The Complete Organized Crime Database on the Americas
Deep in the Amazon, where Colombia, Brazil and Peru meet, the once crime saturated Colombian city of Leticia enjoys relative tranquility, while Brazilian neighbor Tabatinga is rocked by drug trade violence.
InSight Crime accompanied Rio's elite military police squad as it occupied one of the city's biggest and most violent favelas, the latest operation in the "pacification" scheme as Vila Kennedy's Police Pacification Unit (UPP) becomes the 38th installed since 2008. However as promised social investment fails to materialize, critics are pointing to recent outbreaks of violence in other pacified favelas as evidence that a one-dimensional security approach cannot have long-term success.
In the photograph, they are both smiling. In the foreground, on the left hand side, a man in a short-sleeved buttoned white shirt, jeans and a metal watch, holds a bottle of water in his right hand. He laughs heartily. He is Herbert Saca. On the right hand side is a man in a hat, also in a white shirt, but with a blue neckerchief. He is Juan Umaña Samayoa, a candidate for reelection for mayor of Metapan, located in the department of Santa Ana, in the west of El Salvador, for the Party of National Reconciliation. In the background, a red tent and the silhouettes of an apparently large group of people.
The woman phoned the office of the antinarcotics division (DAN) in Bolivar, in El Salvador's La Union province, on August 13, 2008, at 1:30 PM. Investigators later established that what she told agent Javier Ramon Aguilar Ordoñez during that phone call was the story of a drug trafficking network led by Juan Maria Medrano, alias "Juan Colorado."
The experience with Jose Natividad "Chepe" Luna -- the drug trafficker who had eluded a giant dragnet in 2004 -- had demonstrated that the leaks from the National Police of El Salvador (PNC) were continuous and, in general, all the history of the contraband in the west had an extensive element of police and district attorney collusion. With that in mind, the Special Antinarcotics Group (GEAN) decided to send the newest police to the stations of La Union and San Miguel to collect intelligence about the movement of drugs and to begin assembling cases against the transporters. Thus was born Operation Chameleon.
The United States -- which through its antinarcotics, judicial and police attaches was very familiar with the routes used for smuggling, and especially those used for people trafficking and understood that those traffickers are often one and the same -- greeted the new government of Elias Antonio Saca in 2004 with a proposal: take down this Chepe Luna.
Ricardo Mauricio Menesses Orellana liked horses, and the Pasaquina rodeo was a great opportunity to enjoy a party. He was joined at the event -- which was taking place in the heart of territory controlled by El Salvador's most powerful drug transport group, the Perrones -- by the town's mayor, Hector Odir Ramirez, and the infamous drug and people trafficker Jose Natividad Luna Pereira, alias "Chepe Luna." Also present were undercover narcotics agents, who immediately recognized Menesses as the director of El Salvador's National Civil Police (PNC).
Residents of Buenaventura have become prisoners of war in the battle for Colombia's primary cocaine port. They are confined within invisible borders, silenced by macabre atrocities and live at the mercy of alienated youths armed and empowered by drug trafficking warlords.
We can already identify some of the trends that are likely to mark the evolution of organized crime in 2014. One is the issue of criminal migration, as organized crime in Mexico and Colombia, under increasing security force pressure, follows the path of least resistance, and sets itself up in other countries.
Welcome to InSight Crime's 2013 Game Changers, where we have sought to highlight some of the year's most important and illustrative trends in the development of organized crime in the Americas.