• What's in a Name? The Politics of Latin America's Organized Crime Lexicon

    Colombian soldiers are permitted to combat GAO

    Arguing about artificial labels that help make sense of organized crime in Latin America may seem trivial. After all, the reality lurking beneath these labels -- bodies riddled with bullets, bank accounts stuffed with cash, and enough cocaine to sink a submarine -- is so tangible, so immediate for the people wrapped up in its unceasing vortex. But the terms and phrases used about by governments and news outlets carry their own type of power. They help shape public opinion, domestic security policies, and the legal limitations of international actors. As organized crime in the region adapts to new realities on the ground, it's imperative that our lexicon for it does so as well.

  • Colombia’s Urabeños Recruiting Dissidents from FARC Peace Process

    Colombia’s Attorney General Néstor Humberto Martínez

    Recent reports warn that one of Colombia's biggest criminal groups may be recruiting dissident guerrilla fighters, another indication that new actors are moving in on criminal operations formerly controlled by the guerrillas.

  • GameChangers 2016: Illegal Mining and Continuing Criminal Diversification

    Illegal mining has destroyed virgin jungle

    Latin America witnessed a criminal boom in illegal mining in 2016, and a rise of complementary illicit activities, as organized crime recognized the potential of illegal gold can rival the cocaine trade.

  • Venezuela’s Withdrawal of Bolivar Bill Promises to Benefit Organized Crime

    A man counting a stack of 100 bolivars bills

    President Nicolas Maduro has justified the withdrawal of Venezuela's 100 bolivar note as a means of undercutting criminal earnings, but past examples suggest that criminal groups will actually profit from the move and the related border closure with Colombia.

  • Colombia's 'No' Vote Leaves FARC in Dangerous Limbo

    FARC commander-in-chief, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, alias "Timochenko"

    At the very least, the October 2 "No" vote in the plebiscite on Colombia's peace accord opens the process between the government and the region's oldest insurgency to a series of modifications. At most, it could result in a complete collapse of negotiations and a return to full-scale war.

  • Shifting Criminal Alliances Could Complicate FARC Concentration Zones

    Member of an unidentified armed group in Colombia

    Evolving relationships with criminal and paramilitary actors in several areas of Colombia could complicate efforts to establish concentration zones intended to facilitate the demobilization of the country's largest guerrilla group as a historic peace process continues to unfold.

  • Police, Social Action Credited with Taming Deadly Colombia City

    Palmira, Colombia

    The violence plagued city of Palmira saw 46 percent fewer homicides in the first six months of 2016 than in the same period a year earlier, a sign that new security measures are gaining traction in one of Colombia’s most troubled regions.

  • BACRIM: Winner or Loser in Colombia Peace Deal?

    Chart of the Urabeños criminal structure

    Colombia's organized crime groups are preparing to take over FARC-held territory once the rebel group withdraws from a decades-long conflict, but the country's looming peace deal is not a wholly positive development for these criminal organizations. 

  • Massive Bust Shows Italian Mafia Role in LatAm Drug Trade

    Cocaine seized during Operation Two Seas

    Colombian, Italian and US authorities collaborated in a massive round-up of nearly 150 suspected members of a multicontinental drug trafficking ring, highlighting the deep links between Italian criminal organizations and Latin America's drug trade.

  • The Peace Agreement and Colombia’s Criminal Dynamics

    President Santos and FARC leader 'Timochenko' with the signed agreement

    The Colombian government and rebels of the FARC laid out their plans for a definitive ceasefire and concentration of guerrilla fighters in an historic event in Havana, Cuba. But nothing goes into effect until the final peace agreement is signed, and there is still no plan to address the criminal earnings that sustain the rebel movement.