• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, bloggingsbyboz.com. The views expressed are the author's own.
Once again, Puerto Rico held a referendum with convoluted questions that don't provide a clear answer as to what its citizens want.
On the first of two ballot questions yesterday, 54 percent voted to change its current status from a United States commonwealth. The problem is that those 54 percent are divided among statehood, independence, and a third option. Those who want statehood and those who want independence are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to Puerto Rico's sovereignty, yet both vote "yes" when asked to change the current status.
On the second question about what alternative should be chosen, 61 percent chose statehood, 33 percent chose "sovereign free association" and 6 percent chose independence. However, one third of the voters who answered the first question didn't bother answering the second question, meaning none of the options reached a majority.
I have no opinion on the subject other than I support whatever a significant majority of Puerto Ricans want. If they want statehood, welcome No. 51. If they want independence, they have a right to it. If they want to remain a commonwealth, that's fine too. However, there doesn't appear to be an active majority in Puerto Rico for any of those options and holding multi-part, multi-choice referendums confuses the issue further.
– James Bosworth is a freelance writer and consultant who runs Bloggings by Boz.
Honduras' anti-extortion task force warned of cases of crime syndicates claiming to be affiliated with "mara" gangs in order to intimidate their victims, an indication of the fear associated with street gangs in the country.
In a Nov. 5 press conference the deputy director of the Interior Ministry's anti-extortion task force, Arturo Sandoval, said that organized criminal groups have been conducting extortion rackets by falsely invoking the names of street gangs. Sandoval said that his office has recorded several such cases since its creation in April, reported La Tribuna.
The official added that so far in 2012 his office had received 580 complaints of extortion, up from just 14 complaints in 2010 and 138 in 2011, a trend which Sandoval credits to greater awareness of police reporting hotlines, and a wiretapping law passed in December 2011 which allows law enforcement to monitor phone calls.
InSight Crime Analysis
If true, Sandoval's claim would demonstrate the brand power that street gangs like Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 have in the country. It would mean that in order to cow their targets into paying, lesser known criminal organizations are using the fear associated with these gangs for their own purposes.
A similar phenomenon has been observed in Mexico City, where "cartel impersonators" make their living by threatening residents with violence on behalf of groups like the Zetas and the Familia Michoacana, even though they have no connection with them.
In both of these cases, however, these extortionists put themselves at risk. None of the organizations they are impersonating are likely to appreciate outsiders using their brand, and the impostors could face deadly consequences.
– Geoffrey Ramsey is a writer for Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas, which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region. Find all of his research here.
Over the past year, the world has eyed Latin America as it has forged forward, in both policy and politics, with a rethink of the “war on drugs.” (See our recent cover story on “Latin America reinventing the war on drugs” here.)
But tomorrow, the world will be watching the United States, the birthplace of the “war on drugs,” as three states vote on legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.
A “yes” for any state would have huge implications for the US, but the referendums would also have ramifications south of the border. A new study released by the think tank Mexican Competitiveness Institute (IMCO) shows that if the referendums do pass, proceeds for Mexican drug trafficking organizations could be cut by up to 30 percent, depending on which state goes forward with the referendum. (Read the report here in Spanish.)
“The possible legalization of marijuana at the state level in the US could provoke a considerable loss in proceeds of drug trafficking for Mexican criminal organizations,” the report concludes. In fact, it says, ballot initiatives Tuesday could represent the biggest blow to Mexican criminal syndicates in decades.
IMCO assumes that better quality and cheaper marijuana – factoring in such things as transport savings – produced in the states of Washington, Oregon, or Colorado, where voters will have a chance to accept or reject new marijuana initiatives, would undercut demand for Mexican pot.
The ballot initiatives, which polls show have a chance of passing in Washington and Colorado but are less likely to pass in Oregon, go well beyond medicinal marijuana usage. (So far, 17 states allow that, with another three voting on it during this election cycle.) But Washington, Colorado, and Oregon are voting on state-regulated markets that would allow residents to smoke pot recreationally, not just to relieve pain.
