Small Wars Journal

El Centro

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

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.

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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. 

Mexico’s 2021 Dark Network Alliance Structure

Mon, 04/11/2022 - 3:33pm

Small Wars Journal−El Centro researchers have published a working paper, “Mexico’s 2021 Dark Network Alliance Structure: An Exploratory Social Network Analysis of Lantia Consultores’ Illicit Network Alliance and Subgroup Data” at the Center for the United States and Mexico at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

MX Dark Networks

The research team was led by SWJ−El Centro Senior Fellow Nathan P. Jones, with contributions from SWJ−El Centro Fellow Irina Chindea, SWJ−El Centro Associate Daniel Weisz Argomedo, and SWJ−El Centro Senior Fellow John P. Sullivan.  "Mexico’s 2021 Dark Network Alliance Structure," maps out the network of alliances and subgroups within the two most powerful cartels in Mexico — the Sinaloa Cartel and the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación— and reveals key structural differences that could have important implications for policymakers.

Abstract: This paper assesses Mexico’s organized crime alliance and subgroup network structures. Through social network analysis (SNA) of data from Lantia Consultores, a consulting firm in Mexico that specializes in the analysis of public policies, it demonstrates differential alliance structures within Mexico’s bipolar illicit network system. The Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación’s (CJNG) alliance structure is top-down and hierarchical, while the Sinaloa Cartel is denser, particularly in the broader Tierra Caliente region. Additionally, our analysis found a sparse overall network with many isolates (organized criminal groups with no relations to other groups) and disconnected components. Further, we identified organized crime networks that might fill future power vacuums based on their network positions, following state or rival high-value targeting of major cartels. The implications of these findings are discussed, and policy recommendations are provided.

Source: Nathan P. Jones, Irina Chindea, Daniel Weisz-Argomedo, and John P. Sullivan, “Mexico’s 2021 Dark Network Alliance Structure: An Exploratory Social Network Analysis of Lantia Consultores’ Illicit Network Alliance and Subgroup Data.” Center for the United States and Mexico, Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. April 2022.

Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 47: Woman with a Baby Arrested at Novo Rio Bus Station for Transporting a .50 Caliber Anti-Materiel Rifle in Her Luggage to Comando Vermelho Norte

Fri, 04/08/2022 - 12:11am
On 30 March 2022, a woman with a baby was arrested by at the Novo Rio Bus Station for transporting a .50 caliber anti-materiel rifle in her luggage. Her husband is a fugitive and one of the leaders of the Comando Vermelho Norte (Red Command North) in Belém, Pará, Brazil. The arrest was carried out by civilian police officers of the Delegacia de Repressão a Entorpecentes (DRE – Drug Enforcement Division). The transportation of illicit items such as weapons, narcotics, and cash by females with young children accompanying them is a common gang and cartel trafficking method meant to throw off authorities.

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