCC and the Mexicans.”

If in this case the doubts remain, on the other side of the world, in Russia, the story is quite different. Alliances between Sinaloa Cartel and the so called “Russian Mafia” came out to day light in the 1990s, when Mexican authorities unveiled a pact between traffickers from former Soviet Union countries and signalman Amado Carrillo Fuentes. “The deal was simple: Russians hired the Mexicans to take the cocaine to the Portuguese and Spanish ports, above all,” sums up University of Miami researcher Bruce Bagley. Amado Carrillo Fuentes, known as “Señor de los Cielos” (Lord of the Skies), was then one of the leaders of the “Federation,” an organization that preceded the Sinaloa Cartel and that was the first “home” of “El Chapo” Guzmán.

This “marriage of convenience has strengthened over time,” says Vladimir Rouvinsko of Icesi University in Colombia. The Russian scholar describes what he says it’s “a perfect relationship”: “There is no news or information about disputes between Mexican and Russian mafias and this, in the world of drug trafficking, it means that there is still a strong collaboration in a logistics level and distribution of cocaine in Portugal and Western Europe.”

The Multinational of Corruption

Sinaloa’s modus operandi in Portugal—Colombian drug transport and alliances with drug traffickers nationwide—coincides with the patterns described in numerous analyses and investigations on the subject. In a lengthy interview from Kosovo, one of the world's leading drug trafficking investigators, Edgardo Buscaglia, points out that “wherever it operates, Sinaloa looks for local groups that don’t attract attention, to forge alliances and negotiate profit sharing.” “[In] this global business logic through franchises, Sinaloa resembles the hamburger chains we all know, and that’s why we say this cartel is a multinational drug company,” adds Jorge Hernández Tinajero, author and researcher at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

In this worldwide expansion, “the corruption of government officials or institutions in the destination countries plays a fundamental role,” writes US Army War College investigator Robert Bunker to Expresso. The Mexican author Ricardo Ravelo agrees and adds: “If the Sinaloa Cartel and other drug trafficking groups are in Portugal, it is because there are one or more authorities who favour the situation.” “The idea that drug trafficking is an activity that operates solely with the cunning of criminals to circumvent the laws and surveillance of the countries of Europe must be ended. No one is smarter than anyone, here it’s called corruption,” says the journalist and investigator of Mexican drug trafficking.

A good example of these “corruption networks” linking customs, port officials or businessmen Edgardo Buscaglia, details is what the EMCDDA calls the “rip-on /rip-off method.” The scheme is simple: at the port of origin, drug traffickers open a container about to set sail (often without the knowledge to the shipowner or crew) and hide drugs in the middle of the goods. In order not to be noticed, they close the container again with a false or duplicated seal. And they cross fingers for everything to work out. In Europe, however, “previously corrupted port officials, or external teams with easy access to port terminals,” identify the container in question, strategically position it and remove the drugs. For the EMCDDA, things are very clear: “For the operation to be successful, the use of one or more corrupted employees at both the port of departure and destination is a key element.”

And in Portugal, what is known about these networks? Michael Vigil gives some clues: “The Sinaloa Cartel has contacts from people, family or friends who live in places where they do business. These contacts are meant to find clients who are willing to work with them and to buy the drug they are trafficking.”

Edgardo Buscaglia is not satisfied with general information and assumes the “concern” with what he says it’s “the relatively poor reaction of the Portuguese State in this matter.” To the Columbia University professor in the United States, “Portugal has not sufficiently strengthened the judicial system to cope with the exponential expansion of these networks in its territory,” unlike countries such as Spain, Italy and France that were able to detect various narco links with the “political, police, customs and business power.” “Portugal cooperates very well in the context of the European Union, however it has to open lines of investigation into the presence of domestic criminal networks, so that it is no longer a paradise for groups like the Sinaloa Cartel or the growing Chinese mafias.”

In the chronicles on drug trafficking written in Mexico, Portugal is a timid stage for circumstantial stories. During the trial of “El Chapo” Guzmán in New York (November 2018 to February 2019), it was known, for example, that in the 1990s, drug traffickers regularly travelled to Macau to play in casinos. The trips, to the then territory under Portuguese administration, were part of a list of extravagances that “Tololoche,” nickname of former “El Chapo” personal pilot Miguel Ángel Martinez Martínez, described in court.

