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From Regional to Global. The Consolidation of Criminal Convergence in South America

This article is part of the book Challenges and Threats to Security in Latin America.


Summary

For decades, some South American countries -such as Brazil or Colombia- have suffered high levels of criminal violence, eroding the democratic governance of cities and regions across the continent. Often, this violence has been associated with drug trafficking, especially cocaine. However, the consolidation of this trafficking has led to a situation where criminal organizations have consolidated contact networks and alliances with other organizations, causing trafficking and smuggling routes to overlap, as well as enabling the emergence of ungoverned enclaves that act as facilitators and enhancers of organized crime. Many cocaine trafficking routes often coincide with those of illegal timber trafficking. Criminal organizations weave alliances with each other, both locally and internationally, including terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah. This scenario represents a new challenge for the States of the region that must implement changes to successfully face this phenomenon.

Keywords: convergence, organized crime, terrorism, drug trafficking.

Introduction

Currently, 38 of the 50 most violent cities in the world are in Latin America. In countries highly affected by drug trafficking, such as Mexico, Colombia and Brazil,[1] criminal violence generates productivity costs estimated at 3.5 % of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).[2] Much of this violence is especially associated with the trafficking of cocaine, which is produced and consumed locally and re-exported mostly by sea to high-value markets in the world, reaching a record 1,784 tons of annual production.[3] This expansive period of drug trafficking enhances the actions of organized crime, facilitating a phenomenon of growing concern: the confluence or criminal convergence. This criminal confluence operates on three levels: on the routes used, between criminal organizations (locally and intercontinental) and in areas of low governance that are exploited by non-state threats such as terrorism.

Various illegal goods are frequently trafficked together or moved through the same transit routes. For example, timber and gold are moved across the Atlantic to Europe along with cocaine. This phenomenon coincides with the development of alliances between criminal groups for mutual benefit, as is evident in the spread of Mexican and Colombian drug trafficking organizations abroad and their convergence with the most relevant European criminal organizations such as the ‘Ndrangheta, but also terrorist organizations eager to obtain sources of financing. In turn, this confluence gives way to the emergence of “crime hubs,” places where the state is replaced by criminal governance. These places provide criminal organizations with a solid base of support, where they usually have the support of the local population, undermining security and the exercise of state sovereignty.

Criminal Convergence in Illicit Goods Trafficking Routes

In the Southern Cone of America, while cocaine has traditionally flowed from major producing countries (Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia) to North America or Europe, increased production and police pressure on key routes have led to the emergence of new markets in Russia and Asia, [4] while cocaine overproduction in Colombia has shifted much of production from Peru and Bolivia to the South, especially to ports in Ecuador, Brazil, and Paraguay.[5] The diversification of this trafficking to other regions has opened new convergence points in smuggling routes of different goods, including gold and timber of illegal origin, weapons, and tobacco. These trafficking routes do not only operate in a single geographical direction but usually connect different regions and continents through traffic in both directions, south-north and East-West.

In many cases, the numerous and voluminous export routes of commodities and their difficulty to be controlled locally are exploited for trafficking not only in narcotics, but also in illegally extracted goods such as gold and timber. The relationship between criminal organizations dedicated to drug trafficking and the exploitation of gold and timber is direct, since usually the same areas in Peru and Colombia dedicated to the culture of coca plants, match with areas of mining and exploitation of forest resources. Likewise, the ease of money laundering through gold mines and the increase in the price in recent years has attracted the attention of drug trafficking organizations, who have adventured into this strategy, especially in Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador.[6]

On the route’s northwards, particularly looking for the market of the United States, a similar phenomenon of displacement and convergence is observed. The Panama-Colombia border has proven to be a vital convergence point for cocaine trafficking into Central America and the United States.[7] These routes are controlled by the so-called “Clan del Golfo,”[8] an organization that simultaneously operates a large number of illegal mining centers,[9] especially gold, on both sides of the border. Gold is also used by these organizations to launder the financial proceeds of drug trafficking. Venezuela plays a fundamental role as an intermediary country in this trafficking, with criminal organizations that export gold to destinations with low controls of legality of the origin of the mentioned material such as the United Arab Emirates, Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire and even Uganda.[10]

