International organised crime and Mafia: new threats on human security?
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Published: Wednesday, 17 December 2014 18:59
Written by Si Tayeb Kouider London Metropolitan University International Security Studies
International organised crime and Mafia: new threats on human security?
The use of the Atomic bomb against Japan in 1945, and the proliferation of this awesome weapon made the idea of war obsolescence or an anachronism.
The unprecedented wave of communication known as Globalisation had made states porous and permeable. They are clearing the way for new actors in international security. These two events had a strong influence on International Relations thought. In other words, “the world events act to stimulate theoretical debate, and these events if they are sufficiently dramatic, can move the centre of gravity of the field” ( Doyle, Ikenberry, p 278).
After the 11th September 2001 in the USA and the 07 July 2005 in the UK, new threats emerged. And after the end of the war on Iraq 2003, the EU issued its first “European Security Strategy”, which made it clear that a war of “large scale aggression against any member state –EU- is now improbable, instead, Europe faces new threats which are more diverse, less visible and less predictable” (European Security strategy, p03).One of these threats is the organised crime. What does it mean?
It means that the EU security is threatened not by states as usual during the Cold War era, but rather “Europe is a prime target of the organised crime” (European security strategy, p3). In this essay, I will try to decipher the linkage between human security and the transnational Organised Crime (TOC), I will start with putting this TOC under a spotlight, later I will move to its fallout on human security.
From the aforementioned analysis, my question is: what are the taproot and the underlying nature of TOC? And how the domestic threat of TOC is becoming global?
So, my proposed outline for this essay is:
1- The definition, development of TOC and human security.
2- The formal reaction of International Society against this threat.
3- The real challenges of TOC against human security. (The linkage).
1- Concepts under spotlight: the development of TOC and Human security:
First, let us deal with human security, “the security threats were traditionally as directed exclusively towards the state and its military spheres” (Cornell, Swanstorm, p11). However, from the 1970s, when the Arabic states decided to stop oil exports to the west, the meaning of security took other attributes like energy security, economic security, food security and even the environment was securitised after the disaster of Chernobyl 1986. Nowadays, in countries like the US, Iran and Thailand, the international trade in drugs is seen as a security threat. In the US for example, a war was waged on drugs in the 1980s which had led later to the US military intervention in Panama in 1989, when the Panamanian president Noriega refused to stop the passage of drugs through his country to the US (Terrif and others, p 154).
So, the meaning of security is dynamic and no one has a well accepted definition. However, according to the Penguin dictionary of International relation, Security is” a term which denotes the absence of threats to scarce values”(Evans, Newham, p 490). Now Let us move to the meaning of TOC.
Crime is not easy to define as well since “what is defined as a crime in one country may not be a crime in an other country or may be penalized quite differently” (Smith, 205). Nevertheless, the TOC was defined by the UN in 2005 as: “three or more persons...acting in concert with the aim of committing one or more serious crimes...in order to obtain a financial benefit” (Wagley, p2).
Currently, the TOC is being involved in the human security debate because it is growing dramatically. According to the IMF, the money acquisition from illegal deals skyrocketed from the amount of 85 billions in 1988 to 5000 billion dollar in 1998( P Hough, p230). And now, “the output of organised crime world wide is estimated to be 500 billion to three trillion dollars annually, which makes it the largest market in the world” (Hofmann, p2). Its impact is hazardous not only on international economy but also on human lives since halve million persons are killed annually because of TOC, and about 1/5th of the world’s population are victims to a kind of TOC activities (Hough, p230).
After setting forth this explanation of TOC and human security, now the question which rises here is: What was the reaction of the international society?
2-the reaction of the international society:
The threat of TOC is known as a soft security threat which is not easy to confront. It is dynamic and discrete and “the implementation of strategies to face it...has been less prominent” (Cornell, Swan storm, p10).
The reaction of states was quite different, the EU for example is following a civilian fight while the USA is using coercive and military fight (Panama and Colombia)(Smith, p 215).
However, we can break down the international response to TOC into:
1- Aid to fight international crime: mainly from the EU members. In 2005, Afghanistan received 250 million € to fight drug cultivation and from 2000 to 2006, 934 million€ was given to the third world’s countries to fight migration ( Smith, p 218).
2- Agreements and conventions: many conventions were achieved by the UN but the most important one was Naples convention in 1994 which culminated in launching the Global Plan of Action against TOC. This convention was developed in Palermo 2000. It aimed to pool the global efforts to face the TOC since one state could not control this threat (Shehu, p223). This convention entered into force in 2003. However, in the EU foreign policy for instance “despite the clear significance of the fight against terrorism, the member states are still reluctant to cede too much power to the EU level and are unwilling to share intelligence”(Smith, 210). So the main impediment in this fight is the mistrust between states.
3- Mechanisms and institutions: Many organisations and task forces were formed to confront this soft threat but the most pertinent are:
a-The Interpol: It was created by the League of Nations in 1923. Now, it has 186 member states. It has a comprehensive data on stolen goods and a detailed list of international criminals. However, its budget is merely 30 million € (Hough, p241).
b- The Europol: It was created as a by product of Maastricht Treaty which gave birth to the EU in 1992. It is stronger than the Interpol with a budget of 68 million € and it has some mandate over the local police in the member states. However, the main impediment of the Europol is the divergence between European laws, Netherlands for instance, has an open policy regarding the consumption of narcotics which leads to the flow of drugs to the other countries where the consumption is banned and the price is higher.