Also, in the 1990s, Portugal again draws attention, now as the safe haven of the then governor of Sinaloa state, Francisco Labastida Ochoa. In 1993, the ruler fled to Lisbon after receiving strong threats from drug traffickers. He was Mexico’s ambassador to Portugal for a year. When tempers cooled, he returned to his country.

Twenty-five years later, in Mexico there are still doubts about what really happened before Labastida Ochoa fled to Portugal with ambassadorial credentials in his suitcase. In the controversial book “Señores del Narco,” Mexican journalist Anabel Hernández recovers a bombastic report 1998 from the Washington Times newspaper. The investigation exposes an alleged report in which the CIA accuses the diplomat of having collaborated with the Sinaloa Cartel, when he was state governor. Labastida Ochoa has denied the accusations. The US intelligence agency has never publicly confirmed or denied any information.

Sinaloa cartel, drugs, corruption, topics are sensitive and official investigations are endless stories. After months of insistence, the institutions that most closely follow Sinaloa operations internationally—DEA, FBI, Europol and Mexican PGR—refused or refused to detail information to Expresso. The silence is almost absolute.

Laundering Money With Cement

Edgardo Buscaglia knows that where there are drugs, there is dirty money and takes the opportunity to alert the Portuguese authorities:  “You have to understand that Sinaloa’s real goal in Europe is to turn dirty money into legal activity, investing in countless economic sectors, especially the market. Real estate. And in Portugal, money laundering is already one of Sinaloa's main activities,” says this academic, who is also one of the most internationally recognized money laundering researchers.

The economic crisis of 2008 triggered a capital injection of dubious origin from these groups into the national economy. “Since then, Portugal has been a centre of attraction for criminal groups that want to launder money, especially by buying property at very low prices,” he says. Spain’s strong pressure on the illicit business of Mexican drug traffickers in the country has made Portugal the handiest refuge. “The Latin American groups, in general, and the Sinaloa Cartel, in particular, do not have a large patrimonial business in Spanish territory, which forces them to expand to Portugal, especially to the north of the country,” comments Edgardo Buscaglia.

The “National Risk Assessment of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing,” which the Portuguese authorities released in 2015, confirms that there is a “high risk” of illicit investments with money from transnational drug trafficking. The report identifies a number of weaknesses in the Portuguese financial sector:  anonymous transactions and operations, informal money transfer systems, ignorance of potential beneficiaries of such transfers, among others.

Without mentioning names, the document also reveals that there are “Politically Exposed Persons” (the concept includes deputies, members of government, judges, active generals, municipal authorities, among other public officials) involved in “intricate networks of commercial societies,” whether directly or indirectly, through “front men.” These businesses have a “formally legitimate appearance,” but are nothing more than shell companies to launder money. Catering, tourism and real estate are the most vulnerable sectors.

In the risk analysis on Portugal, in 2017, the International Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental body to which Portugal belongs, considers that, overall, the Portuguese authorities are prepared to fight capital laundering.

In conversation with Expresso, other experts also agreed that Portugal does not appear to be a “problema country.” “I have no scientific data to say that there is a large amount of money to be laundered at Portuguese banks, and this does not seem viable to me given the size of that country’s banking,” says world expert on the subject Friedrich Schneider. Channing Mavrellis, an analyst at Global Financial Integrity, shares the opinion of the researcher at the University of Linz (Austria) but admits that, “where there are drugs, there is drug money.” And that, “money has to go out of the country,” adds Robert Bunker, a US Army War College researcher.

The line of analysis seems too thin. In 2017 and 2018, the US Department of State included Portugal in the list of 92 countries with the largest amount of money laundering in the world. The International “Strategic Narcotics Control Reports” published in those years did not go into detail, but confirmed that, “most of the money laundered in Portugal is related to drug trafficking.” “The profits from the illegal drug trade in Portugal are repatriated by traffickers to South America,” read the direct reference to the origin of cocaine that passes through national territory. Just over as month ago [in the beginning of 2019], the list was updated without any mention of Portugal.