If that wish is granted, the impact depends on the US response.
“There is a significant caveat,” says the report’s author Alejandro Hope, “which is that all of the displacement effects that we describe are contingent on the federal government not clamping down on whichever states decide to legalize.”
In other words, if no “illegal” drug market emerges in Colorado – say, to supply Ohio, where pot would still be illegal – then Mexicans will still have the upper hand as they'll have illegal markets to supply in other states.
This was a similar caveat presented before a 2010 initiative in California, which voters ultimately rejected. RAND looked at what Proposition 19's impact would be on drug-trafficking organizations, or DTOs, in Mexico. “If legalization only affects revenues from supplying marijuana to California, DTO drug export revenue losses would be very small, perhaps 2 to 4 percent,” the report concludes.
“The only way legalizing marijuana in California would significantly influence DTO revenues and the related violence is if California-produced marijuana is smuggled to other states at prices that outcompete current Mexican supplies. The extent of such smuggling will depend on a number of factors, including the response of the US federal government,” the report notes.
What about drug-related violence?
Today's propositions have many critics, including those who are simply against it because marijuana is a drug and drugs are bad, they say. But even separating out the moral part of the question, it could have very little impact on violence in Latin America, which is what leaders here care most about, and the reason they are pioneering alternative drug policies. (In fact, critics suggest that it could make drug trafficking organizations more dependent on other drugs and illegal activities to make up for losses in the marijuana market).
Martin Jelsma, an expert on drug policy in Latin America at the Transnational Institute in the Netherlands who supports legalization measures, says that the revenue loss would not be insignificant for Mexican groups – as it is estimated that they depend on marijuana sales for about a quarter of total revenue. But there is still cocaine and heroin. “It is clear for Mexican cartels that cocaine and heroin are the areas where in terms of export they earn the most,” says Mr. Jelsma.
(And in looking at the “big picture” of the war on drugs, Mr. Hope said in an interview this summer for The Christian Science Monitor cover story that the discussion of legalization of marijuana really only has implications for Mexico. “Although marijuana has taken center stage [in the debate], it is pretty much meaningless in any country except in Mexico. The only large exporter [of marijuana] in the region is Mexico. If everyone legalizes it tomorrow, in Guatemala homicides would go down by zero and nothing,” he told me.)
But, Jelsma points out, even if drug violence in Latin America were to persist, the political implications of a “yes” in Washington, or Colorado, or Oregon could be far-reaching.
“The indirect effect could be even bigger in the sense that if such a thing happens in the US it would also increase [the] possibility and political space for things to happen in Latin America itself, also in the case of Mexico,” he says.
The last time the US faced an initiative to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, in 2010, many leaders looked upon it wearily. At a 2010 summit in Cartagena, Colombia, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said in relation to California’s Prop. 19: "It's confusing for our people to see that, while we lose lives and invest resources in the fight against drug trafficking, in consuming countries initiatives like California's referendum are being promoted," President Santos said. (See the entire Monitor story on this here.)
Fast-forward two years. Santos is one of the leaders calling for a “rethink” on drug policy. And just weeks after the US election, Uruguay is poised to vote on a first-of-its-kind, state-regulated drug market. President José Mujica of Uruguay earlier this year floated his idea to establish a system in which marijuana would be produced and distributed under state control (See the Monitor’s report on Uruguay’s initiative here). If even one US state and one country were to move forward – and they could show at a practical level that drug consumption does not go up, says Jelsma – he believes other countries could quickly follow. “It’s the breakthrough needed,” he says.
• A version of this post ran on the author's blog. The views expressed are the author's own.
International oil companies have been searching for crude off the coast of Cuba for the past few years, including three separate efforts to drill for oil. It was a challenge, as most oil drilling rigs are prohibited from working in Cuba under the US embargo. But the companies found a rig and got to work.