Illegally harvested timber also offers drug traffickers an additional resource of financing and a means to hide drug shipments. Frequently, illegally harvested timber is washed and provided with documentation that legalizes it, thus enabling its commercialization to the rest of the world. The timber transported by river and road has been used to move cocaine through South America. This is particularly the case with the movement of wood down the Amazon River to the port of Belem do Pará in Brazil.[11] Often, legal or illegal timber is used to hide (disguise) cocaine. This methodology has also occurred in transatlantic shipments of timber. For example, in 2010, 1.3 tons of cocaine were found hidden inside a container full of wooden briquettes shipped from Brazil in Hamburg, Germany,[12] and more recently, a shipment of 7.2 tons of cocaine was found hidden in wood inside a container in Antwerp.[13]

The need for criminal organizations to arm themselves also fosters the convergence of drug and other routes of good’s trafficking with those for weapons. The relationship between arms trafficking and drug trafficking is direct, as criminal organizations feed on them to confront other organizations, establish internal control, and sometimes confront state agencies. For example, in 2018 an arms trafficking operation was detected from the United States and Europe to Argentina and from there to Paraguay and Brazil in order to supply the Brazilian criminal group Primeiro Comando Capital (PCC), using the same cocaine and marijuana trafficking routes.[14]

As with Mexico’s illegal arms trade, the southern states of the United States are the source of most of the weapons circulating in Latin America, being trafficked along the same cocaine routes, but downwards. It is estimated that annually about 200,000 weapons enter Mexico from the United States,[15] and from there, many of them end up in Central and South America. Just in 2021, in Bogotá, 1,156 weapons were confiscated, many of them entered from Ecuador and Venezuela.[16] These purchases are consolidated and smuggled into the region through seaports, especially those with a free port regime, as well as land routes supplied by Mexican drug criminal groups.[17]

This convergence in transnational criminal trafficking also matches with money-laundering operations, which explains the phenomenon of cash trafficking using the same routes used to traffic other illicit goods. According to the Basel Institute on Governance, Paraguay, Bolivia and Venezuela are the countries considered most vulnerable to money laundering in South America, while the U.S. State Department identified Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela as the top money laundering jurisdictions.[18] According to this same report, the Tri-Border Area (ATF) shared with Brazil and Paraguay is one of the main routes to Argentina for multibillion-dollar money laundering based on trade and other criminal activities. According to a GAFILAT report, the most recurrent money laundering schemes in the financial sector include private banking, financial instruments, remittances, and exchange businesses, while money laundering outside the financial sector include: real estate, import and sale of luxury cars, trade in jewelry and precious stones, as well as agricultural activities.[19] Money laundering frequently involves bulk cash transfers, including on transatlantic routes. On Argentina’s northern border, police forces frequently confiscate cash being moved from Argentina to Paraguay and Bolivia. This cash generally responds to drug purchase operations from foreign organizations.[20] Research conducted between 2003 and 2011 showed that Colombian cartels imported money in bulk from the Netherlands, mainly in vacuum-sealed packages of 500-euro notes.[21] This contributed to the suspension of the €500 note by european central banks in 2019. Likewise, illegal cash flows have been discovered in Ecuador in shipments from the Netherlands and Mexico, as well as large amounts of dollars have been found inside civilian aircraft that make unreported flights from Mexico.[22]

Criminal Convergence Among Criminal Organizations

The convergence in trafficking routes is fed by criminal convergence between criminal organizations. This criminal convergence occurs because of the growing interconnection between various criminal organizations, where each of them provides comparative advantages, which are: geographical domain or over the trafficking of some substance or the provision of illegal services such as money laundering.

Colombia’s criminal organizations were some of the first to converge with others at the regional level. For example, in the 80s, Colombian cartels relied heavily on the provision of other actors located in Bolivia and Peru.[23] Currently, Mexican cartels dominate the scene, converging with local actors, especially in those countries located on the axis of the Andes Mountains. In Colombia, Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel has established alliances with “Los Urabeños” to send cocaine shipments to Europe and other areas.[24] This cartel has also operated in other countries in South America. In 2008, for example, an operation to set up a methamphetamine laboratory in Argentina was discovered.[25] In Ecuador, the Sinaloa Cartel has established alliances with the criminal group “Los Choneros” for the consolidation of cocaine shipments destined for the United States.[26]

This convergence not only occurs locally, but also has strengthened the convergence between criminal actors from different continents, who have chosen to establish alliances, enhancing their capacities instead of clashing for control of criminal flows. This is the case of the Italian ‘Ndrangheta, which has not only built a strategic alliance with Colombian cartels, but has lately also developed a close relationship with the Brazilian PCC.[27] Two of the most notorious members of the Calabrian organization were arrested in Sao Paulo in 2018, and the organization’s “capo” Domenico Pelle visited Brazil twice in 2016 and 2017 to meet with PCC deputy director Gilberto Aparecido.[28] More recently, in 2020, the Sao Paulo unit of Brazil’s Federal Police arrested Nicola Assisi and Patrick Assisi, suppliers of the ‘Ndrangheta and another head of one of the clans.[29] Rocco Morabito was arrested in Uruguay from where he escaped, and eventually got arrested again in Brazil.[30] This presence of the Calabrian mafia is directly related to the export of cocaine and explains the ‘Ndrangheta’s alliance with local groups that act as suppliers.

