Non-violent gang activity in Medellin

I recently read an article (the link to which can be found below) in which the author reports some disturbing information about the city of Medellin. In this article, the author commented on how Medellin went from being a very violent city to a relatively safe city with numerous urban development projects underway. The author even described Medellin as rebranded as a safe tourist destination.

However, the article goes on to describe an increasing problem with the city of Medellin. In the article, the author states that “under the gleaming exteriors and praise about it being “the world’s most innovative city,” a seedy underbelly persists.” This problem is that of using young women, particularly virgins, as sex slaves and prostitutes. The author states that the problem has gotten so bad that part of Medellin is now nicknamed “the world’s biggest brothel.” According to the author, gangs lure young women, some even as young as 11, into the prostitution business with ideas of lots of quick money but quickly gain control of the women. The author stated that gangs would give financial support to the families of these women if the families cooperate; however, the gangs threaten to use violence against the families if they do not cooperate. The article states that the prostitution business is controlled by the gangs, particularly by the gang La Oficina.

This article is very interesting because it shows an aspect of Medellin not yet discussed in class. In some ways, this relates to the balloon effect we discussed earlier because the decrease in gangs’ power and influence in the city led to increased efforts to control the prostitution business. Furthermore, the article is interesting because it shows that not all gang activity is violent and that gang power and gangs’ criminal/degrading actions come in many forms. Contrary to the image that Medellin is improving and becoming a safer place, this article highlights the very strong presence of gang activity and inhumane activities. As the article states, “This has become part of the landscape, part of the cruel reality of the other Medellín – the one that is not visible, the one that does not appear in the media, that does not involve grand construction projects and fancy restaurants.”


Mexican Cocaine from Colombia

I recently read an article (provided in the link below) about the relationship between Mexican drug traffickers and drug producers in Colombia. In the article, the author stated that “Colombia is one of the world’s largest producers of cocaine, with an estimated output of 290 tons per year, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.” The article went on to describe that Colombia’s drug cartels primarily act only as producers now as they have been weakened by U.S. backed military anti drug efforts. According to the article, Mexican Cartels have started sending operatives into Colombia in order to directly negotiate and transport the Colombian produced cocaine back to the Cartels in Mexico. The article described how there has been knowledge of a connection between Colombian and Mexican drug cartels, but that this is the first mention of active foreign traffickers in the area.

This article is very interesting as it directly relates to the topics we are covering in class. The topic of drug organizations in Colombia is the topic we have recently started, so it is interesting to see an article that illustrates some of the history of the Colombian drug organizations. The article hints at the fact that the Colombian drug cartels have been very powerful and successful, but the article also describes how they have suffered from U.S. backed anti drug attempts. This article describes the current state of Colombian drug cartels and illustrates how, due to the anti drug efforts, these cartels have resorted primarily to producing cocaine. The article is further interesting as it illustrates a connectedness between drug cartels. The networks that drug cartels have formed include and depend on each other. The article illustrates a prime example of this by revealing that Mexican cartels send operatives directly to Colombia to negotiate and transport. The Colombian cartels produce, and the Mexican cartels purchase and transport. This interconnectedness shows the international nature of the drug trade, not just between traffickers and users, but also between traffickers and producers.

Deporting Criminals

Hello everyone,

I read an article (with the link attached at the bottom of this blog) which described the growing fact that Colombian narcos prefer to be sent to the U.S. for jail time. Interestingly, this has not always been the case. According to the article, narcos would dread being deported to the U.S. to go to jail. The United States War against Drugs had been getting started and there was a strict crackdown on prosecuting those involved with the drug trade. However, over time the situation has changed significantly. The article points out that narcos found that they could exchange information and/or resources to the United States Government in exchange for secure jail locations and lenient charges that include features such as shorter sentences and favorable outcomes in terms of drug money loss. As such, many Colombian drug criminals have started to favor being deported to the United States. Most of these prisoners are deported back to Colombia after their sentence is over, where many return to their drug empires. However, some criminals find legal ways to stay in the United States and either work in legitimate businesses or continue their drug work. The article goes on to illustrate that many Colombians are opposed to this state of affairs as it supposedly benefits the U.S. more than Colombia.

The article highlights numerous elements of organized crime that we have been discussing in class. Specifically, the article claims that “removing many hundreds of criminal gang members from Colombia has made life easier for the Colombian government and helped strengthen it, perhaps enough to make it conceivable for Colombia to handle more cases under its own justice system.” In this manner, the U.S. has helped increase the governability of the Colombian state. Furthermore, the effectiveness of the state to enforce laws and operate its own legal system effectively and assuredly has been increased. However, the article also argues that “there’s no evidence that extraditions have had much impact on the volume of drug trafficking.” In other words, the article argues that while the process of deporting Colombian criminals to the Unites States has increased the effectiveness of the Colombian state, and thus reduced brown areas in that state, there hasn’t been much impact on the drug trade itself. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that by decreasing brown areas in the Colombian state, the U.S. might actually have been increasing those brown areas. This possibility is only seen on a global, international level by pointing out that the increase in Colombian state competency and efficiency is only a result of U.S. intervention and that such an effect might possibly revert when U.S. intervention is removed. In other words, the Colombian government might be more competent and independent from organized crime, but may have become more dependent on international aid and as such, from a global perspective, have increased brown areas.

Organized Crime in Prison

A recent article illustrates the widespread and influential nature of organized crime. The article, found at the link provided at the bottom of this blog, mentions how a convict, Byron Lima Oliva, set up and operated a successful and powerful crime organization from prison. Oliva was previously an army captain who had been in prison for murdering a Bishop named Juan Gerardi. The article describes how Oliva, who had been potentially building a crime organization for 15 years, was recently charged with conspiracy, bribery, and conspiracy to launder money. Specifically, the article mentions that Oliva “took money from other inmates in return for favors such as prohibited cellphones and appliances, as well as special food and conjugal visits.” Furthermore, the article illustrates Oliva as having the authority in the prison and that he was able to set up a crime organization from jail that enabled him to obtain numerous profits including property, power, and wealth. Additionally, the article describes how Oliva claims to have a friendship and potential partnership with the Guatemala President, Otto Perez Molina.

This article is very interesting as it highlights many aspects of general concepts inherent in definitions of organized crime. Specifically, this article illustrates a crime organization with structural hierarchy, long term period of operation, profit from illegal activities, and use of violence/ corruption. Oliva’s crime empire was operating for approximately 15 years, and his crime organization in jail was operating for 1-2 years before he was convicted. These elements illustrate a long term of operations. Furthermore, his profiteering of property, power, and wealth while in prison illustrate a profit from illegal activities. Additionally, Oliva’s crime organization in prison played upon corruption of officials in order to maintain and expand its power and operations in prison.

In addition to providing an example of a crime organization to which standard definitions apply, Oliva’s crime organization reveals the low governance of the Guatemalan state. While the state certainly has legal coercion and an administration of justice, as is revealed by the fact that Oliva was arrested and put in jail and then further convicted, the state lacks administrative capacity and the power and influence to manage conflict. For example, the article quoted Ivan Velasquez, the head of the U.N. International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, who stated that “Lima represents for many of the inmates the true authority, and so they turn to him to seek transfers, favors and rights. Lima Oliva exerts undoubtable influence in the penitentiary system.” Clearly, the state is weak in these aspects and Oliva exploited that fact to gain power and influence for himself, which in turn led to a further decrease in governance of the Guatemalan state.