Now, After 3 dry holes, the rig is asail for Africa. Repsol [Spain], Petronas [Malaysia], and PDVSA [Venezuela] all came up short. Petrobras [Brazil] abandoned its work on the island a couple years ago. Now one might ask, in hindsight, did this drilling program make sense?
Maybe it did for Repsol. It never hurts to take a chance, and if they had struck oil, they had the expertise and money to get it out of the ground. And Petronas, why not? Like Repsol, they need to look abroad for growth. But PDVSA and Petrobras, two companies with far more reserves than they have cash to develop the reserves?
For Petrobras, I think the effort was more about trying to get friendly with Venezuela, so as to boost the possibility of Brazil receiving a piece of [Venezuela's] Orinoco Belt. One giveaway was the location of the office that ran the Cuba venture: Caracas. And for Venezuela, home of the world’s biggest oil reserves? Was this project anything more than the chance to stick a finger in the eye of the US Empire and say neener neener neener? Yes, I know. Eulogio del Pino, vice president of exploration and development at PDVSA, has always said the Cuba project was serious. But here’s the thing: What kind of oil company puts millions of dollars into high-risk offshore drilling when it doesn’t even have proper lightning protection on its tank farms or up-to-date foam cannons at its refineries? I don’t believe that this was a serious investment decision unaffected by politics.
Back in 2005 I asked an oil reserves expert about the hydrocarbon resources off the Spratly Islands – the islands [in the South China Sea] that have recently been causing all sorts of geopolitical concerns. He scoffed, saying that while he had no special expertise about South China Sea geology, territorial conflicts often correspond with abrupt increases in estimates of oil and gas reserves. Armed forces looking at a potential conflict need to convince their own populace and government of the importance of defending these scraps of land, and one way to do so is to highlight natural resource wealth.
I’ve since seen the wisdom of what he said – most recently someone told me about the likely oil and gas riches in what otherwise appears to be a useless, overfished triangle of sea between Chile and Peru. No coincidence that Peru has been trying to get the water out of Chilean hands through a maritime law case. And Cuba? Obviously, it’s a lot of fun to talk about oil reserves off Florida that are out of US reach because of the ... old embargo. It’s less fun to actually try and find those reserves. Now, we’ll have a reprieve from such games as Cuba seeks a new Keno ticket, hopefully one that isn’t the result of anti-imperialist magical thinking.
According to Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office, conflict between organized criminal groups has resulted in the beheading of 1,303 people in five years, a grisly tactic becoming the hallmark of the war between the country's cartels.
El Universal reported that decapitations steadily increased during President Felipe Calderon’s term in office: Just 32 beheadings were registered in 2007, while 2011 registered 493 such deaths between January and November.
The count will likely be similarly high for 2012. Last May saw the discovery of 49 headless and dismembered bodies in Nuevo Leon state, attributed to the Zetas, who are closely associated with the tactic.
According to El Universal, the border states most affected by drug violence are also the ones that see the greatest number of victims beheaded. Chihuahua state registered 171 such killings during Calderon’s term, followed by Guerrero (149), Tamaulipas (119), Durango (115), and Sinaloa (89).
InSight Crime Analysis
Prior to 2006, decapitations – especially done en masse – were a relatively rare phenomenon in Mexico. One of the most prominent cases took place in September 2006, when the Familia Michoacana announced their existence by leaving five heads on a dance floor in Michoacan. The brutality of the tactic was meant to attract attention, terrorize the local population, and intimidate any rivals.
As the data recently released by the Attorney General’s Office shows, beheadings have only become more common since then. Decapitations are used to deliver threats to rival criminal groups or to government institutions (and even schools). 2012 has seen several mass beheadings: from Guadalaja (18 killed) to Nuevo Laredo (14 killed, with the heads placed in ice chests in several locations across the city).
