500 word total response, 2 sources. 250 words and 1 source per numbered paragraph below.
1. In Venezuela, a once booming oil funded economy has been replaced with a socialist dictatorship, and a civilization on the brink of collapse. Venezuela has become a home for organized criminal groups, one in particular FARC or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, who currently control regions of Venezuela where illegal gold mining occurs. FARC and other militant guerilla organizations goal is the equal distribution of land and wealth amongst the people of Latin America. But these groups are now operating as criminal organizations, forcing indigenous people to mine gold for them in order to fund their guerrilla operations. “Control of the area by armed groups and corrupt military units prevents miners from speaking openly” (Montiel and Benezra, 2019, Para. 13).
In Colombia, FARC has signed a peace treaty with the Colombian government. FARC has evolved and no longer concerns itself as much with equality, but is focused on its own financial interests. “ A group that was initially conceived in the 1960’s by rural farmers with the desire to fight overwhelming inequality in Colombia, FARC progressively became more of a criminal enterprise than a political resistance movement” (Azimov, 2016, Para. 1). The relinquishment of FARC’s power means a large portion of rural Colombia now lacks a governance and rule of law, a service provided by FARC for decades. This opened the door for other criminal organizations intent on profiting off of cocaine, and willing to utilize harsher terror tactics to control the population.
Moving closer to the United States, El Salvador has seen the growth of the criminal organization calling themselves MS13, or Mara Salvatrucha. The criminal organization which was founded in the United States by El Salvadorian immigrants, has spread throughout El Salvador in civil war instability. MS13 are notorious for their brutal enforcement techniques. “El Salvador is characterized not only by widespread violence but also by the brutality with which the violence is carried out… Often, the aim is not just to kill, but to torture, maim, and dismember the victim” (Zaidi, 2010, Para. 3). MS13 is expanding its criminal activities to include drug trafficking, extortion, and drug sales by its members who are in the United States.
And finally, Mexico has seen a surge in violence over the last decade. Land along the U.S.-Mexican border fetches a premium as rival cartels fight over control of the best shipping lanes for getting drugs into the United States. Mexican Drug Cartels are now resorting to violence in order to maintain their businesses including but not limited to; assassinations, beheadings, kidnappings, and bombings. “In 2018, the number of drug-related homicides in Mexico rose to 33,341, a 15 percent increase from the previous year—and a record high. Moreover, Mexican cartels killed at least 130 candidates and politicians in the lead-up to Mexico’s 2018 presidential elections” (CFR, 2020, Para. 1). Unfortunately, just like drugs are trafficked across the border, so is the violence. Border towns in the United States have seen an increase in cartel related violent crime.
Azimov, N. (2019, September 6). FARC’s resurgence and potential environmental impacts. Retrieved from https://www.americansecurityproject.org/farcs-resurgence-and-potential-environmental-impacts/
CFR. (2020). Criminal violence in Mexico | global Conflict Tracker. Retrieved from https://www.cfr.org/interactive/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/criminal-violence-mexico
Montiel, A., & Benezra, J. (2019, July 23). Gold mining may be all that’s keeping Venezuela in business. organized crime runs it. Retrieved from https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/venezuela/article232672327.html
Zaidi, T. (2019, November 30). A nation held hostage. Retrieved from https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/11/30/el-salvador-gang-violence-ms13-nation-held-hostage-photography/
2. The United States and its actions have done little to combat the rise in organized crime in its southern neighbors. For over a decade, the United States has been involved in two conflicts in the Middle East fighting its Global War on Terror, and although the United States has been aware of the threat of criminal organizations in Central and South America, terrorism in the Middle East took priority. With conflicts in the Middle East tapering off and an increase in violent crime tied to criminal organizations in Central and South America, the United States is beginning to shift its attention.
Up until this point, efforts by the United States have mostly been through diplomatic relations and mutual assistance. This is not for a lack of trying. In 2019, U.S. President Trump suggested U.S. military interventions against Mexican Drug Cartels, which drew a negative response from the Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. “Mexico’s president has rejected any US intervention in his country, after President Donald Trump said US forces were willing to “go in and clear out” drug cartels” (BBC, 2019, Para. 1). Based on previous operations, proving financial aid and advisement to the Mexican government has not had a significant impact on organized crime. Any military intervention by the United States in Mexican territory without Mexico’s approval could be seen as an act of war against Mexico.
Presidents Trumps push to label Mexican Drug Cartels as “terrorist organizations” is a plan which would allow for harsher punishments against cartel member and those found aiding or abetting them such as drug runners, gun smugglers, or politicians. The problem is without the support of the Mexican government, it will be difficult for the Untied States to carry out enforcement. “The Mexican president does not advocate confronting drug traffickers with military force. Instead, he has committed to tackling the root causes of violence, like addressing poverty and corruption” (Allyn, 2019, Para. 22). Although this may be a viable plan, it would take generations to make to make an impact as there will always be people living in poverty willing to take on illegal work for the money it pays. I believe so long as there is a demand for drugs in the United States, there will be people willing to do the dirty work.
I would argue that correcting the problem in Mexico requires both a military and legal based deterrence, as well as economic development to provide opportunities for people who currently earn their living from the drug trade. So long as there is no enforcement, people will have little motivation to cease and switch to legitimate work.
I agree with this week’s article, that America’s greatest non-state threat is organized criminal organizations in Latin America. Their willingness to resort to violence in order to profit. With growing ties to Iran and terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, it is not unreasonable to picture that organized crime organizations may resort to war or terrorism for hire, carrying out attacks on America in return for financial backing from other countries or terrorist organizations.
In order to ensure U.S. security from violent criminal organizations, the United States needs to focus on building stability in Central and South America. The United States should begin with Mexico, and invest in Mexico’s infrastructure in order to lessen dependence on goods manufactured in China. In conjunction with this, military actions should be taken in coordination with the Mexican government. Taking these steps in Mexico will help to take away the drug corridor where drugs are funneled into the country, and make trafficking more difficult for criminal organizations operating in South America. As one country is stabilized, cartels suppressed, and the economy improved, the United States should continue the conquest south to other countries, forming coalitions of countries looking to economically develop and eliminate criminal organizations.
Allyn, B. (2019, November 27). Trump floating Terrorist label for Mexican cartels Brings fears of drone strikes. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2019/11/27/783371799/trump-floating-terrorist-label-for-mexican-cartels-brings-fears-of-drone-strikes
BBC. (2019, November 27). Mexico rejects US intervention after TRUMP OUTLINES drug cartel plan. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-50577522