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Gangs and the New Insurgency in Latin America

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Throughout the developing world, the post-Cold War era has seen the emergence of increasingly powerful and violent criminal organizations, often referred to as "third-generation gangs." These groups have exploited the major international trends of the past 20 years -- including economic and financial integration, innovations in communication technology, the prevalence of weak and failed states, and a thriving global arms trade -- to seize control over a myriad of illicit commercial networks. They now use violence and corruption to undermine the governments that oppose them.

Latin America has proven particularly vulnerable to this phenomenon. The region has porous borders and numerous illegal markets, and is awash with guns -- all factors conducive to organized crime. Corruption is endemic, and state institutions are weak. Widespread poverty and social alienation ensure the gangs a steady supply of young recruits. Densely packed urban slums give them near-impenetrable havens in which to operate. Finally, the deportation of tens of thousands of gang members from the United States over the past 15 years has overwhelmed local law enforcement systems -- especially in Central America and, in particular, El Salvador and Guatemala. ...

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