In a similar case of transatlantic convergence in Ecuador, Albanian criminal organizations have been identified operating in Ecuadorian ports coordinating shipments of cocaine smuggled from Colombia by local organizations. One of the main Albanian drug traffickers, Arber Çekaj, was responsible for a total of 108 shipments of cocaine disguised in banana shipments to Albania.[31] He, in person, supervised departures from the port. This organization has strengthened linkages with organizations operating in the Colombia’s border area, especially in Sucumbios. The anarchic context of this region facilitated the arrival of international criminal organizations, mainly Albanian and Mexican cartels.[32] Cocaine pathways from Putumayo to Sucumbios are controlled by the alliance between the local group “La Constru” and other ex-FARC groups. Constru controls the entire cocaine supply chain locally, from coca leaf processing to moving cocaine hydrochloride to Ecuador. The various mafia organizations of the Ex-FARC are not restricted by the rigidity of a unified command, which causes recurrent clashes between them with the aim of controlling crucial areas of drug trafficking. The largest of these organizations is the one led by Miguel Botache Santillana, alias “Gentil Duarte,” and frequently clashes with Colombia’s 48th Front.[33] Corrupt local officials play a vital role as “local facilitators,” enhancing convergence, providing forged documents, settling lawsuits and allowing shipments of illicit goods in the area. Other relevant local criminal groups include the 32nd Front, the Armed Peasant Guard, and Nuevo Horizonte. According to a report by the Ecuadorian Ombudsman’s Office, these criminal organizations control local cocaine routes, illegal gold mining and drug trafficking.[34]

One of the most concerning variants of criminal convergence occurs when organizations dedicated to drug trafficking converge with those linked to terrorism. In Paraguay, drug trafficking organizations operating from Ciudad del Este also have strong linkages with money launderers and terrorist financing. The criminal nature of the Tri-Border and its extensive money laundering opportunities facilitated the installation of criminal groups which have been specializing in other criminal activities, including Hezbollah, which has been present in the Tri-Frontier since the mid-1980s. Hezbollah’s operations in the area include drug trafficking, currency counterfeiting and organized crime to fund operations around the world.[35]

In 2018, Paraguayan authorities arrested Nader Mohammad Farhat, a currency trader from Ciudad del Este investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for drug trafficking and money laundering. Its operations included the use of the exchange house Unique SA, and at least eight banks in Paraguay from where money was transferred abroad.[36] At the time of his arrest, $1.4 million in cash was confiscated from his home. More recently, in August 2021, local authorities in Ciudad del Este arrested Kassem Mohamed Hijazi, a Lebanese-Brazilian accused of money laundering for drug trafficking organizations.[37] The link between money laundering and drug trafficking actors is most obvious in the case of Hezbollah, which has started to be involved with cocaine trafficking in the region.[38] The expansion of Hezbollah needed the cooperation and collaboration of national organizations that could secure the supply of cocaine. This is done by providing money laundering services to less sophisticated criminal organizations like the PCC that have access to the cocaine supply chain. The relationship with the PCC goes beyond money laundering. Hezbollah has also acted as a shadow facilitator, helping the PCC acquire firearms to protect Hezbollah operatives incarcerated in Brazilian prisons.[39]

Criminal Convergence in Failed Spaces and Areas

Often, in many parts of Latin America, criminal activity promotes and generates an area of illegality that naturally displaces the presence of the State. Consequently, a vicious circle is generated where criminal groups are strengthened and the State is weakened, which further enhances the actions of organized crime, thus facilitating criminal convergence in these areas.[40] These spaces or areas are usually places located on the borders, but also vulnerable neighborhoods in large cities. However, large geographical areas are not the only ones that act as facilitators of criminal convergence, since prisons and ports today also function as facilitators of this convergence.

In recent years, some border points in Latin America have been transformed into places where state governance is diffuse and where organized crime has become entrenched. In these places converge criminal organizations, trafficking routes and territorial occupation. Two of the most emblematic places are located on the border between Ecuador and Colombia, as well as on the Triple Border between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay.

