Transnational Organized Crime

In 2011, the White House published its Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime and detailed five priority areas on which the government would focus:

  • enhance intelligence and information sharing
  • protect the financial system
  • strengthen interdiction, investigations, and prosecutions
  • disrupt drug trafficking
  • build international capacity, cooperation and partnerships

Drug trafficking, particularly in the Southwest United States, is a hot topic right now and its complexity and sophistication continue to make it an international problem.   High profile murders, harsh tactics,  large weapon and drug seizures keep the topic in the news and investigators and prosecutors do their best to “follow the money”.

Interestingly enough, cross border smuggling isn’t new.  It’s an economic activity that blossomed out of the early efforts of contraband smugglers who operated during the Civil War and Prohibition[1].  Both Juan Nepomuceno Guerra, founder of the Gulf Cartel and Miguel Felix Gallardo, leader of the Guadalajara Cartel, started out smuggling contraband, such as alcohol, from Mexico across the border into the United States.[2]  Once Guerra and Gallardo realized how profitable the drug business could be, the two expanded their enterprises and took over control of the narcotics business.    As a result of their financial success and entrepreneurial prowess, modern day Mexican DTOs have become so powerful they now have the capacity to corrupt government officials.   No longer do they represent a “parallel power” completely independent of the state, but rather a form of economic activity connected with, tolerated, promoted, or protected by various sectors of the state.[3]

It’s important for analysts involved in law enforcement, due diligence or financial crimes investigations to understand the scope and magnitude of the drug trafficking problem and to keep abreast of its evolution.  Cartels, organized crime groups, traffickers and smugglers must continually change tactics, techniques and procedures to keep ahead of the game.  It’s imperative that those on the right side of the law remain educated and aware of the rapidly changing dynamic of the threat.


[1] Peter Andreas, Border Games: Policing the U.S.-Mexico Divide.

[2] Juan Carlos Garzon, “Mafia & Co.: The criminal networks in Mexico, Brazil and Colombia” (Colombia: Planeta, 2008) , 97.

[3] Howard Campbell, Drug War Zone: Frontline Dispatches from the Streets of El Paso and Juarez,

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