Small Wars Journal

El Centro


Wed, 06/02/2021 - 4:06pm


Small Wars Journal-El Centro Senior Fellows Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan along with analyst David A. Kuhn, and SWJ-El Centro Associate Alma Kehavarz look at the evolving use of explosives in Mexico's criminal insurgencies and crime wars in a new article at Counter-IED Report


The article, "Use of IEDs and VBIEDs in Mexican Crime Wars," reviews the current situation involving the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIEDs) in Mexico's crime wars. The evolution of the threat is illustrated through discussion of four recent cases in 2019-2020.

Source: Robert J. Bunker, John P. Sullivan, David A. Kuhn, and Alma Keshavarz, "Use of IEDs and VBIEDs in Mexican Crime Wars." Counter IED-Report. Spring-Summer 2021. pp. 63-73.

Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 38: Cape Town Extortion Gangs Target Paramedics     ZFTWARNING Tue, 06/01/2021 - 4:19pm
Paramedics in Cape Town (Western Cape), South Africa are allegedly victims of extortion gangs that seek ‘protection’ money to allow them to provide emergency medical care.  This incidence of extortion is exacerbated by a recent upswing in violent attacks against Emergency Medical Service (EMS) staff and the influence of Covid-19 lockdowns on public [in]security.  

Infographic: The Narco Hybrid-Threat – An Analysis of Case Studies

Sat, 05/29/2021 - 11:42pm

Infographic: The Narco Hybrid-Threat – An Analysis of Case Studies

This infographic expands upon the discussion of hybrid threats found in Paulina Rios Maya's paper "The Narco Hybrid-Threat" at Small Wars Journal. That paper posited that the rapid development of tactics used by Mexican narco-cartels has allowed these organisations to build a solid structure of influence. Those  entities have amplified their efforts to coerce the state while increasing their capacity to dislocate social life and erode state institutions. Her paper concluded that criminal cartel's posed hybrid threats. 

Narco Hybrid-Threat

The infographic can be viewed at Paulina Rios Maya and Laurence Raine. "Infographic: The Narco Hybrid-Threat – An Analysis of Case Studies" at  The original source is Paulina Rios Maya, "The Narco Hybrid-Threat." Small Wars Journal. 18 March 2021.


Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 37: Rio de Janeiro Gang and Militia Extortion and Control of Telecommunications Towers   ZFTWARNING Fri, 05/28/2021 - 1:07pm
Criminal Factions (Facções criminosas) in Rio de Janeiro (RJ) are extorting telecommunications and utility operators and attacking telecommunications infrastructure to bolster criminal protection rackets. The rackets obstruct free access to telephone, internet, cable, television, natural gas, and electricity. The criminal exploitation extends beyond the favelas throughout the region. Theft, vandalism, and sabotage, as well as threats to infrastructure personnel, impede service provision.

SWJ El Centro Ensayo-Reseña – La guerra improvisada: Los años de Calderón y sus consecuencias (The Improvised War: The Calderón Years and their Consequences)

Thu, 05/27/2021 - 10:02pm
El nuevo libro "La Guerra Improvisada: Los años de Calderón y sus consecuencias" de Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera y Tony Payan busca explicar el proceso de toma de decisiones de la “guerra contra las drogas” (de aquí en adelante se denominará solo como la guerra) iniciada e implementada por elpresidente Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) en colaboración con EE.UU. El libro explora preguntas claves como ¿por qué inició Calderón la guerra? ¿Quién la diseñó e implementó y cómo? ¿Quién determinó la estrategia? ¿Qué papel desempeñó EE.UU.?  Y ¿por qué se utilizó a las fuerzas armadas? 

About the Author(s)

Field Report: The Netherlands as a narcostate and the emergence of a methamphetamine industry ZFTWARNING Thu, 05/27/2021 - 7:00pm
This field report looks at the drugs trade in the Netherlands. It draws from SWJ-El Centro Fellow Teun Voeten’s journalistic experience and updates the discussion contained in “Chapter 6, The Netherlands as a narco-state, and Antwerp as its principle cocaine hub” in his SWJ-El Centro book "Mexican Drug Violence: Hybrid Warfare, Predatory Capitalism and the Logic of Cruelty" (2020).

Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 36: High Casualty Civil Police Raid in Rio de Janeiro’s Jacarezinho Favela Raises Human Rights Concerns

Tue, 05/25/2021 - 8:59pm
On 6 May 2021, at approximately 0600 hours (6 AM), Rio de Janeiro’s civil police (Polícia Civil do Estado do Rio de Janeiro – PCERJ) entered the Jacarezinho favela (slum) to perform a raid—Operação Exceptis(Operation Exception)—against members of the Comando Vermelho (CV or Red Command).  As the PCERJ entered the favela, they encountered small arms fire.  A PCERJ officer was killed in the initial exchange and a sustained battle continued through the day.  At least 28 persons were killed, including the police officer and 27 residents. The incident was the deadliest in Rio de Janeiro’s history and provoked widespread globalcriticism.

About the Author(s)

The Strategic Realities of Twenty-First Century “Small Wars”— An Opinion Essay

Sat, 05/22/2021 - 2:36pm
The traditional distinctions between crime, terrorism, subversion, and insurgency are blurred.  This new dynamic involves the migration of the monopoly of political power (i.e., the authoritative allocation of the values in a society) from the traditional nation-state to unconventional actors such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), transnational criminal organizations, Leninist-Maoist insurgents, tribal militias, mafia organizations, private armies, cartel enforcers, third generation gangs (3GEN Gangs), and other modern mercenaries and entrepreneurs. These actors conduct some form or level of war against various state and non-state adversaries and promulgate their own rule of law—within alternatively governed spaces—within the societies they control.  That activity creates an ambiguous bazaar of violence where criminal entrepreneurs fuel the convergence of crime and war.

About the Author(s)

SWJ El Centro Review Essay – La guerra improvisada: Los años de Calderón y sus consecuencias (The Improvised War: The Calderón Years and their Consequences)

Thu, 05/20/2021 - 12:16am
Review essay on Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera and Tony Payan,  "La guerra improvisada: Los años de Calderón y sus consecuencias." The book "La Guerra Improvisada" (in Spanish) sheds light on the decision-making process of the so-called “war on drugs” (from here on referred to as war) launched and implemented in Mexico by President Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) in collaboration with the United States. It explores key questions like why launch the war? Who designed and implemented it and how? Who determined the strategy? What was the US role? And why use military forces? Undoubtedly, the role of the military has been one of the most persistent and controversial issues about the war. 

About the Author(s)

Call for Book Chapters: Human Trafficking in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean: A Comparative and Historical Analysis

Thu, 05/20/2021 - 12:01am

Call for Book Chapters

Human Trafficking in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean: A Comparative and Historical Analysis

Editors: Michael R. Hall, José de Arimatéia da Cruz, and Sabella O. Abidde

The purpose of this project is to provide a comparative and historical assessment of Human Trafficking in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Although there is media coverage and academic literature on the subject, none provide a multiregional perspective or understanding of this global problem. Human trafficking is not a new phenomenon—a phenomenon that includes many types of forced movements and imprisonment across national and international borders for prostitution, perverse sexual activities, forced labor, domestic servitude, child soldiers, and the harvesting of body organs. Significantly, most victims of human trafficking have been women and children.

According to the US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report (2019): “Each instance of human trafficking takes a common toll; each crime is an affront to the basic ideas of human dignity, inflicting grievous harm on individuals, as well as on their families and communities.” The global community, individually, and under the tutelage of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), has for several years been combating Human Trafficking. According to its Global Report on Trafficking in Persons (2018): “There remain significant knowledge gaps related to the patterns and flows of trafficking in persons,” and that many countries of the world “still lack sufficient capacity to record and share data on trafficking in persons.” This is so because, for the most part, the activities of human traffickers are shrouded in secrecy and many victims are ashamed to speak up publicly for fear of retribution or retribution against their family and friends.

