Proceedings Fall 2014
Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime: Addressing Converging Threats to
National Security. National Security Council; the White House, July 2011. Avail-
able at www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/fles/microsites/2011-strategy-combat-
Convergence: Illicit Networks and National Security in the Age of Globalization. Michael
Miklaucic and Jacqueline Brewer, editors, NDU Press, Washington, D.C., 2013. The
author contributed a chapter to the book.
These include recently founded Community of Latin American and Caribbean
States (Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños-CELAC), and the Bolivar-
ian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de
Fact Sheet: Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime. Offce of the Press
Secretary; the White House, July 25, 2011.
On the lower end, the United Nations Offce of Drugs and Crime estimate TOC
earnings for 2009 at $2.1 trillion, or 3.6 percent of global GDP. Of that, typical TOC
activities such as drug traffcking, counterfeiting, human traffcking, weapons
traffcking and oil smuggling, account for about $1 trillion or 1.5 percent of global
GDP. For details see Estimating Illicit Financial Flows Resulting from Drug Traffck-
ing and other Transnational Organized Crimes. United Nations Offce of Drugs and
Crime, September 2011. On the higher end, in a speech to Interpol in Singapore,
2009, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Ogden cited 15% of world GDP as total annual
turnover of transnational organized crime. See: Josh Meyer's U.S. attorney general
calls for global effort to fght organized crime. Los Angeles Times, October 13, 2009.
Available at: http://articles.latimes.com/print/2009/oct/13/nation/na-crime13.
Central America's Northern Triangle: A Time of Turmoil and Transition. IBI Consultants,
April 2013. Available at: www.ibiconsultants.net/_pdf/turmoil-and-transition-2.
For a broader defnition and look at how "criminalized states" in Latin Amer-
ica operate, see Douglas Farah's Transnational Organized Crime, Terrorism and
Criminalized States: An Emerging Tier-One Security Priority, U.S. Army War College,
Strategic Studies Institute, August 2012.
One of the most detailed cases involved the 2001 weapons transfers among Hez-
ballah operatives in Liberia, a retired Israeli offcer in Panama and a Russian
weapons merchant in Guatemala. A portion of the weapons, mostly AK-47 assault
rifes ended up with the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas
Unidads de Colombia-AUC), a designated terrorist organization heavily involved
in cocaine traffcking. The rest of the weapons, including anti-tank systems and
anti-aircraft weapons likely ended up with Hezballah. For details, see Douglas
Farah's Blood From Stones: The Secret Financial Network of Terror. Broadway Books,
New York, 2004.
For a detailed look at this development see Antonio L. Mazzitelli's The New Trans-
atlantic Bonanza: Cocaine on Highway 10. Western Hemisphere Security Analysis
Center, Florida International University, March 2011.
The FARC is the oldest insurgency in the Western hemisphere, launched in 1964
out of Colombia's Liberal Party militias and enduring to the present as a self-
described Marxist revolutionary movement. For a more detailed look at the his-
tory of the FARC see Douglas Farah's The FARC in Transition: The Fatal Weakening
of the Western Hemisphere's Oldest Guerrilla Movement. NEFA Foundation, July 2,
2008. Available at: www.nefafoundation.org/miscellaneous/nefafarc0708.pdf.
Clapper, J., Director of National Intelligence. Unclassifed Statement for the Record:
Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community for the Senate Select
Committee on Intelligence, January 31, 2012, p. 6.
For the most comprehensive look at Russian Organized Crime in Latin America,
see Bruce Bagley's Globalization, Ungoverned Spaces and Transnational Organized
Crime in the Western Hemisphere: The Russian Mafa. Paper prepared for Interna-
tional Studies Association, Honolulu, Hawaii, March 2, 2005.
Morris, R. China: Latin America Trade Jumps. Latin American Business Chron-
icle, May 9, 2011, accessed at: www.latinbusinesschronicle.com/app/article.
Cancel, D. China Lends Venezuela $20 Billion, Secures Oil Supply. Bloomberg News
Service, April 18, 2010. By the end of August 2011 Venezuela's publicly acknowl-
edged debt to China stood at some $36 billion, equal to the rest of its outstanding
international debt. See Benedict Mander's More Chinese Loans for Venezuela, FT Blog,
September 16, 2011. Available at: http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2011/09/16/
Quito y Buenos Aires, Ciudades preferidas para narcos nigerianos. El Universo (Guaya-
quil, Ecuador, January 3, 2011.
Shelley, L. The Unholy Trinity: Transnational Crime, Corruption and Terrorism. Brown
Journal of World Affairs, Winter/Spring 2005, Volume XI, Issue 2.
criminalized state/TOC/terrorist groups and foreign hostile
state and non-state foreign actors exploit the ungoverned
or stateless areas in an areas of close proximity to U.S. bor-
ders — and the dangers they represent both in their current
confguration and future iterations.
Understanding how these groups develop and how they
relate to each other and to groups from outside the region
is vital — particularly given the rapid pace with which they
are expanding their control across the continent, across the
hemisphere, and beyond. Developing a predictive capacity
must be based on a more realistic understanding of the shift-
ing networks of actors exploiting the pipelines, the nature
and location of the geographic space in which they operate,
the critical nodes where these groups are most vulnerable,
and their behaviors in adapting to new political and eco-
nomic developments, market opportunities, setbacks, inter-
nal competition, and the countering actions of governments.
In turn, an effective strategy for combating transnational
organized crime must rest on a solid foundation of regional
intelligence, which, while cognizant of the overarching
transnational connections, remains sensitive to unique local
realities behind seemingly ubiquitous behavior. A one-size-
fts-all policy will not suffce. It is not a problem that is only
or primarily a matter of state or regional security, narcot-
ics, money laundering, terrorism, human smuggling, weak-
ening governance, democracy reversal, trade and energy,
counterfeiting and contraband, immigration and refugees,
hostile states seeking advantage, or alterations in the mili-
tary balance and alliances.
It is increasingly a combination of all of these. It is a com-
prehensive threat that requires analysis and management
within a comprehensive, integrated whole-of-government
approach. At the same time, however expansive in global
terms, a strategy based on geopolitics — the fundamental
understanding of how human behavior relates to geographic
space — must always be rooted in the local.
About the author:
Mr. Douglas Farah is the president of IBI Consultants LLC and senior asso-
ciate, Americas Program, CSIS.