Small Wars Journal

El Centro

Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 30: Traficante Evangélico (Evangelical Trafficker) Creates “Complexo de Israel” Using Confessional Violence to Consolidate Control in Five Rio Favelas ZFTWARNING Tue, 08/04/2020 - 9:16pm
A facção (drug trafficking faction) in Rio de Janeiro led by Álvaro Malaquias Santa Rosa, known as Peixão (Big Fish), is exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to consolidate control over a group of favelas (slums) in the Northern Zone of Rio de Janeiro. The result is a complex of five favelas: Cidade Alta, Vigário Geral, Parada de Lucas, Cinco Bocas, and Pica-Pau known as the "Complexo de Israel" (Israel Complex or Network of Israel). The favelas comprising the “Complexo de Israel” have a combined population of about 134,000 inhabitants. Peixão’s gang employs a mix of religious imagery and targeted confessional violence to exert territorial control and dominate the illicit market.
Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 29: Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) Attacks Honduran Prison Guards with Grenades and Assault Rifles ZFTWARNING Fri, 07/31/2020 - 6:40pm
On Monday, 20 July 2020, suspected members of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) attacked a military police guards at a prison—la Peniteciaría Nacional de Támara—north of Tegucigalpa, according to the Instituto Nacional Penitenciaro (INP – National Penitentiary Institute). The attack, by prison inmates, involved firearms (assault rifles and pistols, as well as grenades). One sergeant received firearms injuries.

Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico

Thu, 07/30/2020 - 10:04pm

Justice in Mexico Releases Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico: 2020 Special Report

Justice in MX 2020

Justice in Mexico has released the second edition of Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico, coordinated by Laura Y. Calderón, Kimberly Heinle, Rita E. Kuckertz, Octavio Rodríguez Ferreira, and David A. Shirk. Initially titled Drug Violence in Mexico, the report was reissued under a new name beginning last year with the tenth edition. The switch reflects recent shifts in the nature of organized crime, including the diversification of criminal activities. In an ever-changing world, Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico works to compile important statistics regarding key trends while providing insight to help understand an uncertain future.

Read the Full Report or Read the Summary.

Source: Laura Y. Calderón, Kimberly Heinle, Rita E. Kuckertz, Octavio Rodríguez Ferreira, and  David A. Shirk, et al, Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico: 2020 Special Report. San Diego: Justice in Mexico Project, University of San Diego, 2020.


Venezuela’s Missions: Mechanisms of Corruption ZFTWARNING Tue, 07/14/2020 - 4:17pm
This assessment seeks to answer questions about how social programs run by Venezuela’s Chavista regime became a perfect mechanism for building a widespread international corruption network to benefit the president and his cronies. It examines the pivotal role played by foreign powers—i.e., Iran, and Turkey—in these clandestine illegal operations.

Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 28: PCC Exploits Medical and Dental Clinics to sustain Criminal Governance in Greater São Paulo

Sat, 07/11/2020 - 4:33pm
On 3 June 2020, Brazilian police in Greater São Paulo launched Operação Soldi Sporchi (Operation Dirty Money), serving search and arrest warrants against members of the First Capitol Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC). The PCC was alleged to have used medical and dental clinics to launder money earned from the gang’s drug trafficking activities and treat injured gang members to avoid detection by the police. The investigation also exposed corrupt connections to public officials and transnational links to the ‘Ndrangheta.

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Militarised Criminal Networks in Mexico and the Challenges They Present to the Military and Police ZFTWARNING Fri, 07/10/2020 - 3:43pm
Lieutenant Alexander Elfes, Platoon Commander, 1st Military Police Battalion, Australian Army provides an overview of the May 2020 Warrant Officer Class 1 Ken Bullman OAM lecture series (KBLS) on 'Mexico's criminal Insurgencies" by Dr John P. Sullivan.


Wed, 07/08/2020 - 7:39pm

Small Wars Journal – El Centro Fellows Gary J. Hale and Nathan P. Jones just published a Policy Brief on Organized Crime and COVID-19 at the Center for the United States and Mexico at Rice University’s Baker institute for Public Policy.  The brief “Organized Crime and the Coronavirus in Mexico” looks at COVID-19 related disruption of illicit supply change and the potential for an expansion of predatory activities by criminal cartels.   A brief literature review, discussion of violence potentials, and the impact on drug markets, and the impact on the organized crime landscape are also discussed.

Covid baker

Source: Nathan P. Jones and Gary J. Hale, “Organized Crime and the Coronavirus in Mexico,” Policy Brief 07.08.20. Houston: Rice University, Baker Institute for Public Policy. 8 July 2020,


SWJ El Centro Book Review – A Year Inside MS-13: See Hear, and Shut Up

Sun, 07/05/2020 - 8:51pm
A Year Inside MS-13 is the product of Juan Jose Martínez’s one year stay in 2011 with the Guanacos Criminales Salvatrucha (GCS)—an MS-13 clica (clique)—in the suburbs of San Salvador. Translated from Spanish, the book provides an inside perspective on MS-13 which unfolds through the telling of highly detailed vignettes.

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Hybrid Criminal Cartel Note 1: Former Venezuelan National Assembly Member Adel El Zabayar Indicted on Charges of Narcoterrorism and Links to Hezbollah (Hizballah)

Wed, 07/01/2020 - 9:47pm
On 27 May 2020, Acting DEA Administrator Timothy J. Shea and United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey S. Berman charged Adel El Zabayar—a former Venezuelan National Assembly member—in a Manhattan federal court with narcoterrorism, a cocaine importation conspiracy, a series of weapons related charges, and money laundering. The charges were based on a DEA agent’s testimony and his broader investigation into El Zabayara’s links to Venezuelan Cártel de los Soles, Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), Hezbollah (Hizballah), and Hamas.

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