Game of Thrones “a la Mexicana”

Former director of the Specialized Unit Against Organized Delinquency of the Mexican PGR, Samuel González, admits that, “it is complex to define Sinaloa.” “There is a lot of talk about this organization as a company, but it’s actually distinct groups that work collectively and share profits among them, including those from international drug trafficking.” For this reason, explains journalist Andrés Villarreal, “In the Rio Doce weekly we refuse to call the Sinaloa cartel, we prefer the word ‘organization’.”

The group's decentralized structure “allowed the cartel to survive the arrest of Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán” in January 2016, says researcher June S. Beittel, in an analysis by the US Congress. Analysts also do not predict big changes with El Chapo’s life sentence, sentenced 17 July. With the eclipse of ‘El Chapo’ power now focuses on the cartel’s other “historic” [leader], Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada. An “old and sick man, with diabetes, who can die at any moment,” says Michael Vigil, who predicts, “Then, the cartel would be in trouble.”

“Fighting for El Chapo’s slice,” or what’s left of it, are two of Joaquin Guzmán’s sons: Iván Archivaldo and Jesús Alfredo (those who send the drug to Portugal, according to Michael Vigil). “These are narco-juniors who never really got their hands dirty,” says the former DEA agent. Nonetheless, the face of newbie Jesús Alfredo is stamped on the “Top 10” of the most sought-after fugitives by the DEA, right next to the old guard capo image, “El Mayo” Zambada.

The Sinaloa Cartel originally produced marijuana in Badiraguato, the Sinaloan mountain range where “El Chapo” Guzmán was born, and where there are records of cannabis and poppy (opium raw material) plantations, at least since the 1920s. Samuel González says that, “over time, in the 1980s and 1990s, Sinaloa members formed the Guadalajara Cartel and then the so-called Federation, which brought together several Mexican criminal groups, and eventually broke up.” “They are really powerful,” says Michael Vigil. “Pablo Escobar only trafficked cocaine, but Sinaloa was involved in marijuana, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, synthetic opiate and fentanyl,” points out the former director of international operations at DEA.

Many analysts disagree with Michael Vigil and admit that Sinaloa is no longer the same as before. Robert Bunker sets the tone for the discussion: “The first hypothesis is that the cartel continues to have a dominant position in the drug trafficking to Europe because of its global network of criminal alliances with corrupt officials. The second is that Sinaloa’s power is declining.” The US Army War College investigator compares the dynamics of the Mexican cartels to the “Game of Thrones,” and recalls that in Mexico, the Sinaloa organization “is under heavy pressure from government actions and the relatively new, but quite powerful Jalisco New Generation cartel.” “To me,” he says, “the truth about Sinaloa is somewhere in the middle of these two options.”

Part Two: “The Dogs and the Rats

A Portuguese version, Os Cães e os Ratos, is available at https://mukuarimi.blogspot.com/p/os-caes-e-os-ratos.html.

Cocaine Trafficking to Portugal: Crossing the Pond

Portugal is the end or crossing point for all drug routes that cross the Atlantic. This year, Portuguese authorities have already seized more than six tons of cocaine at sea and on land. The large European container ports now appear to be the main objectives of the Latin American cartels.

“From the port came, on the one hand, the mountain ranges that lead to the Andean Stables at the foot of the Sierra Nevada in Santa Marta. On the other side, a few meters below, the bays and beaches bathed by the Colombian Caribbean.” Thus, begins the story of the boat “Rio Manzanares,” the thread of the book “Mares de Cocaína,” by the Mexican journalist Ana Lília Pérez.

The unfortunate voyage of the Venezuelan fishing boat is a good example of the South American sea cocaine trafficking to Europe. The vessel left Colombia in June 2008. It went through the Caribbean, Antilles and into the Atlantic. On board, five men, six dogs, countless rats and 2,258 kg of cocaine, owned by the Colombian group “Los Piturros.” Destination: West African coast.

