Regional organized crime networks outmaneuver existing national response strategies
Organized crime in Latin America has grown in power, reach, and flexibility, and lack of regional coordination allows such networks to transfer activity from country to country to avoid specific national counter-measure strategies.
"The Twelfth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, held in Salvador, Brazil (12-19 April 2010),1 argued for comprehensive strategies to cope with organized crime; it indicated that organized crime works by infiltrating country systems, operates across different regions and countries and has developed capabilities able to surpass those of the states." One workshop concluded that the link between drug trafficking and organized crime is a major risk to national security, and has the potential to spread through the region. Existing crime hotspots (see map) host illegal activities including drug smuggling, coca production, hosting regional and international terrorist groups, arms trade, and human trafficking.
"The approach, on a national level, has been to share intelligence, prosecute illegal activities, increase conviction periods and often militarize the response to organized crime bands in an attempt to disarticulate them. However, this approach suffers the “balloon effect”, in the sense that when authorities put pressure on one zone, illegal activities tend to migrate to another zone. For example, increased surveillance in Peru and Colombia means that drug smuggling to North America is now more commonly done through northern Venezuela, and the TPA is increasingly used to smuggle drugs to Europe."
"This is a worrying trend, particularly because it gives the impression of an endless war on drug smuggling, where success in one geographical area usually means escalation in another. A regional response should be based on the establishment of an adequate legislative framework, the setting up of capacity-building programs and the strengthening of regional and sub-regional cooperation, based on shared responsibility, as well as increased coordination of surveillance of international crime organizations. The alternative, when conflicts become unmanageable, is militarization; and if this is the case, the costs in terms of human lives, destruction of livelihoods and suppression of civil liberties."
Sources:FORO Nacional/Internacional, May 2010, page 2: http://newsletters.clearsignals.org/RAND_May2010.pdf#page=2
See the agenda, documents and main conclusions at http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/crime-congress/crime-congresses.html
United Nations Twelfth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (2010), Background paper: Workshop on Links between Drug Trafficking and Other Forms of Organized Crime, A/CONF.213/15, in http://www.unodc.org/documents/crime-congress/12th-Crime-Congress/Documents/A_CONF.213_15/V1051054e.pdf
See United Nations – Office on drugs and crime (2002), Results of a pilot survey of forty selected organized criminal groups in sixteen countries, Geneva: UNODC.