This may be partly indicative of how crowded Mexico’s criminal market has become. With the large transnational organizations splintering and new generation groups emerging as the primary drivers of violence, the only way to assert themselves is by becoming more dependent on brutality and shock tactics. The state with the second-highest number of beheadings, Guerrero, is one of the areas most affected by these warring splinter groups, the remnants of the Beltran Leyva Organization. The high number of decapitations here looks like a symptom of that conflict.
The increase in beheadings – along with the mass dumping of bodies in public places – is a move away from the traditional practice of burying victims in mass, hidden graves. It also speaks to the need for criminal groups to appear ever more intimidating in these public displays of violence.
The rise in beheadings has also accompanied an overall rise in the number of massacres in Mexico. Crime analyst and National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) professor Eduardo Guerrero told El Universal that during the first three years of Calderon's term in office, Mexico registered an average of 10.3 massacres per month, while the second half of his term registered an average of 23 massacres per month.
There are other arguments for why decapitations have become more frequently seen. Secretary of Public Security Genaro Garcia Luna has said that Mexico's criminal groups copied the execution style from Al Qaeda. Garcia Luna cited an incident attributed to the Zetas in December 2005, when the criminal group displayed the heads of four policemen in resort city Acapulco, as the "beginning" of Mexican groups' adoption of "terrorist" tactics. Similarly to Al Qaeda, Mexico criminal organizations have also recorded and distributed videos of beheadings online.
Security analyst Samuel Gonzalez Ruiz has argued that the tactic was popularized after the Zetas received training from Guatemalan special forces squad the Kaibiles.
Archaeologist Ernesto Vargas told Time magazine that the strategy echoes methods used by the Mayans hundreds of years ago, stating, "The Mayans cut off the heads of prisoners as a symbol of complete domination over their enemies."
Beheadings also played an important role in Aztec mythology, in which the practice was also applied to prisoners of war and was related to fertility rituals.
• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, Riogringa. The views expressed are the author's own.
On Tuesday, Brazil's Congress is due to vote on a bill that could redistribute the country's oil royalties, reducing the share of oil-producing areas and expanding the share in other states. Officials in Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo, two of the states that benefit from the current royalties system, bitterly oppose the bill. But evidence shows that in coastal towns and cities that earn oil royalties in these states have growing cases of corruption and mismanagement, as well as high levels of inequality and little progress in human development.
A few recent examples are illustrative of the corruption and mismanagement problem in cities with large oil royalty funds.
In March, the government of Campos dos Goytacazes in Rio proudly announced the inauguration of a new Sambadrome, large enough to hold 40,000 (10 percent of the city's population). The stadium – funded entirely by oil royalties – cost 80 million reais ($39 million), going 10 million reais ($4.9 million) over budget. Campos is the city that earns the most oil royalties of any city in Brazil, receiving 9.7 billion reais ($4.8 billion) from 2000 to 2010. But over the same period, the city dropped from 17th to 42nd in Rio state's development index. Seventeen percent of the city's schools and preschools operate in rented homes. Primary education in Campos received the worst grade in the state.
In April, a Federal Police case dubbed Operation Lee Oswald led to the arrest of 28 people including the mayor of the city of Presidente Kennedy, Espirito Santo. The city government was accused of fraud in awarding government contracts, overbilling, and embezzlement, with the mayor as the ringleader. Those arrested were charged with corruption, criminal conspiracy, and money laundering, among other crimes. Presidente Kennedy earns the most money in oil royalties in the whole state; the city gets 20 percent of the total amount of royalties earned in Espirito Santo. From 2000 to 2010, the city earned 398 million reais ($195 million) in royalties. Despite a high GDP per capita, the city has the fourth-worst human development index statewide.
In September, a Rio judge decreed that the secretary of security of Mangaratiba, a Rio coastal town, would lose his job and demanded to freeze his assets. The secretary, also a policeman, was accused of earning a fortune far beyond his means, and the judge demanded he pay a fine for illegally accumulating wealth dating back to 1992. Mangaratiba earned 170 million reais ($84 million) in oil royalties from 2000 to 2010.