The old rusty blue boat served as a “nodriza,” “the name drug dealers and police give to vessels that carry drugs to move it offshore to other smaller boats,” explains Ana Lilia Pérez. A few weeks after departing, European authorities detected “Rio Manzanares” off Guinea-Conakry. At dawn, on 26 July 2008, they took the boat by storm. Upon entering the fishing vessel, the agents confiscated 80 drug bales worth 70 million euros. The five men were arrested. The dogs didn't have a happy ending either. Hungry, and with little food on board, the sailors fattened their dogs with rats and ate them little by little along the crossing. The two surviving animals were reserved for the last leg of the trip.

Portugal Looking at the Atlantic

Operation “Hurricane” that ended the “Rio Manzanares” saga was coordinated by the Maritime Analysis and Operation Centre – Narcotics (MAOC-N). The agency centralizes the efforts of seven European countries to combat maritime drug trafficking to Europe. Expresso requested an interview with the institution, but the “unavailability of the director's agenda” thwarted the attempts.

Portugal’s strategic position, face-to-face with the Atlantic, has made Lisbon a natural headquarters for MAOC-N. And that is the same reason why Portugal has for many years been considered by international organizations such as Europol, DEA or FBI to be one of the main entry points into Europe for Latin American drugs. “Most of the cocaine Sinaloa sends to Portugal is shipped in containers from Colombia and Venezuela by sea,” says Michael Vigil, who admits the existence of “other South American organizations that also use Portugal as a platform.”

This year alone, [the] PJ has made at least six major seizures on high sea or at transhipment points, almost 6 tons in total. On 28 January, PJ seized 2.5 tons offshore, 300 km from the island of São Vicente, in Cape Verde, in what was, until now, the most significant operation. Since the beginning of the year, the Portuguese authorities, in coordination with MAOC-N and Europol, have detected similar vessels off the Azores, in Madeira or in the “full Atlantic’ [middle of the Atlantic], as some PJ communiqués read.

In an interview with the Portuguese newspaper “Jornal de Notícias” in March this year, the director of the [Portuguese] National Anti-Drug Trafficking Unit, Artur Vaz, confirmed a significant increase in seizures in Portugal since 2016. Laurent Laniel, specialist at the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), confirms to Expresso that Portugal “remains an important place of arrival and seizure of drugs,” but points out that national ports are beginning to lose prominence in the European context. “It is true that narcotics continue to arrive on airplanes, small boats, sailboats, fishing boats or cruises, but significant amounts of cocaine are now transported in the cargo vessel containers,” he says. As such, he continues, “major apprehensions have been taking place lately in major ports such as Algeciras and Valencia in Spain; Rotterdam, in the Netherlands; Le Havre, in France; or Hamburg, Germany.” Last year, he says, “the authorities seized 50 tons of cocaine in the port of Antwerp, Belgium. It was a record of all time.”

The Highway 10

In “Seas of Cocaine,” one of the leading journalistic investigations into maritime drug trafficking, Ana Lilia Pérez establishes the 1980s as the beginning of direct maritime cocaine transport between South America and Europe. On one side of the ocean were the Colombians; on the other, the Galician shipowners.

The business flourished and became more complex until, in 2004, pressure from the Spanish authorities forced traffickers to find alternative routes. Azores and Canaries [islands] then became transhipment points in the Atlantic. Madeira, Cape Verde and West Africa would later be blacklisted.

With points of support in the middle of the Atlantic, Colombians and Galicians inaugurated the first section of the so-called “Highway 10,” an imaginary road that follows the parallel with the same number north of Ecuador. It leaves Colombia and crosses the globe to the Marshall Islands. From this line depart the secondary routes, by sea and land, to Portugal and other places in Europe. When the Mexican cocaine trafficking came on the scene, the Mexicans took the same routes to “cross the pond” a slang expression used in Mexico for trips across the Atlantic to Europe.

“In recent years, the routes have remained basically the same,” comments Laurent Laniel. “Most cocaine is shipped from Colombia, but also from Brazil and Ecuador. We are also beginning to see a growing trend of Paraguay as a sending country,” says the EMCDDA analyst, who also points to a change in North Africa: “In particular Morocco, Algeria, and we are also suspecting Libya, are converting themselves into cocaine warehouses for later distribution in Europe and also, perhaps (we do not have much data yet), for the Middle East and Arabian Peninsula”, he comments.