In 2021, Ecuador confiscated a total of 116 tons of cocaine.[41] Currently, Ecuador is an export destination for a third of the cocaine produced in Colombia,[42] while thousands of Ecuadorian citizens, living in a country with 52 % poverty, are exploited by criminal organizations as cheap labor, particularly at the border.[43] The FARC’s continued operation along the Ecuadorian border during the 80s, 90s, and 2000s solidified criminal trafficking routes into Sucumbios.[44] After the Colombian peace process in 2016, the FARC dissident group “48th front” continued to operate in the border area, encouraging the development of lawless areas where cocaine trafficking converges with other criminal activities such as smuggling, money laundering and arms trafficking.[45]

Cocaine produced in Nariño is smuggled into Ecuador via the Pacific route, while cocaine produced in Colombia’s Putumayo region is smuggled through routes deep within the Ecuadorian Amazon. Recently, Ecuador’s Sucumbios province has witnessed a significant increase in cocaine flows, which has also led to a thriving criminal economy in border regions. The fact that Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as its national currency has made it an attractive country for money laundering operations and bulk cash smuggling, usually from neighboring Colombia using the same routes as cocaine and from Europe.[46] Drug trafficking converges in this area with illegal logging of forests, which is also a major challenge, as it makes use of existing smuggling and laundering networks, encouraging mass cash sending, corruption and commercial fraud.[47] Also, the gold is another commodity that is illegally mined in the area. The Buenos Aires region in northern Ecuador and some areas near Sucumbíos are known to attract illegal miners who extract up to $500,000 worth of gold per week.[48]

The FARC used the regional capital, Lago Agrio, as a support base, setting up warehouses, clinics, bars and nightclubs.[49] After the FARC’s demobilization, this area remained a service hub for the criminal economy. As mentioned, cocaine pathways from Putumayo to Sucumbios are controlled by the alliance between the local group “La Constru” and other ex-FARC groups, primarily the group led by alias “Gentil Duarte” and the 48th Front. This intense criminal activity has turned Sucumbíos into a crime hub, where cocaine trafficking is linked to arms trafficking, human trafficking, sexual exploitation, fuel and its precursor chemical trafficking, as well as gold extraction and trafficking.[50] As a result, in the area, some of these organizations have mutated into narco-insurgencies that occasionally confront elements of the Ecuadorian Armed Forces.[51]

Another region where criminal convergence has strengthened in recent years is the tri-border between Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. Paraguay is the largest producer of cannabis in the region and one of the largest in the world, exporting most of its production to Brazil, Argentina and Chile. This illegal industry capitalized on the networks created by the illegal tobacco trade and benefited from weak governance and corruption. Ciudad del Este, the Paraguayan city that is part of the triple border along with the cities of Puerto Iguazú (Argentina) and Foz do Iguazú (Brazil), became a criminal center where multiple criminal activities have converged, facilitated by porous borders and easy access to resources and weapons.[52] The area is plagued by counterfeiting, money laundering, terrorist financing, smuggling and drug trafficking, particularly in Ciudad del Este. A 2010 study estimated that the city generated between $12 billion and $13 billion in cash each year and that $12 billion a year was laundered in the tri-border area.[53]

The smuggling of illegal tobacco from Paraguay originally to Argentina and Brazil in the early 90s opened routes that are now exploited by drug trafficking organizations.[54] Tobacco factories in Paraguay produce 20 times more tobacco than the domestic market needs, accounting for up to 10 % of all smuggled tobacco in the world.[55] This billion-dollar-a-year industry allowed for the establishment of illicit routes, the emergence of organized crime facilitators, and corrupt officials that paved the way for additional transnational illicit activities to be established in the area.[56]

Although illicit flows transit across borders, primarily with Brazil, organized crime groups have found a safe haven in Ciudad del Este, providing protection, connections and illicit services that facilitate transit to Brazil and Argentina if necessary. In 2021, more than 15 tons of cocaine leaving Paraguay were confiscated at the ports of Antwerp and Hamburg.[57] Increased criminal activities and weak law enforcement capabilities led to the expansion of other activities such as money laundering operations, arms trafficking, and terrorist financing, especially in Ciudad del Este. In addition, many of the routes used by organized crime groups overlap in some places.[58]

