Power Vacuum Leads to Fighting Among Chinese Mafias in Argentina

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Three Chinese mafias are reportedly vying for criminal dominance following the capture of the leader of the most powerful mafia in Argentina, demonstrating the resilience of these organizations and the authorities’ failure to disrupt their activities. 

Investigators told Argentine news organization Perfil that armed confrontations have taken place between three Chinese mafias looking to take over the criminal industries run by Pi Xiu, considered the largest and most violent mafia in the country. Pi Xiu’s leader, Yong Ye, alias “A Di,” was captured during a joint Argentine-Chinese operation dubbed “Dragon’s Head” in June 2016.  

According to Perfil, these criminal organizations are involved in a range of criminal activities, including prostitution, human smuggling, express kidnappings and drug trafficking. These activities are reportedly financed by the extortion of supermarkets in Chinese neighborhoods. Police say supermarket owners pay as much as $50,000 per year in extortion fees, Perfil reported.  

The three mafias fighting for control in Argentina are factions of Chinese organizations that operate at a global level, the media outlet said. 

InSight Crime Analysis

The capture of A Di was a positive step towards limiting the Chinese mafia presence in Argentina, but the past eight months have shown that the groups are highly adaptable and that conventional law enforcement methods have proven insufficient to combat what remains an elusive and insulated subset of the country’s underworld.

As InSight Crime’s past coverage has noted, language and culture are some of the most prominent barriers to investigating these mafias. With few Chinese officers in the ranks of Argentine law enforcement, the authorities’ ability to infiltrate the mafias and intercept their communications is exceedingly limited. More joint operations with Chinese authorities, such as the one that led to A Di’s arrest, will be needed to disrupt the operations of the groups that have emerged to challenge Pi Xiu’s power. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina

What’s happening with Argentina’s Chinese mafias is a microcosm of the changes to the broader organized crime landscape in Latin America. With the arrest or killing of scores of drug bosses in countries such as Colombia, Mexico and Honduras, the region’s underworld is becoming increasingly fragmented as smaller groups replace more established organizations. This dynamic has presented its own set of security challenges, as the groups fight over ever smaller shares of the criminal profits. 

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