Uneven development in royalty-earning cities is also an issue.
A study by Macroplan as explained in an excellent EXAME article looked at 25 cities that earned the largest amount of oil royalties from 2000 to 2010. It found that despite a huge rise in GDP, cities accomplished little in terms of human development. These coastal cities in Rio, São Paulo, and Espirito Santo earned 27 billion reais ($13.2 billion) over that period. Of the 25 cities, 16 had a higher unemployment rate than the national average in 2010. Seventeen had a lower average wage than the national average of 1,200 reais ($590) per month. Twenty had higher illiteracy rates than the state average. Many cities imported workers to fill skilled jobs since the locals are unqualified. In total, 10 percent of the inhabitants in all 25 cities earn a quarter of the minimum wage. In Macaé, which earned the second most in royalties ... over a decade, nearly 10 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty. By comparison, in Rio state as a whole, around 3.7 percent live below the poverty line.
Violence is also an issue. In 13 of the cities, the homicide rate is above the state average. These include Linhares (Espirito Santo), Búzios, Cabo Frio, and Paraty (idyllic beach towns in Rio state) which are among the 100 most violent cities in Brazil.
Other coastal cities in Brazil earn royalties, too – with similar results. Guamaré, a town of 12,000 in Rio Grande do Norte, earned 202 million reais ($99 million) over the past decade and had eight mayors during the same period. One was arrested for embezzlement; another is under investigation for paying over half a million reais to bands to play at Carnival last year. The current mayor spent 2 million reais ($984 thousand) on Carnival this year and 2.2 million reais ($1million) to celebrate the city's birthday with high-profile singers. Despite having the 20th highest GDP per capita in the country, as well as being home to biodiesel plants, a Petrobras refinery, and wind farms, 10 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty and a fifth of the poulation is illiterate.
So what will this mean for royalty distribution and how these funds are used? "Oil exploration has 20- to 40-year cycles, which come to an end. Brazil's cycle is just at the beginning and we need to decide how to best use these resources so that in the end, we have thriving cities, not huge favelas," Macroplan director Alexandre Mattos told EXAME.
Evidence of police corruption in northern Argentina illustrates how vulnerable the country is to organized crime, as domestic demand for cocaine rises and the country emerges as a regional trafficking hub, with one of Colombia's biggest capos captured there this week.
The case of Hugo Tognoli, former police commissioner of the northern Santa Fe province, provides a useful insight into the institutional crisis currently faced by the Argentine police. Mr. Tognoli was accused of receiving kickbacks from drug trafficking organizations based in Santa Fe. He resigned on Oct. 19, and briefly went missing before turning himself in to authorities on Oct. 21. Tognoli denies the charges against him.
Public prosecutors accuse Tognoli of organizing a scheme with local drug trafficking networks in which he took monthly payments of $150,000 in exchange for allowing them to operate in his area. The evidence against the police commissioner suggests that such arrangements were a hallmark of his leadership style. Investigators claim to have a record of a text message exchange between one of Tognoli’s subordinates and a brothel owner, in which the latter asked how much the commissioner would charge him to sell cocaine. “30,000 [pesos a month, or about $6,300] directly to Tognoli,” was the response.
As La Nacion notes, the arrest of Tognoli is not the only example of corruption in Santa Fe. The Buenos Aires-based daily claims that the province is a hotbed of drug trafficking, with hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit profits moving through Rosario, its largest city. Police collusion with illicit activity is widespread. Law enforcement sources consulted by La Nacion described an “anarchic” situation among police in Rosario, with lower level officers – increasingly dissatisfied with their cut of drug profits – charging traffickers of their own accord to operate in several neighborhoods in the city.
