Small Wars Journal

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Mexican Cartel Rules City After Gunbattle

Mexican Cartel Rules City After Gunbattle by David Luhnow, José de Cordoba and Santiago Pérez – Wall Street Journal

A son of the infamous Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán is captured. Cartel gunmen respond with a vicious attack on soldiers and civilians across a major Mexican city, killing at least eight people. The government gives in and releases the son, a top figure in the cartel.

One of the most violent and harrowing days in Mexico’s long fight against drug cartels unfolded late Thursday as members of the Sinaloa cartel wreaked havoc across Culiacán, a modern, middle-class city of around 800,000 residents, in response to what appeared to be a botched attempt to arrest Ovidio Guzmán.

Heavily-armed gunmen riding in convoys engaged in more than 70 separate firefights with Mexican security forces, set fires to vehicles, shot at government offices and engineered a jailbreak that freed 55 prisoners, with six recaptured, officials said. By nightfall, it was clear that the cartel was in charge of the city…

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SWJED Sat, 10/19/2019 - 2:27am
Latin America Awash in Troubles Amid Protests, Uprisings and a Distracted Washington

Latin America Awash in Troubles Amid Protests, Uprisings and a Distracted Washington by Jim Wyss and Jacqueline Charles – Miami Herald

Violent uprisings, congressional coups, alleged narco-presidencies, political assassinations, a resurgent left.

As Washington focuses on impeachment, Syria and the 2020 presidential elections, Latin America and the Caribbean, once again, seem to be falling apart.

From Peru to Ecuador to Haiti to Honduras, there have been signs of trouble that have been either ignored or lost amid Washington’s focus on Venezuela and Cuba. Fanned by economic decline, growing protests, disgust with corruption and waning U.S. influence, not a week seems to go by without a new political wildfire breaking out…

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SWJED Fri, 10/18/2019 - 4:42pm
Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 20: Fuel Theft in Brazil—Gangs and Militias Target Petrobras SWJED Wed, 10/16/2019 - 3:56pm
Brazil’s state-run oil company, Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras) has been increasingly targeted from 2014 onwards by fuel thieves (ladrões de combustível). The gangs (gangues) involved include the Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC or First Capital Command) and milícias (militias). A similar pattern of large-scale petroleum theft has been taking place in Mexico since at least 2006.

Drones Pose New Threat on Colombia’s Pacific Coast

Drones Pose New Threat on Colombia’s Pacific Coast by Maria Alejandra Navarrete - InSight Crime

The discovery of two drones in the department of Nariño has raised fears about what impact such technology could have on the current conflict in the southwest of Colombia. 

On September 19, the Colombian Army announced that an operation had seized two Syma drones, loaded with 600 grams of explosives, on the road connecting the municipalities of Pasto and Tumaco, in the department of Nariño.

According to investigators in charge of the operation, from the Special Brigade Against Drug Trafficking (Brigada Especial contra el Narcotráfico – BRACNA), two detonators and various types of shrapnel were found alongside the explosives. 

According to authorities, the drones and detonators came from Ecuador and Peru.

In an official press release, the army declared that the drones allegedly belonged to the Oliver Sinisterra Front (Frente Oliver Sinisterra – FOS), dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC). The FOS, currently led by alias “Comandante Gringo,” was allegedly planning to carry out attacks against the military and civilian population in Tumaco.  

Signal inhibitors were used to carry out the operation, conducted in coordination with the police, so as to avoid the devices being activated remotely during the controlled destruction of the explosives…

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Peru’s Shining Path Plots Unlikely Return to Power

Peru’s Shining Path Plots Unlikely Return to Power by Sergio Saffon – InSight Crime

A 400-page document by Peru’s Shining Path guerrillas details the group’s elaborate plans to increase drug trafficking operations and attacks on the military, which may be possible in the group’s limited stronghold. But its long-held ultimate goal — to overthrow Peru’s government — is farfetched. 

During an operation at the beginning of this year, Peruvian security forces obtained the book-length document, which offers a window on an ambitious political and military strategy culminating in the 2021 Bicentennial of Peru’s independence, América Noticias reported.

The document, found in the possession of a mid-level commander in the organization, was analyzed by members of the Counter-Terrorism Directorate of Peru’s National Police (Dirección de Lucha contra el Terrorismo de la Policía Nacional del Perú – DIRCOTE). According to agents, the Shining Path looks to increase its participation in drug trafficking and its use of violent tactics including killings and ambushes. 