Likewise, the convergence of criminal organizations has been facilitated by the penetration of the institutional structures of the State. Tobacco trafficking was facilitated and at the same time fueled by corruption in the country. For example, during the administration of Fernando Lugo, an individual accused of trafficking tobacco to Argentina was appointed as director of intelligence for the Paraguayan Air Force.[59] More recently, the so-called “Mega Laundering” case showed that more than $1.2 billion had been illicitly transferred abroad by government officials.[60] A former Paraguayan vice president was among the suspects. An investigation led by Brazilian authorities revealed a sophisticated scheme through which criminal groups transferred billions of Brazilian reais from Paraguay to Brazil, disguising the operation as a regular currency exchange for tourists visiting Ciudad del Este.[61] A former Paraguayan president, owner of one of the banks under investigation and one of the largest tobacco factories, is among those defendants and has allegedly been involved in illegal tobacco export operations.[62] Other senior officials involved in the business include senators from Alto Paraná and immediate family members, as well as local officials.[63] This criminal network, built on smuggling, was enhanced by the arrival of Brazilian cartels, particularly the powerful PCC.

The PCC gained territory, going on to dominate strategic points in the area, such as Ciudad del Este and Pedro Juan Caballero, displacing the local group “Clan Rotela.”[64] The PCC has chosen to collaborate and converge with other criminal organizations but has also used violence to dominate other local groups. It has also moved towards poly-criminality. In 2017, the PCC blocked Ciudad del Este, overwhelming local police, and stole more than $40 million from Prosegur, a multinational security company.[65] Similarly, in 2021, the southern Brazilian city of Araçatuba was taken over and allegedly PCC members robbed several banks there. The group routinely steals cars to exchange for cocaine or to equip local leaders in the country. The dominance of the routes in Paraguay and the triple border allowed the PCC to dominate the cocaine market of the Southern Cone.

Ports and prisons with weak management control and accountability systems also act as environments facilitating criminal convergence. Ports like Santos have become major exit points for cocaine to Europe and Africa. Brazil’s legal exports to Africa grew from $64 million in 2000 to $800 million in 2021. This explosive expansion in the legal trade between Brazil and the African continent has been exploited by organized crime to send cocaine to African coasts, the most recurrent method being the Rip-on/Rip-off method. [66] The port of Santos plays a vital role on this route. Cocaine confiscations increased from 1.6 tons in 2013 to 27 tons in 2019.[67]

Prison mismanagement, as in other regions of South America, also allows organized crime to consolidate power among inmates and use the prison as headquarters. In Brazil, the feared PCC was born in the prisons of Sao Paulo and unified under the leadership of Williams Herba Camacho, but always dominating the prisons of Brazil and surrounding countries such as Paraguay and Bolivia.[68] In Ecuador, two criminal groups are fighting for control of the country’s prisons, the “Choneros” (linked to the Sinaloa Cartel) and the “Lagartos” (linked to the Jalisco New Generation cartel). This struggle resulted in the deaths of 51 inmates in 2020,[69] and more recently 119 inmates died in new clashes between these organizations, supported by Colombian and Mexican cartels.[70] Ecuador’s lack of control over its prison system is also reflected in the province of Sucumbíos. During the years 2020 and 2021, inmates rioted on at least two occasions and some of them escaped from prison. Similarly, in Argentina, the organization “Los Monos” operates from prisons, surrendering similar groups and recruiting new adherents within them, forcing the authorities to permanently rotate the leaders through different prison units.[71] In all cases, prison, instead of fulfilling its role of resocialization and sentencing, ends up becoming the command and control center of criminal organizations.

Conclusions

South America is going through the golden age of criminal convergence. Just as the old smuggling channels allowed the expansion of cocaine trafficking, today it strengthens and enables the trafficking of other illegal goods. In this scenario, the role of local facilitators and so-called super-facilitators (operating in hubs of illegality; operating with traffickers of arms, drugs, natural resources; and getting involved in terrorist financing operations) allows the interconnection between them. The convergence between criminal organizations forces us to revise theories that frame criminal organizations as actors tending to confront others in the bidding for dominance of a given market. This article has shown how large criminal organizations sometimes tend to bravely choose an intelligent international division of labor, just as the CCP and the ‘Ndrangheta do, to the detriment of confrontation through violence. The role of organized crime enhancers offered by areas of low governance, whether border cities or prisons, allows criminal organizations to escalate in the use of armed violence and criminal structure, corrupting, penetrating and co-opting the institutional structures of the States. These places are the same that are exploited by parastatal actors, terrorist organizations and narco-insurgencies strengthening themselves.

