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. 

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/Latin-America-Monitor/2014/0905/Guatemala-bishop-killer-accused-of-running-organized-crime-from-prison

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