Small Wars Journal

El Centro

Hybrid Criminal Cartel Note 1: Former Venezuelan National Assembly Member Adel El Zabayar Indicted on Charges of Narcoterrorism and Links to Hezbollah (Hizballah) ZFTWARNING Wed, 07/01/2020 - 9:47pm
On 27 May 2020, Acting DEA Administrator Timothy J. Shea and United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey S. Berman charged Adel El Zabayar—a former Venezuelan National Assembly member—in a Manhattan federal court with narcoterrorism, a cocaine importation conspiracy, a series of weapons related charges, and money laundering. The charges were based on a DEA agent’s testimony and his broader investigation into El Zabayara’s links to Venezuelan Cártel de los Soles, Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), Hezbollah (Hizballah), and Hamas.
SWJ El Centro Review Essay – Operation Devil Horns: The Takedown of MS-13 in San Francisco ZFTWARNING Sat, 06/20/2020 - 9:19pm
This SWJ El Centro Review Essay looks at a recent book on Mara Salvatrucha, "Operation Devil Horns: The Take Down of MS-13 in San Francisco" in the context of MS-13 gang culture and organizational characteristics.

Why The Navy’s Latest Narco Submarine Seizure Is A Big Deal

Sun, 06/14/2020 - 3:57pm

Two narco submarines (also known as low-profile vessels or LPVs) were interdicted by joint US Navy/US Coast Guard teams in the Pacific,  The seizures by personnel abroad the USS Preble on 5 June 2020 and the USS Pinckney on 16 May 2020 involved two separate but virtually identical LPVs.

Sutton LPV

Two Narco subs (LPVs) interdicted by USCG personnel aboard USS Preble (5 June 2020) and USS Pinckney (15 May 2020). Source: HI Sutton, US Navy, US Coast Guard.

The interdictions are described in an article at Forbes by HI Sutton an analyst specializing in unconventional naval warfare and narco submarines.  Sutton's recent book Narco Submarines: Covert Shores Recognition Guide was reviewed at SWJ earlier this year.  Sutton has developed a taxonomy of narco submarines which are discussed in his article.  The LPVs interdicted in these cases were classed as "LPV-OM-VSV-6 meaning that it is the 6th family of low-profile vessel with outboard motors, using a ‘very slender vessel’ style hull." 

Continue to "Why The Navy’s Latest Narco Submarine Seizure Is A Big Deal."

Source: HI Sutton, "Why The Navy’s Latest Narco Submarine Seizure Is A Big Deal." Forbes. 12 June 2020. 

Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 27: COVID-19 and Transnational Italian Mafias

Thu, 06/04/2020 - 10:34pm
The COVID-19 pandemic has created opportunities and challenges for transnational organized crime groups, and mafias worldwide. This strategic note assesses the situation among the Italian mafias, including the Sicilian mafia, camorra, and ‘ndragheta.

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Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 26: COVID-19, Revolutionaries and BACRIM in Colombia

Tue, 06/02/2020 - 11:50pm
The COVID-19 pandemic has created opportunities and challenges for Criminal Armed Groups (CAGs)—criminal cartels, gangs, maras, and mafias—worldwide. This strategic note assesses the situation among Colombia’s revolutionaries (the FARC –Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, ELN – Ejército de Liberación Nacional, and dissident factions, and BACRIM – bandas criminales.

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Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 25: 18th Street (Barrio 18) Demonic & Santa Muerte Affinity Linkages

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 2:50pm
This research note seeks to provide some initial and exploratory insights—primarily but not exclusively via imagery interpretation—into 18th Street dark spiritual activities. 18th Street (Barrio 18) linkages to dark spirituality will be addressed from within the context of both United States (CONUS) and outside of the country (OCONUS) perspectives, with the latter focusing on the gang’s presence in the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA).

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Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #45: Drones and Explosives Seized in Puebla, Mexico by Fiscalía General de la República (FGR) and Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (SEDENA)

Thu, 05/21/2020 - 6:09pm
Search and seizure operations were conducted by Mexican federal agencies in San Andrés Cholula, Puebla state on 25-26 April 2020 due to an anonymous tip. These operations resulted in the seizure of a ‘terrorist arsenal’ (arsenal terrorista) of weapons and equipment including the components required to make weaponized drones. This arsenal is thought to be linked to ongoing organized crime bombings in Guanajuato state—with possible Cártel de Santa Rosa de Lima (CSRL) ties—and represents one more data point concerning the growing weaponized drone capabilities of the Mexican cartels and criminal gangs.

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Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 24: COVID-19, Gangs and Lockdown in Cape Town

Mon, 05/18/2020 - 3:37pm
Gangs in the Cape Town region have enacted a truce in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. South Africa is in the midst of a lockdown to contain the coronavirus outbreak that is also leading to food shortages. The truce involves gangs throughout the Cape Flats, including Manenberg. The participating gangs are joining together to distribute food, soap, and essential goods in an effort to provide relief to the communities in which they exist.[

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Mexican Cartel Strategic Note No. 29: An Overview of Cartel Activities Related to COVID-19 Humanitarian Response  

Fri, 05/08/2020 - 6:37pm
Various organized crime entities throughout Latin America, Europe, and Africa—including gangs, cartels, and mafias—are increasingly responding to the global COVID-19 pandemic in a number of ways. These include accounting for a shift in their illicit revenue streams and exploring new economic opportunities that are emerging. In the area of humanitarian response, a large number of the Mexican cartels are now actively engaging in these activities for their public relations and propaganda value in supporting their ‘protector of the community narratives’ targeted at the local citizenry under their control. These cartel activities are not without precedent and have taken place in Mexico in the past—though not as widespread and pronounced as they are now—and further reinforce ongoing criminal insurgency analysis related to this phenomena linked to Eric Hobsbawm’s ‘social banditry’ construct. 

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