Nueva Sociedad on Organized Crime and the State in Latin America (June 21, 2016)
The newest issue of Nueva Sociedad focuses on the relationship between "(il)legal businesses and the state."
While organized crime is traditionally associated with drug trafficking, transnational crime cannot be boiled down to that anymore, argues the introduction to the issue. "The fight against crime demands the abandonment of old perspectives, that involve binary divisions between the legal and the illegal, as well as an increased problematization of relations between nation states and crime."
The relationship between certain parts of the state and organized crime in Latin America is increasingly visible, writes Liliana Bobea. The issue is intimately linked to "perverse institutional architectures that have slowly taken on a systemic nature," she argues in a piece that reviews examples from around the region. Bobea elaborates on her theory of "statetropic" criminal behavior, which is geared towards the state.
Rafael Grasa analyzes policies to ameliorate the enormous impact of transnational crime globally, that especially affects Latin America and the Caribbean, the world's most unequal region with an extraordinarily high incidence of homicides. He argues that the dominant form of analyzing transnational crime -- which focuses in particular on drug trafficking -- is inefficient. Instead, the phenomenon must be situated in the international system and in the conception and practise of security.
Grasa analyzes how organized violence of armed conflict has given way to other forms of direct and lethal violence, "without direct political intentionality, linked to citizen insecurity, transnational criminal networks, bands and gangs, etc." Such violence has a direct impact on political and social organization, he argues, and affects migrations and movement of citizens, economic activity, tourism, the legitimacy of social institutions and social cohesion.
Transnational crime is a key factor in understanding the "persistence and increase in certain areas of forms of direct organized chronic and unconventional violence." This crime fosters chronic reproduction of these conducts, he argues, which "legitimizes violence against pacific solutions to controversies and debilitates social coherence."
Gang violence in El Salvador represents the greatest challenge to democracy since the 1992 peace accords, and threatens to throw the country back into war, writes Marlon Hernández-Anzora. He points to four directions the gang related violence is taking: wars between rival gangs, gang violence towards communities, state violence towards gangs, and their violent response towards the state. He explores how these last two could be the seed for a regression towards authoritarianism.
Édgar Gutiérrez analyzes the CICIG's fight against impunity in Guatemala. An architect of the commission itself, he looks at its history and its success last year in uncovering a corruption ring involving then President Otto Pérez Molina. Though it's no panacea, the CICIG plays a critical role in investigations that would be impossible for local institutions, not because they lack technical capacity, he emphasizes, but because of their links to corruption and crime.
Mexico's organized crime bands have become criminal franchises, which include in their portfolio the sale of legal products (commodities) obtained via extortion and theft, writes David Santa Cruz. Their activities have fomented to the increase of inflation and permitted the rise of self defense groups in Mexico. He analyzes how, in many ways, these criminal bands seek an economic edge in the same way as any business enterprise does.
José Carlos Campero Núñez del Prado analyzes transnational crime along the Bolivian and Argentine border, and its implications for policies in both countries.
And José de Echave analyzes how illegal and informal mining interests have created bridges with Peruvian politics and established successful areas of influence. Also on the subject of illegal mining, Boris Miranda explains how it has become a staple of transnational crime, along with drug and people trafficking, and yet has far less attention from policymakers.
The issue concludes on a lighter note, with a great piece on the global rise of television series, the world's most addictive drug and stage for the fantasy of the illegal and morally questionable as cool, writes Omar Rincón. "The paradox is that those who sell themselves as good are destroying us, and are real life criminals, and those of us who identify as critics and counterculturals enjoy the perverse, illegal, criminal and dark on television. Some corrupt in real life, others enjoy the corrupted world of series."
A former Honduran soldier claims that Berta Cáceres, the murdered environmentalist activist, appeared on a hit list distributed to U.S. trained special forces months ago, reports the Guardian. He said lists featuring the names and photographs of dozens of social and environmental activists were given to two elite units, with orders to eliminate each target. Several members of the unit fled rather than comply, and others are missing and feared dead.
A record number of environmental activists were killed in 2015, according to the UK based NGO, Global Witness. Brazil had the most death, over 50, mostly of activistsbattling illegal logging. Other regional "highs" include: 26 fatalities in Colombia, and 12 in Peru and Nicaragua, respectively, reports the Guardian.
Ahead of the OAS vote later this week on whether the Venezuelan government is in violation of the organization's Democratic Charter, another Nueva Sociedad piece, focused on how to assess the democratic crises of Venezuela and Brazil using a similar parameter, is a worthwhile read. Pablo Stefanoni gives lucid analysis both of the backdrop for the Brazilian conspiratorial "coup" and the increasingly anti-democratic actions of Venezuela's democratically elected government. "Today, the Latin American right denounces Venezuela and supports the Brazilian antidemocratic conspiracy and the "anti-imperialist" left operates as an inverted mirror. It is, no doubt, a difficult scenario for the continental lefts, in an increasingly evident end-of-cycle climate." He decries a radicalization of democracy that drowns internal debate and prizes "opportunist loyalties over efficiency and intellectual honesty in a 'Leninist' simulacrum that is not only undesirable, but is basically ineffective against the 'new right-wings' expanding across the region."
Adding onto the U.S. media pile onto Venezuela (see yesterday's note), the New York Times has an editorial decrying a regional reluctance to face up to President Nicolás Maduro. "If regional leaders fail to take a strong and united stand against Mr. Maduro, Venezuela’s crisis can only be expected to grow. That would lead to more violent political confrontations and, quite likely, an exodus into neighboring countries. Leaders in those nations should realize that this disaster is now very close to becoming their problem."
One last academic note for the day, the Financial Times has a review of Eric Hobsbawm's "Viva la Revolución," a newly released collection of the Marxist historian's writings on Latin America. "One of his central concerns is to ask: why, on a continent with so many obvious disparities and thus apparently so ripe for change, does revolution not happen, or fail," writes John Paul Rathbone. And Hobsbawm's writing is relevant for those seeking to understand the region's current swing away from leftist politics, he argues. Glorious Hobsbawm quote on the rise of the Brazilian Workers' Party: it “warms the cockles of all old red hearts."
Brazil's Finance Ministry granted state governments a six-month grace period on interest and amortization charges on their debts, in order to alleviate high debt-service costs that are endangering provision of public services, reports the Wall Street Journal. (See yesterday's briefs on the situation in Rio de Janeiro, for example.) El País has more in-depth analysis on the issue.
Brazil's largest telephone company, Oi, filed for bankruptcy protection yesterday after talks with creditors failed, reports the Wall Street Journal. If accepted by the court it would be the country's largest bankruptcy filing ever.
Braços Abertos, São Paulo-based program that offers a hotel room, three meals a day and street sweeping work for crack users, has allowed 65 percent of users to reduce their drug consumption or kick the habit, according to an investigation by Open Society Foundations together with the Instituto Brasileiro de Ciências Criminais, the Centro Brasileiro de Análise e Planejamento, and the Laboratório de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos da Unicamp, reported on by O Globo.
Mexican authorities and the CNTE teachers union each accuse the other of responsibility for the lethal clash on Sunday that killed eight protesters, reports the Associated Press. (See yesterday's post.)
Vice News speculates that Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's proposal to legalize medical marijuana and raise the threshold of possession was nothing more than a public relations stunt, in light of the proposed legislation's sudden derailing in Congress.
The head of Mexico's ruling PRI party stepped down yesterday, after the party suffered a humiliating defeat in regional elections, reports Reuters.
A gunman was killed in Venezuela's central bank, after briefly taking an employee hostage and injuring two security guards, reports the Wall Street Journal.