The group’s immediate objective appears to be intensifying attacks against public forces. Its medium-term objective is to regain control of territories where the group has historically had a presence. The long-term goal would be to take up arms and seize power from Peru’s government…

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SWJ Book Review – Understanding Human Trafficking, Corruption, and the Optics of Misconduct in the Public, Private, and NGO Sectors: Causes, Actors, and Solutions

"Understanding Human Trafficking" by Luz Nagle takes the reader into the sometimes arcane yet important legal world for a master lesson in how global and domestic actors can and will fight the scourge that is human trafficking.

About the Author(s)

The Coming Crime Wars

The Coming Crime Wars by Robert Muggah and John P. Sullican – Foreign Policy

Wars are on the rebound. There are twice as many civil conflicts today, for example, as there were in 2001. And the number of nonstate armed groups participating in the bloodshed is multiplying. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), roughly half of today’s wars involve between three and nine opposing groups. Just over 20 percent involve more than 10 competing blocs. In a handful, including ongoing conflicts in Libya and Syria, hundreds of armed groups vie for control. For the most part, these warring factions are themselves highly fragmented, and today’s warriors are just as likely to be affiliated with drug cartels, mafia groups, criminal gangs, militias, and terrorist organizations as with armies or organized rebel factions.

This cocktail of criminality, extremism, and insurrection is sowing havoc in parts of Central and South America, sub-Saharan and North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Not surprisingly, these conflicts are defying conventional international responses, such as formal cease-fire negotiations, peace agreements, and peacekeeping operations. And diplomats, military planners, and relief workers are unsure how best to respond. The problem, it seems, is that while the insecurity generated by these new wars is real, there is still no common lexicon or legal framework for dealing with them. Situated at the intersection of organized crime and outright war, they raise tricky legal, operational, and ethical questions about how to intervene, who should be involved, and the requisite safeguards to protect civilians…

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No Peace in Our Time in Colombia

No Peace in Our Time in ColombiaWall Street Journal Editorial

Fewer than three years after Colombia’s oldest guerrilla group signed a peace agreement with the government, the terror leaders have said never mind. In a 32-minute video broadcast last month, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) commander Iván Márquez called for a “new phase of the armed struggle.” By his side were FARC commanders Jesús Santrich and Hernán Dario Velásquez —better known as the bloodthirsty El Paisa—and gun-toting grunts.

The Colombian government called the statement “very worrying” but President Iván Duque has played down its importance. “Colombians must be clear that we are not facing a new guerrilla, but confronting the criminal threats of a gang of narco-terrorists,” Mr. Duque said. He blamed Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro for giving them “safe harbor.” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed Mr. Duque’s comment: “We strongly repudiate recent calls by some individuals to abandon the FARC’s commitments under the 2016 peace accord.”

The trouble is that Mr. Márquez and Mr. Santrich aren’t “some individuals.” They are top FARC leaders and were key negotiators in Havana when the agreement was sealed with the government of former president Juan Manuel Santos in 2016.

It’s doubtful there was ever a FARC commitment to peace…

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SWJ Book Review – “Deported to Death: How Drug Violence Is Changing Migration on the US-Mexico Border”

Unlike many University Press books, Jeremy Slack’s Deported to Death is informative, methodologically rigorous, and an entertaining read. It is a masterful account based upon years of deep ethnographic fieldwork that will be of interest to those studying transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) given it supplies incredible detail on the modus operandi or tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) of illicit networks from the perspective of their victims along the US-Mexico border.

About the Author(s)

Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez Worked to Flood U.S. With Cocaine, U.S. Prosecutors Say

Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez Worked to Flood U.S. With Cocaine, U.S. Prosecutors Say by Juan Forero and José de Córdoba – Wall Street Journal

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in the mid-2000s ordered his top lieutenants to work with Colombian Marxist guerrillas to flood the U.S. with cocaine in his government’s efforts to combat the Bush administration, according to U.S. documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal that shed new light on the leftist regime’s struggle with Washington.

The documents, prepared by federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, outline for the first time the possible role of Mr. Chávez, an icon of the Latin American left who died from cancer in 2013, in drug trafficking. They assert that several leaders who served Mr. Chávez and remain in key posts in Venezuela’s regime today wielded cocaine trafficking as a weapon against their ideological adversary, the U.S.

In 2005, Mr. Chávez convened a small group of his top officials to discuss plans to ship cocaine to the U.S. with help from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said a participant in the meeting who, at the time, was a justice on Venezuela’s supreme court, according to the papers…

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