Small Wars Journal

El Centro

Changing Faces of Immigrants Crossing through Ciudad Juárez and into the United States: Reflections on Migrants, Culture, and Crime ZFTWARNING Fri, 03/24/2023 - 5:02pm
In recent years, unauthorized US border crossings by non-Mexican Latin American nationals have increased significantly. This article examines the impact that these new migrants have had on Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. It focuses especially on the period immediately preceding the COVID-19 pandemic to the present. Since 2018, Central Americans, Cubans, Haitians and Venezuelans have passed through Juárez in record numbers, and many have settled at least temporarily there. Through ethnographic observations and interviews the author analyzes the impact the new migrants have had on border society and how Juarenses have responded to each of the immigrant groups. Acts of charity and generosity toward the migrants are common, but so too are xenophobia and hostility, especially from local politicians, tabloid journalists, local law enforcement, and members of organized crime. As large numbers of migrants, especially Venezuelans at present, have flooded into downtown Juárez, the impact has been transformative to local business and street culture and led to brewing social tensions on the border that may worsen in the future.
Perspective: War with the Cartels Is More Complicated Than It Sounds ZFTWARNING Thu, 03/23/2023 - 4:40pm
In this commentary, two former foreign area officers with experience in Latin America address the pitfalls of US military intervention against criminal cartels in Mexico's crime wars.

Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 52: Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC) Cell Suspected of Using Evangelical Churches as Fronts for Money Laundering

Tue, 02/21/2023 - 4:36pm
The Ministério Público do Rio Grande do Norte (MPRN)—public prosecutor’s office in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil—launched Operação Plata (Operation Plata) on Tuesday, 14 February 2023 to investigate money laundering related to drug trafficking by a suspected leader of the Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC). The cell investigated laundered money through multiple means. Most notably, their laundering efforts including establishing evangelical churches as front operations.

About the Author(s)

Why Tire Repair Workshops Are the Target of a Wave of Violence in Guanajuato, Mexico

Thu, 01/19/2023 - 5:17pm
This article analyzes an under-examined facet of the CSRL–CJNG conflict in Guanajuato: the use of tire repair shops as fronts for criminal activity. Over the last ten years, at least 138 tire repair shops have been violently attacked in the Mexican state of Guanajuato, leaving over 200 dead. An analysis of crime data, news reports, and local security experts suggests that these attacks are related to the fight between organized crime groups.

About the Author(s)

Mexican Cartel Strategic Note No. 35: Mexican Security Forces Arrest Ovidio Guzmán

Tue, 01/17/2023 - 9:08pm
On Thursday, 5 January 2023, Mexican security forces arrested Ovidio Guzmán López, a key member of the Los Chapitos faction of the Cártel del Pacífico (commonly known as the Cártel de Sinaloa (Sinaloa Cartel or CDS), in the Jesús María district of Culiacán, Sinaloa. He is also known by the moniker “El Raton” (The Mouse) and has a heavily armed bodyguard unit protecting him called Las Fuerzas Especiales Ratón (Mouse’s Special Forces). Guzmán’s arrest triggered a cartel counterattack and widespread violence throughout Culiacán and throughout parts of Sinaloa and neighboring Sonora where the cartel has a presence. Guzmán was transported to Altiplano prison (Centro Federal de Readaptación Social Número 1) in Mexico City pending prosecution.

About the Author(s)

New SWJ−El Centro Interns for 2023

Wed, 01/04/2023 - 6:14pm

SWJ−El Centro is pleased to announce its 2023 Class of Interns. El Centro Interns support the work of SWJ−El Centro by conducting research and editorial support to the Board of El Centro Fellows and Associates. In addition SWJ−El Centro Interns receive tutelage from El Centro Fellows and Associates in the study of small wars, conflict analysis, and related research skills. 


The new SWJ−El Centro Interns are America Y. Alvarado Alvarez and Pliar Glaser:

  • America Y. Alvarado Alvarez is a junior at Sam Houston State University majoring in Criminal Justice and minoring in Middle Eastern Studies. She is currently learning the Arabic language in hopes to become trilingual. Additionally, she is interested in obtaining her master’s degree in homeland security and working in the federal law enforcement field. America is involved in several criminal justice organizations where she has held or currently holds executive board positions. Currently, America is employed with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice as a corrections officer.
  • Pilar Glaser is pursuing a Master’s in Homeland Security Studies at Sam Houston State University. She is interested in using quantitative analytics to investigate transnational crime. She is a former intelligence designator for the United States Naval Officer Candidate School and Division I athlete at Loyola University Chicago. Her El Centro project assesses crimes in the United States and Mexico using social network analysis.