In this context, the States and particularly police forces (usually slow in response, bureaucratic in their organization and top-down in their formation) must necessarily transform themselves if they want to successfully confront this new phenomenon. In this regard, they should encourage the creation of smaller, more autonomous police units, with decision-making capacity and highly interconnected. Governments will have to adapt their organizational charts to this new reality, providing sub-units with greater flexibility and transversal coordination capacity, enhancing local and international cooperation, expanding intelligence sharing mechanisms and multiplying joint operations.

Finally, the cases of convergence analyzed demonstrate that the problem of origin lies in the absence of the State, the lack of sovereign control or effective exercise of sovereignty, which in turn enables the possibility for a criminal organization to dominate a trafficking route, a city, a prison or a port. Therefore, any strategy that seeks to contain and successfully attack organized crime in these places must be developed as a multi-agency strategy, where the police is only one element in a set of interventions that include the development of opportunities for disadvantaged populations, the structural improvement of penitentiaries and the improvement of port controls.

Endnotes:

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  27. Semana Investigation, “Los detalles secretos de la caída en Colombia del segundo hombre más importante de la mafia italiana,” semana.com (November 7, 2020), https://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/asi-cayo-en-colombia-el-segundo-hombre-mas-importante-de-la-mafia-italiana/202049/
  28. Yuri Neves and Mónica Betancur, “PCC-‘Ndrangheta, la alianza criminal internacional que inunda Europa de cocaína.” es.insight.crime.org (August 8, 2019), https://es.insightcrime.org/noticias/analisis/pcc-ndrangheta-la-alianza-criminal-internacional-que-inunda-europa-de-cocaina/.
  29. Ricerche e Rapporti, “‘Ndrangheta holding – Dossier 2008”, Eurispes – L’Istituto di Ricerca degli italiani (2008), https://eurispes.eu/ricerca-rapporto/ndrangheta-holding-dossier-2008/
  30. Deutsche Welle, “Italia celebra captura del mafioso Morabito en Brasil,” dw.com (May 25, 2021), https://www.dw.com/es/italia-celebra-captura-del-mafioso-morabito-en-brasil/a-57654767.
  31. Plan V and Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), “El Mayor Narcotraficante Albanes hizo negocios en Ecuador,” planv.com.ec (December 13, 2019), https://www.planv.com.ec/investigacion/investigacion/el-mayor-narcotraficante-albanes-hizo-negocios-ecuador.
  32. James Bargent, “La provincia de Sucumbíos en Ecuador: santuario de narcotraficantes”, es.insightcrime.org (November 8, 2019), https://es.insightcrime.org/noticias/analisis/la-provincia-de-sucumbios-en-ecuador-santuario-de-narcotraficantes/;
  33. Colprensa, “La guerra, a sangre y fuego, que estaría librando ‘Gentil Duarte’ en Putumayo”, elpais.com (August 7, 2019), https://www.elpais.com.co/colombia/la-guerra-a-sangre-y-fuego-que-estaria-librando-gentil-duarte-en-putumayo.html;
  34. Gina Benavides Llerena, “Comunidad de San José de Wisuya y Resguardo Buenavista, Territorio Colectivo Binacional Indígena Siona en Inminente Riesgo de Exterminio”, insightcrime.org (Ombudsman’s Office: January 14, 2019), https://insightcrime.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/InformeVerificaci%c3%b3n-ADHN-FINAL.pdf.
  35. Emanuele Ottolenghi, “Examining the Effectiveness of the Kingpin Designaton Act in the Western Hemisphere”, Congressional Testimony: Foundation for Defense of Democracies, govinfo.gov (Washington DC: November 8, 2017), 5, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CHRG-115hhrg27514/pdf/CHRG-115hhrg27514.pdf
  36. Last minute, “Red lavaba desde Paraguay cada tres meses hasta USD 1,4 millones”, ultimahora.com (May 19, 2018), https://www.ultimahora.com/red-lavaba-paraguay-cada-tres-meses-usd-14-millones-n1148407.html.
  37. U.S. Department of the Treasury, “Treasury Targets Corruption Networks in Paraguay”, treasury.gov (August 24, 2021), https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0332.
