Small Wars Journal

El Centro

SWJ El Centro Book Review: Gangs and Organized Crime SWJED Thu, 12/12/2019 - 5:53pm
"Gangs and Organized Crime" is a major new book effort—aimed primarily at the university book market—by veteran authors and gang specialists George W. Knox, Gregg W. Etter, and Carter F. Smith.

Mexican Cartel Strategic Note No. 28: Alleged Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) Car Bombing (“Coche Bomba”) in Colombia

It behooves security analysts to monitor the migration of the CJNG into new territories, the establishment of new cartel-gang alliances and, as demonstrated in this assessment, the spread of cartel TTPs such as car bombings, and attacks on police and security forces.

About the Author(s)

The Pacification of Brazil’s Urban Margins: How Police and Traffickers Co-produce Insecurity

Violence resulting from conflicts between criminal groups and police has risen steadily across much of Latin America in recent years. The effects tend to be most felt in marginalised urban neighbourhoods, where widespread poverty and weak provision of essential services create opportunities for drug trafficking factions, street gangs, and militias to entrench local influence.

About the Author(s)

Mexico's Security Strategy Called Into Question After Mormon Killings, Other Violence

Mexico's Security Strategy Called Into Question After Mormon Killings, Other Violence by Ray Sanchez - CNN News

After three women and six children were slaughtered on a remote dirt road in Mexico, relatives and members of their small religious community stood around the smoldering carnage for hours before local authorities arrived.

The horrific broad-daylight crime stunned even a country long ravaged by drug violence and on pace for a record high number of homicides this year. A convoy carrying women and children -- dual US-Mexican citizens -- ambushed and sprayed with hundreds of rounds of ammunition. A mother gunned down as she begged the children be spared.

"I'm the first person that arrived... They never showed up," said Julian LeBaron, a Mormon community leader related to some of the victims. "We came on the crime scene before any authorities."

Indeed, Mexico's latest tragedy in the long fight against cartel violence is viewed by some as a sign its "hugs, not bullets" security strategy -- focused on combating social problems -- has done little to wrest large chunks of the country from the grip of criminal organizations.

"You do have to go after the inequality, the lack of opportunity that drives criminality but what's the short-term strategy?" asked Christopher Wilson, deputy director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC…

Read on.

How Mexico Is Losing the War Against Cartels

How Mexico Is Losing the War Against Cartels by Deborah Bonello – Vice

The automatic gunfire started just after dawn in the tiny, rural town of el Aguaje, southern Mexico. More than 30 gunmen ambushed a group of state policemen out on patrol, killing 14. Walkie-talkie audio later posted on social media depicted a grim picture of the aftermath. One policeman pleads for backup as his colleague groans in pain the background. “I’m dying,” he says. Photos and TV footage of the scene showed police trucks burned out, officers dead on the ground, bits of brain on the road.

Just a few days later, Mexico’s federal government experienced a different defeat when it attempted to arrest the son of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, Ovidio, in Culiacán, the capital of the state of Sinaloa, heartland of the Sinaloa Cartel. After initially detaining Ovidio, Mexican soldiers were forced to let him go when hundreds of cartel henchman surrounded the house in which the arrest took place. They brought the city to a standstill, burning trucks and firing on government forces. Videos showed civilian gunmen marauding around the city in pick-ups mounted with automatic weapons, firing machine guns into the streets.

Just before the police ambush, Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (known as AMLO), who coined the motto “hugs, not bullets” as a way of solving Mexico’s security issues, said that the country’s brutal, drug-related violence had reached an inflection point. He was right: the decade-long crime wars had reached a tipping point, but for the worse. The police massacre and the mess in Culiacán have served to amplify AMLO’s poorly defined security strategy, and homicides have spiked since he took power in December - making a joke of his government’s attempts to enforce the rule of law…

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USC 2019 Homegrown Violent Extremism Digital Summit

USC 2019 Homegrown Violent Extremism Digital Summit

The United States faces an immediate threat from homegrown violent extremism (HVE), and today, that threat increasingly stems from right-wing and white supremacist terrorism. Preventing attacks and enhancing public safety demands better insight into how individuals radicalize to violence, the impact on the victims and the pathway to escape extremism.

On November 8, 2019, the University of Southern California (USC) will present the USC Homegrown Violent Extremism Digital Summit.

HVE concerns every American, and to ensure all stakeholders have an opportunity to see the event, USC is presenting the summit exclusively online and at no cost. No RSVP or registration is required. Simply visit our homepage – – at 9 AM PT on November 8, and the summit will stream live on your device.

The summit will consist of three 45-minute panel discussions. Find out more about the summit here.

Appropriating Religious Traditions among ‘el Cártel de la Unión Tepito’: Dozens of Human Skulls Found at Narco Shrine in Mexico City

The use of magico-religious systems to promote the activities of drug trafficking organizations is nothing new. In my book "Narco Cults: Understand the Use of Afro-Caribbean and Mexican Religious Cultures in the Drug Wars", I define a narco cult as “An individualistic, shamanistic, communal or ecclesiastical cult that functions as a source of spiritual or psychological empowerment for individuals or organizations connected to drug production or trafficking.” Based on these early reports of the investigation and witness testimonies it appears that several of the religious shrines discovered in the raid were possibly used for spiritual protection.

About the Author(s)

Massacre of Americans Shows Drug War Rules No Longer Apply

Massacre of Americans Shows Drug War Rules No Longer Apply – Associated Press

There was a time when the violence of Mexico’s 2006-2012 drug war shocked Americans, but barely touched them. This time around — like everything else about the country’s renewed cartel conflict — it’s worse.

The slaughter of three U.S. women and six of their children, some infants, in the northern state of Sonora Monday punctured the old belief that the drug cartels would avoid killing foreigners, women or children. But it wasn’t the first, or the only, such case…

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Mexico’s Failure to Stem Violence Strains Relationship With U.S.

Mexico’s Failure to Stem Violence Strains Relationship With U.S. by José de Córdoba and Jessica Donati – Wall Street Journal

Last week, hundreds of gunmen from the Sinaloa cartel overpowered military forces in fighting that killed at least a dozen people, blocked the airport and major roads, and terrorized the city of Culiacán for hours until the Mexican government capitulated and freed the son of legendary drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán.

The stunning display of violence shows that drug cartels here are as strong as ever nearly 15 years after the Mexican government set about to challenge them head on, often with U.S. assistance. The government has arrested or killed many cartel leaders, weakening many crime groups and fragmenting others.

But the cost has been high. Since 2006, more than 250,000 people have been killed, according to Mexican government figures, most in the bitter internecine war between cartels for control of drug routes and territory. At least 40,000 more have been disappeared, many buried in clandestine graves, some dissolved in acid. From 2007 to 2019 the homicide rate has roughly tripled to 29 per 100,000 people.

Worse, last week’s events could further embolden the gangs to respond to threats by security forces with widespread violence and terror, cow Mexico’s stunned security forces and strain vital intelligence cooperation with the U.S., according to analysts, former and current U.S. officials and former Mexican security officials…

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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…

Read on.