However, this reaction is not sufficient. Since the commitment of international society is not firm and the budget is ridiculous, how could the Interpol with a budget of 30 million € face TOC which has an output of 3 trillion $ annually?
TOC is taking profit from this international indifference by expanding its leverage to the maximum extent. Now, it is undermining human security. This political influence is the centrepiece of our essay.
3- The linkage between TOC and human security:
- Compared to Europe or Africa or even Asia, Latin America is considered as the most peaceful region in the world. There were no wars between states at all in the last decades. However, criminal conflicts inside each state are thriving. They are now undermining not only the economy of these states but also the very political existence of these states. “Currently Latin America has the highest murder rates in the world....El Salvador 92, Colombia 73, Venezuela 64, Guatemala 55, Brazil 52 (with homicide counted per 100 000 inhabitants)”(Hofmann, p2). One can say that this wave of killing is high but It has no thing to do with international security?
To answer this focal problem, we must refer to the crucial role of states, the basic missions of states are: “the control of territory, the security of its citizens, a well functioning judicial system and the monopoly on the legitimate use of force” (Hofmann, p2). So, once the TOC occupies or wrests one or more mission from these ones, it moves directly from a criminal behaviour to a security threat. If we look at Haiti for instance, we remark that it is territorially divided into two areas: [violence zones] under the heel of mafia and [free zones] under the protection of private security companies. It means that in violence zones the TOC is not avoiding the authority of state instead it is confronting it overtly.
This phenomenon is known through many nicknames: State capture, a failed state, Mafiocracy, Narcostate and Narcoterrorism however, the meaning is the same: when TOC becomes a competitor of states in the monopoly of the use of the violence and force to control territory. A failed state for instance is “in a permanent state of insurgency or general lawlessness”(Hough, p 234). It is a state without an effective control on its territory.
To explain this dreadful linkage between the TOC and human security, I will use tangible case studies from each continent.
1- TOC in the centre of Eurasia, the edge of hell:
The main threat to Europe during the Cold War was the Soviet Union. However, after the breakdown of the SU, Russia emerged as the heir of the Soviet military might. It is true that the Russian state has embraced the western model of democracy. Nevertheless, the underworld in Russia is quite complex and dreadful; the Russian mafia is not only a challenge to the Russian state but also to Europe and the world. It is controlling from 25 to 33% of the Russian economy (hough,234). And according to the centre of the Strategic and International Studies in the USA, the Russian Organised Crime(ROC) has 200 large groups which are operating in 58 countries world wide (Finknauer, p1). Even in the US, there are 15 groups operating and the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations) has created special units to face it in 7 states of the USA (Finknauer, p3).
In 1998, a Mexican newspaper named (Reforma) “reported that the Russian mafia was supplying Mexican Drug traffickers with radars, automatic weapons, grenade launchers and small submersibles in exchange for cocaine, amphetamine and heroine”(Ramon,J Miro, p30). How could a criminal group procure such weapons?
It is conclusive evidence that the Russian mafia has a strong leverage on the wheels of the Russian army. What will happen if these groups become embroiled in businesses with Iran or North Korea or with terrorists?
Nevertheless, I will not focus on the Russian mafia since it is not as dangerous as what is going on in Central Asia ( Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Georgia). Why?
Afghanistan is one of the hottest spots in the world; It is the origin of 90% of the heroine seized in the EU (Smith, p206). This heroine is smuggled through the north of Afghanistan mainly Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Chechnya and the former Yugoslavia. These countries are very sensible since there are terrorists or insurgents in most of them. And terrorists are using Islamism as a pretext in order to make money through TOC.
In Uzbekistan for instance there is the IMU( Islamist Movement of Uzbekistan) which was erected to establish an Islamic state in Central Asia. This military rebellion had made incursions in other countries like Kirgizstan and Uzbekistan. However, this movement is using Islam to recruit fighters and to gain support from the local population. This movement is “ best understood as an amalgam of personal vendetta, Islamism, drugs, geopolitics and terrorism” (Swanstrom,p21). This IMU is controlling third of the drugs entering Kyrgyzstan (Ibid, p20).
This area is very sensible since it is surrounded by 4 nuclear powers: Russia, China, India, Pakistan and two other powerful countries: Iran and Turkey. So any spill over of Islamism can lead to serious security problems in the whole region. Mainly for China which has a Muslim community in its border with Pakistan. And for Russia, which has a big Muslim community in the south borders with Georgia and Chechnya where an Islamic insurgency is underway creating serious security problems to the Russian government. The linkage between TOC and the security problems of Russia is that Georgian government is involved in business with criminal groups mainly the Home affairs minister who received a huge bribe from TOC groups to allow them installing bases there(Swan storm, p 13 ): That’s why a strange war was triggered between Russia and Georgia in 2008.
