Tuesday, August 04, 2020

COVID & Central American Gangs

While keeping a weather eye on China is required, we need to multi-task. 

If you are concerned with the long term national security challenges the USA and her allies face - you need to check in on a regular basis with sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.

From the exceptional Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) team - something from Latin America that is worth putting in your scan for a few minutes;
Governments in Central America have imposed a variety of measures to contain COVID-19. The government of Mexico officially declared a national health emergency on 30 March 2020 after its first case of COVID-19 was reported at the end of February, suspending non-essential economic activities and advising the population to shelter at home. Some Mexican states imposed further restrictions in addition to the federal order. In the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, governments began establishing preventive measures in mid-March, albeit with different degrees of stringency. On 13 March, Guatemala introduced a travel ban for any person arriving from Canada and the United States. Meanwhile, in El Salvador and Honduras, a state of emergency was announced on the 13 and 16 March, respectively. These measures were followed by a national quarantine at the end of March in El Salvador, and curfews during the first week of April in Guatemala and Honduras.

These restrictions have had immediate impacts on gang operations. Locally, the temporary closure of non-essential economic activity has hindered money laundering, as it is traditionally carried out through front businesses that appear to be engaged in legal commerce, while mobility restrictions have similarly impeded extortion rackets. Globally, the demand for recreational drug use has decreased amid the pandemic, and travel restrictions obstruct both drug users looking to purchase as well as drug traffickers aiming to supply (Global Initiative, May, 2020).The reduction of the international traffic of goods and passengers also makes the discovery of illegal cargo by authorities more likely, resulting in the scarcity of certain chemical products essential for drug production (InSight Crime, 18 March 2020).These challenges have forced cartels to seek alternative means of drug distribution and income generation during the crisis.
OK kiddies, take out your JPME-I papers ... what does instability bring?

The health emergency and the consequent economic crisis will certainly shift the balance between cartels and lead some to seek new business models (Al Jazeera, 29 April 2020). Smaller gangs, or those with less economic capacity, are threatened by more established groups and may try to survive by diversifying into violent street crime, extortion, kidnappings, and attacks (Infobae, 25 April 2020). Despite COVID-19 quarantines and stay-at-home orders, Mexico’s homicide rate hit a new high in March 2020 (Government of Mexico, 21 March 2020).
Economic pressures have led to increased competition in Honduras, where battles involving gangs as well as reported fatalities stemming from gang violence have spiked, hitting their highest levels of the year (see graph below). Inter-gang fighting has particularly increased across the country, with multiple clashes between the larger mara groups Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS-13) and Barrio 18 (B-18) and smaller local gangs.
Violence, instability, and economic fragility drives migration. Large scale migration drives instability where they migrate to.

That is us.

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