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Members of the National Guard and state police stand guard at a hospital in Ecatepec, Mexico Members of the National Guard and state police stand guard at Las Americas General Hospital in Ecatepec, a suburb of Mexico City, May 20, 2020 (AP photo by Rebecca Blackwell).

Money Laundering Could Stifle Latin America’s Response to COVID-19

, Thursday, June 11, 2020

Some of Latin America’s most serious challenges—violent crime, drug trafficking, economic inequality and public corruption—all have one thing in common: money laundering. In Mexico alone, the government’s Financial Intelligence Unit reported that drug cartels and other illicit actors laundered an estimated $50 billion in 2019— crucial revenue for cartels that has also contributed to Mexico’s record-high homicide rate in recent years. Money laundering has helped Brazilian gangs like the Primeiro Comando da Capital, or First Capital Command, expand their criminal networks into neighboring Paraguay and Bolivia. In Venezuela, it has enabled a dramatic theft of public resources by officials tied to President Nicolas Maduro’s government, while the average Venezuelan has starved because of widespread food shortages.

Through money laundering, Latin America’s transnational criminal organizations and guerrilla groups can access substantial funds derived from their illicit operations, ensuring their continued dominance and growth. Money laundering allows criminal groups and shady corporations to easily profit from illegal mining and logging, too, which rob nations of key natural resources and have severe environmental repercussions, as seen in the devastating recent fires in the Amazon. Corrupt officials throughout the Western Hemisphere also deftly exploit money laundering vulnerabilities to conceal bribes and stolen public funds, degrading economic opportunity and the public’s confidence in their leaders. ...

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