We conclude that TOC has relation with terrorism and geopolitical agenda for the great powers. And these TOC groups can lead this nuclear region to a slippery slope of instability.
2- The Centre of Africa, the Sahel region and TOC:
The Sahel region is a humongous desert extending from Mauritania to Niger to Mali to the South of Algeria to Chad to The west of Sudan. It is the largest desert in the world. This region was used by TOC mainly during the Algerian civil war started from 1991 till now, during this period, tobacco smuggling thrived and also firearms which were sold to the terrorists in the north of Algeria (Lacher, p1).
This area is also the road of cocaine from Latin America to Europe through Morocco; it is also the road of the road of Moroccan hashish toward Algeria, Egypt and the Arabic peninsula (Lacher, p2). In 2009, a wrecked Boeing 227 jet was found in the north of Mali, it was full with cocaine (Lacher, p2).
However, this TOC has taken other dimensions by the emergence of Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which is a branch of the Al Qaida. The organisation is mainly political in the North of Algeria but in the south it is running criminal activities to fund itself especially: abduction and kidnapping of western nationals.
In 2003, 32 Europeans were kidnapped in the south of Algeria. In 2008, 8 Europeans were kidnapped and in 2009, 10 were kidnapped, in 2010, 9 others were kidnapped and the ransom were several millions of € per hostage (Lacher, p2).
This AQIM is using this money to recruit fighters from the Berber tribes known as Touareg, who are scattered between four states in this region : Mauritania, Mali, Niger, and in the South of Algeria. In 2006, they tried to create their own ethnic state by proclaiming insurgency in the north of Mali but it failed since Algeria has a strong leverage in the region.
This AQIM has led to a serious security crisis between Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and France, when this later launched a stinger operation to free French hostages that ended with the death of these French hostages and a fiasco in France.
With the current uprising in Libya, AQIM is present in the East of Libya, and the Algerian army is in an emergency to control his long open borders with Libya. The weakness of Algeria is that the majority of its oil fields are closer to the open border with Libya. And if this oil fields are targeted by this AQIM this will lead to a big war in the south of Europe.
3- TOC In Latin America: Narcostate.
I will focus on Mexico and Colombia since they are the most dramatic cases in the region.
1- Colombia: TOC started in this country in the 1980s with the production of Marihuana. The leader of the drug trade was Pablo Escobar, who was controlling over 50% of the cocaine entering the USA in the 1980s (Hough, p231). During this era, the USA proclaimed a “war on drugs” and started to cooperate with the Colombian government to arrest Escobar. But he was so powerful “one of the most 10 rich people in the world”(Hough, p231), that he responded to this cooperation by using his wealth to gain population’s support through building schools, roads and houses “500 houses were built for the Colombian slum’s dwellers”(Terrif and others, p153).
He used also direct confrontation with the government. His strength reached the climax when he gave order to strike a public plane in order to kill a presidential candidate who was proponent to the US war against drugs. The plane was targeted and two Americans were killed.
Even the Colombian FARC organisation which has a Marxist political agenda is involved in TOC either through drugs trade or abduction and kidnapping of western individuals. Even the auto defence groups formed to face the FARC guerrilla are involved in drug trade to the extent that 70% of these groups funding are drug related (Hofmann, p3).
More over, about 35% of the Colombian Congress Members were working discretely with the drug’s cartels(Swanstorm, p11). Even the former president of Colombia Ernesto Samper had relations with drug cartels(Ibid, p11). Finally, I think that Colombia is a perfect example of” Narcostates”.
2- Mexico: there is no foreign war in this country however, “the death toll for 2008 is much higher for Mexico than for Iraq” ( Hofmann, p4). The main area of TOC activity is in the north along side the border with the USA.
The TOC is so powerful that it is in direct confrontation with Mexican government. It is pursuing a policy of harassment and blackmail against politicians, lawyers, police officers and even journalists; the murder rate of journalists in Mexico is the highest in the world after Iraq (Hofmann, p4).
In the other hand, the Mexican state is so infiltrated by TOC that the state apparatus of fight against narcotics was found corrupt and it was dismantled three times (Swan storm, p13).
TOC is becoming a serious threat to the world’s security. It is the portent of a dreadful future, a future where stable states have little power a new greedy mafia is taking over. TOC has a marriage of convenience with terrorism and Islamism. However, Islam is no more than a Trojan horse to enslave citizenship every where, to eradicate decent life and restore feudalism. This desperate situation was well pictured by the former German Defence Ministry officer, Johannes Keoppl who said that it is a plan to implementing an open dictatorship (Handerson, p1).
It is true that central Asia is producing 75% of the world’s opium, this area is dubbed Drug-istan. However, about 90% of the chemicals used in the processing of Heroine and cocaine are produced in the USA by the American Company Big Oil (Henderson, p1). It means that even the US is unable to face TOC.
To sum up, I will say that the current economic crisis is exacerbating the desperate situation of this failed globalisation where ½ the world’s population is living with 2€ a day (European security Strategy, p2). And poverty is the mother of all sins, but I am optimist since change and truth are inevitable. The fog will disperse; the sun was not created in vain.
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