  38. Tony Badran and Emanuele Ottolenghi, “Hezbollah Finance in Lebanon,” A Primary-Source Review, Foundation for Defense of Democracies (September 23, 2020), https://www.fdd.org/analysis/2020/09/23/hezbollah-finance-in-lebanon/.
  39. Kyra Gurney, “Police Documents Reveal ‘Hezbollah Ties’ to Brazil’s PCC”, Insight Crime (November 10, 2014), https://insightcrime.org/news/brief/police-documents-hezbollah-ties-brazil-pcc/.
  40. Patrick Radden Keefe, “The Geography of Badness: Mapping the Hubs of the illicit Global Economy”, Convergence: illicit networks and national security in the age of globalization, National Defense University Press (2013), 121, https://ndupress.ndu.edu/Portals/68/Documents/Books/convergence.pdf
  41. Mexico Daily Post, “Ecuador seizes over 9 tons of cocaine destined for Mexico and the US”, mexicodailypost.com (August 14, 2021), https://mexicodailypost.com/2021/08/14/ecuador-seizes-over-9-tons-of-cocaine-destined-for-mexico-and-the-us/.
  42. James Bargent, “Ecuador: A cocaine Superhighway to the US and Europe”, insightcrime.org (October 30, 2019), https://www.insightcrime.org/news/analysis/ecuador-a-cocaine-superhighway-to-the-us-and-europe/.
  43. TelesurHD, “Over 52% of Ecuadoreans fell into poverty in 2020”, telesurenglish.net (January 1, 2021), https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Over-52-of-Ecuadoreans-Fell-Into-Poverty-in-2020-20210101-0009.html.
  44. Jaime Ortega Carrascal, “El bombardeo a las FARC en Ecuador partió la historia de esa guerrilla, dice expert”, EFE Agency (March 2, 2021), https://www.efe.com/efe/america/politica/el-bombardeo-a-las-farc-en-ecuador-partio-la-historia-de-esa-guerrilla-dice-experto/20000035-4478059.
  45. In 2018, members of the Ecuadorean army were found to be trafficking arms to ex-FARC organizations: Parker Asmann, “Ecuador Soldiers Allegedly Trafficked Weapons to Ex-FARC Mafia”, insightcrime.org (October 18, 2018), https://insightcrime.org/news/brief/ecuador-soldiers-trafficked-weapons-ex-farc-mafia/.
  46. James Bargent, “Ecuador Bulk Cash Smuggling Reflects New Laundering Trend”, insightcrime.org (April 11, 2013), https://insightcrime.org/news/analysis/rise-in-ecuador-cash-smuggling-reflects-wider-crime-trends/.
  47. FATF Report, “Money Laundering from Environmental Crime”, Financial Action Task Force FATF (July 2021), https://www.fatf-gafi.org/media/fatf/documents/reports/Money-Laundering-from-Environmental-Crime.pdf.
  48. Antonio José Paz Cardona, “Ecuador: minera denuncia a más de 60 personas que se oponen a actividad extractiva en su territorio”, Mongabay (May 18, 2021), https://es.mongabay.com/2021/05/ecuador-minera-denuncia-a-mas-de-60-personas/.
  49. James Bargent, “La provincia de Sucumbíos en Ecuador: …”
  50. Commerce, “Militares descubren armamento y droga en una zona de Sucumbíos,” elcomercio.com (February 13, 2021), https://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/seguridad/militares-descubren-armamento-droga-sucumbios.html.
  51. Editorial El Universo, ” Dos soldados heridos tras incursión armada en destacamento de Putumayo; delincuentes se llevaron fusiles,” eluniverso.com (May 17, 2022), https://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/ecuador/dos-soldados-heridos-tras-incursion-armada-en-destacamento-de-putumayo-delincuentes-se-llevaron-fusiles-nota/
  52. Global Organized Crime Index, “‘Paraguay’, Global Organized Crime Index, Global Initiative Against Organized Crime”, ocindex.net (2021), https://ocindex.net/assets/downloads/ocindex_profile_paraguay.pdf.
  53. Rex Hudson, “Terrorist And Organized Crime Groups In The Tri-Border Area (TBA) Of South America,” US DOJ Office of Justice Programs (Washington D.C: 2003), revised in 2010, 3, https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/terrorist-and-organized-crime-groups-tri-border-area-tba-south.
  54. Gabriel Di Nicola and Germán de los Santos, “Itatí: tres clanes controlan el mercado de la marihuana en siete provincias,” The Nation (January 12, 2017), https://www.lanacion.com.ar/seguridad/itati-tres-clanes-controlan-el-mercado-de-la-marihuana-en-siete-provincias-nid1975091/.