In addition, many people do not have a clear understanding of this dangerous and alarming atrocity—an atrocity the UN asserts is at a “record high.” No part of the world is exempt from these illicit and reprehensible activities being perpetrated by a diverse population that includes criminal organizations, labor agents, organ harvesters, family members, and a web of formal and informal groups and individuals often motivated by financial inducements. This comparative study examines Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean—a region with shared experiences and similar economic and political aspirations—to make a systematic comparison of human trafficking in terms of its perpetrators, targets, and impact.

We invite academic scholars, members of civil society; and activists to submit chapters that aid in our understanding of human trafficking within and across the three regions. We have listed a few potential chapters but interested contributors may suggest topics in their field of expertise that are not so listed but which fall within the scope of the book. We anticipate a vast array of case studies based on individual areas of research and scholarship examining individual countries or regions.


I. Human Trafficking Theory

  • Theorizing human trafficking
  • The roots human trafficking in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean
  • Overview of contemporary human trafficking
  • The human cost of human trafficking     
  • The economic cost of human trafficking
  • Globalization and human trafficking

II. Case Studies of Human Trafficking

  • Sex trafficking in Mexican cantinas
  • Child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo/Africa
  • Sex tourism in the Dominican Republic or the Caribbean in general
  • Organ harvesting in Guatemala or Latin America in general
  • Debt bondage in Ghana or a region of Africa
  • Arranged child marriages in Niger or a region of Africa  
  • Ukuthwala in South Africa

III. Transnational Responses to Human Trafficking

  • The OAS and Human Trafficking
  • The African Union and Human Trafficking
  • Human trafficking and the United Nations
  • International law and human trafficking
  • Social media and human trafficking
  • Human rights groups and human trafficking


  • Submit a 300 to 350 word abstract and a 150 to 200-word bio (about the author) by 1 August 2021. You will be notified of acceptance or rejection of your abstract on 15 August 2021.     
  • The completed chapter—9,000 to 9,500 words—is due 30 January 2022.
  • For formatting/citation, please adhere to the Chicago Manual of Style (no in text citations, use endnotes and provide bibliography).
  • Send the abstract, author biography, and general inquiries to and please cc the co-editors and


Michael R. Hall is a professor of history in the department of history at Georgia Southern University. He holds an M.A. in International Studies and a PhD in History from Ohio University. He is the author of Sugar and Power in the Dominican Republic: Eisenhower, Kennedy and the Trujillos (2000); “Ethnic Conflict in Mexico: The Zapatista Army of National Liberation” in Santosh C. Saha, Ed., Perspectives on Contemporary Ethnic Conflict: Primal Violence or the Politics of Conviction (2006); Historical Dictionary of Haiti (2012); and “Castro and Cabral: Cuban Assistance in the Struggle for Independence in Guinea-Bissau and Cabo Verde” in Sabella Abidde and Charity Manyeruke, Eds. Fidel Castro and Africa’s Liberation Struggle (2020). He is the Book Review Editor of the Journal of Global South Studies.

José de Arimatéia da Cruz is a professor of international relations and international studies in the department of political science & international studies at Georgia Southern University, Georgia. He holds a PhD in political science from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. Dr. Cruz is a former Research Professor at the US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute; and a Research Fellow at the Brazil Research Unit Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA). Visiting Professor at the Department of International and Diplomatic Studies Prague School of Economics and Business. He is the co-author of “Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 10: Military Takes Control of Policing in Rio de Janeiro,” Small Wars Journal, 23 February 2018; and “Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 9: Concerns About Potential Gang Influence on Upcoming Brazilian Elections,” Small Wars Journal, 25 January 2018. He is a Small Wars Journal-El Centro Fellow.

Sabella O. Abidde is a professor of political science at Alabama State University. He holds an M.A. in political science from Minnesota State University Mankato, and a PhD in African Studies, World Affairs, Public Policy and Development Studies from Howard University. His edited volumes on Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean include The Challenges of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (2021); Fidel Castro and Africa’s Liberation Struggle (2020); and Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean: The Case for Bilateral and Multilateral Cooperation (2018). He is a member of the Association of Global South Studies (AGSS); the Caribbean Studies Association (CSA); the Latin American Studies Association (LASA); and the African Studies/Research Forum (ASRF).