InSight Crime Analysis
Police corruption in Argentina, which has long been an issue, has taken on greater importance in light of the country’s emergence as a hub in the regional cocaine trade. Authorities are seeing a sharp rise in drug seizures, corresponding to a surge in demand for cocaine in the country. With cocaine consumption – particularly of a kind of crack cocaine known as “paco” – taking off in Argentina, it has become the second largest consumer of the drug in Latin America after Brazil, accounting for an estimated 25 percent of cocaine use in the region.
In addition to serving as a major market for cocaine, the country is increasingly used as a transit point for trafficking networks. Argentina serves as a key link to both West Africa and the European cocaine market, which has seen an uptick in demand in recent years.
This surge in cocaine traffic has accompanied growing concern among officials over the presence of powerful transnational criminal organizations in the country. The Sinaloa Cartel’s Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was rumored to have taken refuge in Argentina in mid-2011, and a former lieutenant of Colombian drug kingpin Daniel "El Loco" Barrera was killed in April while hiding out in Buenos Aires.
With police corruption rampant in Argentina, the country may be ill-prepared for the rise of powerful drug trafficking organizations. President Cristina Fernandez [de Kirchner] created a new security ministry in 2010, partly out of a wish to address the problem, appointing the reform-minded Nilda Garre at its head. Ms. Garre has proven to be an innovative figure, overseeing a shake-up of the federal police command and promising to root out police corruption at all levels. Still, as the Tognoli case illustrates, the Argentine government will be hard pressed to tackle corruption without addressing both the culture of abuse and the financial incentives that drive police officials to accept money from criminals.
– Geoffrey Ramsey is a writer for Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas, which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region. Find all of his research here.
As soon as darkness fell, festive crowds streamed into the candle-lit cemeteries of this southern Mexican city and nearby towns by the thousands.
Day of the Dead falls on Nov. 2 but the celebrations in Oaxaca (pronounced Wah-ha-ca) begin days before with the creation of elaborate altars to the dead in homes. The offerings of flowers, fruit, bread, candles, and prayers rarely fail to include testaments to the more mundane aspects of the departed one’s earthly existence: playing cards and other relics of their old life such as yarn for the grandmother who loved to knit or a favorite sombrero for a father who never took off his hat.
For many across the country, the pain of a loved one’s death is fresh. More than 50,000 people have died in the six years since President Felipe Calderón deployed the military to fight the country’s brutal drug cartels and criminal organizations.
However great the collective mourning may be in Mexico, families in Oaxaca reminisced last night about their own lost loved ones in the traditional way: with music, food, tears, and laughter.
A somber celebration turns festive
After alters are built, next come the visits to the cemeteries.
Graveyards at night can seem the scariest of places – good for the setting of a horror film and little else – but in Mexico, on this Catholic holiday, the abundance of flowers, the sweet scent of candles, and low light seem romantic; when the bands strike up, the somber celebration turns festive.
Those who have lost loved ones hold all-night vigils at their tombs.
In the small town of Xoxocotlán outside Oaxaca City, locals adorn family graves with marigold-yellow xempazuchitl and magenta-colored “rooster’s crest” flowers. Here, long, flat gravestones are sometimes decorated with finely ground, colored rice and glitter to make images of saints or angels.
Last night Vicente Bautista and his brothers hovered over the grave of their father, who passed away in June. They drizzled the grains in a pattern to create an image of Santa Muerte, a skeletal representation of “saint death” widely worshiped by the poor and downtrodden in Mexico, but condemned by the Catholic Church.
“We’re holding vigil for papá until tomorrow morning,” Mr. Bautista says.
A powerful downpour in the evening left the narrow spaces between graves thick with mud, but that didn’t stop locals and tourists from winding through the dark labyrinth of tombstones to marvel at the decorations.
The Day of the Dead “is a centuries-old tradition,” says Bautista. “It’s an offering to our dead.”
Fines and suspensions for athletes behaving badly? Well, yes. But in Brazil, they get community service too.