This panorama alarms analysts such as Edgardo Buscaglia and institutions such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which issued a warning last year about drug trafficking activities in West Africa. The researcher gives the alarm: “Groups that have been committing acts of terrorism in Europe, including the Islamic State, have a presence in North and West Africa and are seeking funding for their activities. Some drug shipments arriving in countries such as the Central African Republic or Guinea Bissau are greeted by these terrorist cells that transport cocaine to Morocco, Libya, and thereby fund their terrorist activity.” “These groups quietly penetrate the European borders with drugs and weapons, and Portugal is in the trench,” he warns.

Colombians by Mexicans: The Relief

Until the late 1990s, “cocaine trafficking to Europe was in the hands of Colombians who worked with the Galicians,” former Mexican Anti-Drug Agency director Samuel González tells Expresso. “This absolute dominance,” he continues, “fell apart with the dismantling of the powerful Medellin and Cali cartels.”

The scattering of the large Colombian drug trafficking groups has messed up the drug trafficking in Colombia, “fragmented the cocaine trade into Europe” and changed the rules of international trafficking, the former official said. From that moment, writes Sonia Alda Mejías of the Royal Elcano Institute in Spain, “a period of internal disputes and fragmentation begins in Colombia, which was expertly exploited by Mexican cartels to negotiate more favourable conditions with producers”—the Colombians themselves. In an analysis published last year, the researcher also points out that “this situation of vulnerability made it possible for Mexicans to dominate the cocaine distribution” from then on. And until today.

In those years that changed the face of international drug trafficking, Mexico, too, was boiling. In 2006, Felipe Calderón’s government declared war on the national cartels. To “survive,” the large groups “then began to establish a series of alliances and occupy new territories,” says Mexican author Ricardo Ravelo. “With a giant market half abandoned by the Colombians and a voracious appetite for cocaine,” says Michael Vigil, Europe has become an appetizing lump.

At first, to make the leap to the old continent, Sinaloa relied on Colombian groups already operating in countries such as Spain. The alliances between Mexicans and Colombians were ancient. Years earlier, drug traffickers from both countries joined in the cocaine trade to the United States. Colombians sell to Mexicans; Mexicans transport it across the border.

“Relations in Europe tend to be somewhat different,” says Angéilca Durán, a Colombian researcher at the University of Massachusetts. “In addition to this relationship between groups that sell or transport, there are also risk-sharing operations” in which “both profit and loss are divided between the organizations involved in the operation, depending on whether the drug reaches its final destination or it’s seized”, she explained to Expresso.

The risk seems to be worth it. Last year, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported that, in 2016, coca bush cultivation increased by 36% in the three major producing countries—Peru, Bolivia and Colombia. Alone, Colombian crops accounted for 70% of world production.

This “unprecedented production” (1,410 tons, according to the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction), has already been echoed in “increased drug use” in North America and Europe, read “Recent Changes in Cocaine Market in Europe,” which the institution published in December 2018. “Colombia’s growing cocaine market (…) will undoubtedly increase the power and wealth of the drug trafficking groups in America, Africa and Europe,” it predicts.

In the Colombian Pacific or on Colombia's border with Venezuela (a country that is beginning to take a leading role in the region), “business opportunities are constantly growing,” confirms Angélica Durán. “The demobilization of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, after the initials in Spanish), from 2017, has created an empty space in the Colombian drug trafficking system, which was previously controlled by this group,” says the academic. Today in Colombia, she says, “drug trafficking is essentially controlled by the former guerrilla groups, the National Liberation Army and the People's Liberation Army, the Gulf Clan and some FARC dissidents.”

About the Author(s)

Pedro Cardoso is a Portuguese-Angolan journalist who was born in Portugal in 1982. He studied Journalism at the University of Oporto, Portugal after which he started his professional career in 2005 in Cape Vert (West Africa). Between 2006 and 2010, he worked for magazines and newspapers in Angola, where he published reports on politics, corruption, and human rights, for which he was honored with the “Best New Generation Journalist” award in 2008. He has since reported from many countries including Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Mozambique, South Africa, Italy, and Brazil. Pedro has participated in academic activities for the University of Coimbra (Portugal) and the Catholic University of Angola. He has lived in Mexico since 2011 and presently writes for media organizations in Portugal, Angola, and Brazil.