  55. Marina Walker Guevara, Mabel Rehnfeldt and Marcelo Soares, “Landlocked Paraguay emerges as a top producer of contraband tobacco”, Smuggling made easy, Public Integrity (June 29, 2009), updated 2014, https://publicintegrity.org/2009/06/29/6343/smuggling-made-easy.
  56. Guillermo Garat, “Paraguay: The cannabis breadbasket of the Southern Cone”, Transnational Institute TNI & Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung FES, (July 2016), https://www.tni.org/files/publication-downloads/drug_policy_briefing_46.pdf.
  57. Martin Verrier, “The Unexpected Route”, Royal United Services Institute – RUSI, (May 19, 2021), https://shoc.rusi.org/blog/the-unexpected-route/.
  58. UNODC, “Interview with UNODC official in Bolivia”, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (2021), https://www.unodc.org/documents/bolivia/proyectos_bolivia/The_UNODC_Bolivia_Country_Program_2010-2015.pdf.
  59. Marina Walker Guevara and Mabel Rehnfeldt, “Paraguay: El gran ‘duty free’ del contrabando de cigarrillos”, Research Center Journalistic CIPER, (June 30, 2009), https://www.ciperchile.cl/2009/06/30/paraguay-el-gran-duty-free-del-contrabando-de-cigarrillos/;
  60. Ultima Hora, “Fiscalía investiga megalavado y posible vínculo con el terrorismo”, ultimahora.com (November 1, 2018), https://www.ultimahora.com/fiscalia-investiga-megalavado-y-posible-vinculo-el-terrorismo-n2776919.html.
  61. El Nacional, “Receita Federal investiga ‘conexión paraguaya’ en lavado de dinero de cárteles brasileños,” elnacional.com (February 4, 2021), https://www.elnacional.com.py/destacado/2021/02/04/receita-federal-investiga-conexion-paraguaya-en-lavado-de-dinero-de-carteles-brasilenos/.
  62. Ángela Olaya and Sergio Saffón, “Drug Trafficking and Political Protection in Paraguay: The Case of ‘Cucho’ Cabaña”, insightcrime.org (February 25, 2021), https://insightcrime.org/investigations/drug-trafficking-political-protection-paraguay-cucho-cabana/.
  63. Ibíd.
  64. InSight Crime, “Rotela Clan”, es.insightcrime.org (August 23, 2020), https://es.insightcrime.org/noticias-crimen-organizado-paraguay/clan-rotela/.
  65. ABC “El Robo del Siglo: El Asalto a Prosegur de Ciudad del Este, en Fotos”, abc.com.py (April 30, 2017), https://www.abc.com.py/edicion-impresa/suplementos/judicial/el-robo-del-siglo-el-asalto-a-prosegur-de-ciudad-del-este-en-fotos-1588885.html
  66. Trading Economics, “Brazil Exports to Africa”, tradingeconomics.com (2021), https://tradingeconomics.com/brazil/exports-to-africa#:~:text=Exports%20to%20Africa%20in%20Brazil%20is%20expected%20to%20be%20644.18,according%20to%20our%20econometric%20models.
  67. Proinde, “Drug Smuggling on Bulk Carriers out of Brazil on The Rise”, proinde.com (May 4, 2021), https://proinde.com.br/circulars/drug-smuggling-on-bulk-carriers-out-of-brazil-on-the-rise/
  68. EFE, “Bolivia entrega a Brasil a tres reos vinculados al Primer Comando Capital” EFE Agency (March 19, 2020), https://www.efe.com/efe/america/politica/bolivia-entrega-a-brasil-tres-reos-vinculados-al-primer-comando-capital/20000035-4200006.
  69. El Universo, “Ecuador: 51 crímenes en las cárceles en el 2020; Choneros y Lagartos, en riña por control”, eluniverso.com (January 3, 2021), https://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/2021/01/02/nota/9244891/guerra-bandas-carcel-choneros-vs-lagartos/.
  70. Norberto Paredes, “Ecuador: 4 claves que explican qué hay detrás de la masacre carcelaria que dejó al menos 119 muertos, la peor de la historia del país”, BBC News World (September 30, 2021), https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-58748756
  71. Germán de los Santos, “La cárcel, el lugar donde el líder de Los Monos vive protegido y maneja los hilos del negocio”, Digital Air (December 27, 2020), https://www.airedesantafe.com.ar/santa-fe/la-carcel-el-lugar-donde-el-lider-los-monos-vive-protegido-y-maneja-los-hilos-del-negocio-n184711

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The ideas contained in this analysis are the sole responsibility of the author, without necessarily reflecting the thoughts of the CEEEP or the Peruvian Army.

Image: CEEEP