Officials here recently ordered three high-profile soccer players to visit sick kids or pay fines to charitable institutions rather than serve sideline bans for misconduct on the field of play.
The plan is part of a scheme to make errant role models take more responsibility.
“This type of visit is educational as well as being punitive,” says Flavio Zveiter, head of the Superior Court of Sports Justice (STJD), the body that hands out suspensions.
“These guys are heroes to lots of people and this helps them reflect about their position and responsibility to society. They sometimes live in their own little world and they don’t realize that what they do has repercussions in society as a whole.”
Soccer is by far Brazil’s most popular sport. As well as being home to players such as Pelé and Ronaldo, Brazil is the only team to win the World Cup five times. It will host the next tournament in 2014.
It also has one of the most competitive leagues in the world, and when players are kicked out of a game they are automatically banned from the next match. But additional suspensions are tacked on if the player is a repeat offender or if the offense is particularly grave.
When hot-headed Corinthians striker Emerson was kicked off the field for insulting the referee earlier this season, he was banned for six games. He appealed the ban and the STJD reduced it to five games provided he spend some time with sick kids at a São Paulo hospice. He was also ordered to pay a 10,000 real (around $5,000) fine to the institution.
Always trouble, Emerson turned up two hours late for Monday's visit. But he left declaring his time there well spent.
“You can’t call this a punishment from the STJD, it’s more like a life lesson for us all,” Emerson said. “We can bring a little bit of joy to people who are going through a very tough time.”
Mr. Valdívia was ordered to spend his 10,000 real fine for insulting a referee on food and other aid to a Rio orphanage, while Luís Fabiano was told to visit a rehabilitation center for handicapped children.
Luís Fabiano thoroughly enjoyed his time with the kids, even playfully teasing a six-year-old who supported a rival team.
That attitude served as partial vindication for Mr. Zveiter of the STJD.
“It think the repercussions were positive, the player himself said he was touched by it and that was the main thing,” Zveiter says. “I intend to use this policy more.”
IN PICTURES: Brazil: Sights to see
According to a study which used Google searches to map the activity of drug cartels in Mexico, these criminal organizations are far from overrunning the whole country, being active in less than a third of the country's municipalities.
El Universal highlighted a study by a team at Harvard University which developed a method that aims to track the activities of Mexican drug traffickers using information available on the Internet. The algorithm processes data produced by Google searches to extract information on where criminal groups operate.
The authors say that one of the main benefits of their method is that it could be a way to overcome the “inherent difficulty posed by the study of illegal actors: lack of data,” especially for countries with more limited resources. They noted that the information they found on gang operations would, if it was gathered by more conventional means, require large-scale intelligence exercises.
InSight Crime Analysis
One of the main findings of the study is that, in the period between 1991 and 2010, drug cartels were present in only 29 percent of the country’s 2,441 municipalities. The authors say that this allowed them to “challenge the widespread assumption that drug traffickers control vast regions of Mexico's territory dividing the country in oligopolistic markets.” They note that the Sinaloa Cartel, for example, only appeared to be active in 14 of Sinaloa’s 18 municipalities in the period of study, while the Familia Michoacana was active in only 69 of Michoacan’s 115 municipalities.
This is an interesting way to quantify what is known about the Mexican drug trade. Unlike illegal armed groups in countries like Colombia, where the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have controlled vast tracts of territory, setting up permanent camps and holding many prisoners, Mexico’s criminal groups are focused on controlling drug markets and transit routes. As the report notes, criminal activity is concentrated near Mexico’s large cities, the entry points to the United States, and highways connecting illicit crops or ports to the US border.
The report also produces evidence showing the fracturing of criminal groups in Mexico. It found that the proportion of the municipalities affected by more than one criminal group was 62 percent in 2010, up from 11 percent a decade earlier.
– Hannah Stone is a writer for Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas, which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region. Find all of her research here.