SWJ−El Centro wishes departing Interns Issac Poritsky, a recent graduate in government from the College of William & Mary, and Mae Key-Ketter, a senior in political science at the University of Redlands, Godspeed as the pursue their future endeavors. 

Small Wars Journal–El Centro Top 10 Research Articles for 2022

Sun, 01/01/2023 - 6:43pm

Small Wars Journal–El Centro Top 10 Research Articles for 2022

These research articles represent the best of SWJEl Centro for 2022 as selected by the SWJEl Centro Senior Fellows. (This list excludes research notes.) All SWJEl Centro content is available at

  1. Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera and Jorge A. Pérez González, “Field Report: Security in Tamaulipas Today: Simulated Peace,” Small Wars Journal, 3 January 2022,
Tamaulipas Police

Tamaulipas State Police patrol cars

Photo courtesy of Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera and Jorge A. Pérez González

  1. Rafael Velázquez Flores, “Security Studies and Foreign Policy Analysis: The academic legacy of Jorge Chabat,” Small Wars Journal, 22 November 2022,
  2. Nilda M. Garcia, “The Convergence of Illicit Networks on Social Media: the Human Smuggling-Drug Trafficking Nexus,” Small Wars Journal, 28 February 2022,
  3. Francisco Sollano Jr, “A social network analysis of Genaro García Luna and his alleged ties to the Sinaloa Cartel,” Small Wars Journal, 11 January 2022,
  4. Evan Ellis, “Venezuela: Understanding Political, External, and Criminal Actors in an Authoritarian State,” Small Wars Journal, 14 January 2022,

VZ Protests

Protests against theMaduro Government

CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0

  1. Pablo A. Baisotti, “Drugs, Drug Trafficking, and Pandemic in Argentina,” Small Wars Journal,24 March 2022,
  2. Jonathan D. Rosen, “Understanding Bukele’s Gang Crack Down in El Salvador,” Small Wars Journal, 1 November 2022,
Buckle protest

Entrega de vehículos a PNC (Policía Nacional Civil)

Source: Presidencia de la República de El Salvador. CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0

  1. Isaac Poritzky, Nathan P. Jones, and John P. Sullivan, “Transnational Cartels and Prison/Jail Gangs: A Social Network Analysis of Mexican Mafia (Eme) and La Familia Michoacana Conspiracy Cases,” Small Wars Journal, 24 October 2022,
  2. Marco Leofrigio, “The Mexican National Guard: a solution to ensure security or a strong escalation in the process of militarization?” Small Wars Journal, 9 October 2022,
  3. Daniel Weisz Argomedo, “Calling to End the Killing of the Clergy: Information Operations of the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación,” Small Wars Journal, 20 August 2022,

The SWJEl Centro Senior Fellows thank all of our contributors and peer reviewers for their support in contributing to the literature needed to build a comprehensive understanding of crime wars, criminal insurgency, criminal governance, corruption, conflict, and state transition. We look forward to next year’s articles.

A Social Network Analysis of Mexico’s Dark Network Alliance Structure

Wed, 12/07/2022 - 5:23pm

A Small Wars Journal−El Centro team just published a research article, "A Social Network Analysis of Mexico’s Dark Network Alliance Structure" at the Journal of Strategic Security. The team included SWJ−El Centro Senior Fellows Nathan P. Jones and John P. Sullivan, along with Fellow Irina A. Chindea, and Associate Daniel Weisz Agromedo. The article looks at the organizational structures of the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) and its rival Sinaloa Cartel. 

Main Network

Network Main Component with Community Detection (Figure 10 ion the text. Authors' elaboration based on UCINEt analysis of Lantia Consltres data used with permission). 

Abstract: "A Social Network Analysis of Mexico’s Dark Network Alliance Structure" 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 (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.

A previous, non-refereed version of this manuscript was published as part of a working paper series by Rice University's Baker Institute. The authors have undertaken a significant revision to allow for peer review to qualify for publication in the Journal of Strategic Security. The Baker Institute supports the publication of this revised manuscript without any restrictions. The previous version may be read on the Baker Institute website:

Source: Nathan P. Jones, Irina A. Chindea, Daniel Weisz Agromedo, and John P. Sullivan, "A Social Network Analysis of Mexico’s Dark Network Alliance Structure." Journal of Strategic Security. Vol. 15, no. 4, December 2022.