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Posts Tagged ‘drug trafficking

An essay on criminal drug trafficking through Central America

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Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) from Mexico and South America are aggressively expanding their operations in Central America to bypass interdiction efforts on seaborne and airborne shipping routes. These DTOs take advantage of a new U.S. funded Pan-American Highway, weak and corrupted Central American governments, and connections with armed youth gangs to ship drugs by land into Mexico from South America.

This growth in land-based trafficking through Central America has increased violence in that region, particularly in the northern section of the isthmus, bordering Mexico. There, Mexican groups such as Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel compete for territory, recruiting youth “mara” gangs as enforcers and drug couriers. The expansion into Central America is part of a deliberate strategy by Mexican DTOs trying to augment their ability to get illegal narcotics into the United States from South America. Components of this strategy include establishing and holding transshipment lanes and pickup locations. Currently, it is less likely for narcotics to travel by land all the way from South America to Mexico, instead a combination of transit methods are used, which include littoral transit, aerial delivery, and overland transport.

Indications are that DTOs have established networks of front companies, expressly to help move contraband.  “Maras” recruited into trafficking are paid with drugs or with relatively small amounts of cash, which keeps them dependent on Mexican DTOs. Meanwhile, larger Central American criminal organizations, which could potentially rival the Mexican groups, are targeted for elimination.

Implemented in 2008, the Merida Initiative is the current U.S.-led effort to counter illegal drug trafficking in the region. There is a Central American component to the Initiative which aims to re-establish rule of law and increase security by disrupting the movement of criminals through the region. However, Central American governments claim their portion of the aid is too insignificant to adequately disrupt criminal activity.

Pan-American Highway in Peru

Increased drug trafficking through Central America has had a negative impact on the region’s governing and economic institutions. Inflation is fueled by laundered drug money, which passes its way through economies that widely use the U.S. dollar and have lax banking oversight. Judicial systems already flooded with drug-related criminal cases are simultaneously corrupted through bribery and intimidation. Furthermore, police forces are frequently outgunned with national militaries called in to support law enforcement efforts, which adds the risk of exposing more national security forces to corruption by their proximity to drug trafficking operations.

As Mexican DTOs continue their expansion into Central America, they will likely continue to maintain their paternal role with local youth gangs, while posing additional security risks to the state and exposing more individuals to drug addiction. These problems are compounded by the region’s systemic unemployment, which is especially high among males, 18-25 years old; the typical drug trafficking demographic. By establishing a larger foothold in the Central American region, Mexican DTOs will likely increase the volume of narcotics trafficking from South America. In the short-run, this may lead to pitched competition between DTOs and violent clashes for new territory.


Written by gringolost

September 24, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Posting posts from better blogs makes this blog better

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Here’s a roundup of some good blog posts from around the web.

From Dave Reidy at Demagogues and Dictators, “Corruption and Counter-Productive Policy

  • Reidy addresses the story of Guinea-Bissau, the small western African state which is becoming a regional drug-trafficking hub. The government of “Guinea-Bissau,” Reidy points out, “is either impotent to stop drug traffickers or is entirely complicit and enmeshed in illegal activities.” He goes on to extrapolate that developments in Guinea-Bissau reflect the growing nexus between crime and terrorism.

From Tim Stevens at Kings of War, “What Prospects for Cyberdeterrence?

  • Stevens discusses the potential for deterrence (think: Mutually Assured Dysfunction?) against cyber attacks. Some critical questions: How do you deter an act which cannot, with 100%, be attributed to a government or state actor? And if deterrence won’t work because of this, then what about cyber defenses? Consequently, what is the utility (or futility?) of cyber defenses? Conclusion: deterrence cannot serve as the dominant “strategic anchor” in cyber security as it did in Cold War nuclear security; and crusty old military structures must adapt to be more flexible, especially in the realm of cyber defense.

From Jeffrey Lewis at Arms Control Wonk, “Missile Defense and the Prague Treaty

  • Lewis, who is an expert in nuclear strategy and nonproliferation, discusses whether the New Start treaty will require the US to limit its ballistic missile defenses. Here’s my quick intro: the US loves its missile defenses and so does its European, Asian allies; Russia… not-so-much. So, although Russia and the US want to lower the amount of nuclear weapons in the world, they have slightly different views on how to go about it. Another basic essential: the US has a more defensive nuclear strategy, while Russia counts on tactical offensive nuclear weapons for its strategy. This offense-defense balance makes nuclear disarmament difficult.

Bonus blog post: The Data Blog at the Guardian UK has some great charts on world military spending.


Posting posts from better blogs makes this blog better

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From Not Exactly Rocket Science, Ed Yong blogs about how Carrots trump sticks for fostering cooperation.  Basing his post on a study done by David Rand at Harvard, Yong posits that rewards do better to foster good behavior then punishments do to prevent bad behavior.

From Yong:

[R]esults suggest that when people repeatedly cross each other’s paths, carrots are far better than sticks at fostering behaviour for the greater good. Not only do they lead to greater payoffs for everyone concerned but they minimise the threat of antisocial punishment, where freeloaders vengefully castigate the altruists. This behaviour has the ability to derail cooperation and while fairly rare in countries like the US or the UK, it is far more common in places like Greece and Oman. In such countries, the relative merits of rewards may be even greater.

From Group Intel, Hakim Hazin does the study of Mexican drug cartels a service by touching upon the religious peculiarities of the La Familia drug trafficking organization. His conclusion is perhaps the worst threat to Mexico’s security will come from drug gangs united by radicalism.

In Mexico’s Seeds of Radicalism, Hazin writes:

Mexican cartels are utilizing the benefits of radicalized faith in their war with the state and each other. They are seeking to implement ritualized devotion to a Higher Power and create social cohesion within their networks. Currently Santa Muerte is the deity of choice for most cartels, but La Familia Michoacana is turning to the Bible and cleverly preaching a different Gospel to further its strategic and political aims.

From Kings of War, Thomas Rid writes in Washington’s Afghan Brawl 10 assumptions are universal in the Afghan debate – whether you are for or against an expansion of the war.  Later, Rid warns that “words like ‘winning’ and ‘victory’ have no place in this debate, even if the street is shouting for it.”  Rid also believes policymakers need to do a “nasty” cost-benefit analysis that doesn’t get entrapped in a calculus complicated by previous losses in blood and treasure.