Small Wars Journal

El Centro

SWJ El Centro Book Review – Democracy and Security in Latin America: State Capacity and Governance under Stress

Wed, 02/02/2022 - 4:01pm
SWJ-El Centro Fellow Pablo A. Baisotti reviews “Democracy and Security in Latin America: State Capacity and Governance under Stress.” The text analyzes the capacity of the democratic state in Latin America to effectively provide public security and national defense, historically fundamental issues in the region. The book consists of a collection of academic papers and addresses the nature and scope of state governance in Latin America and the close relationship between security and democracy (especially in times of pandemic). It presents and elaborates on the challenges to governance and some key state institutions such as the police, the courts, the armed forces, and the penitentiary system. To this end, the authors of this work analyzed the various issues from an interdisciplinary approach (historical, political, economic, military, among others).

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Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 46: Los Angeles Strike Force Investigation into Alleged Weapons Trafficking Organization Providing Weapons and Ammunition to the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG)

Mon, 01/31/2022 - 3:24pm
A Federal Grand Jury in Los Angeles named six defendants in a weapon smuggling organization in a 23-count indictment alleging that the cell conspired to violate federal export laws to provide weapons and ammunition to Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) operatives in Mexico. The indictment charged six individuals and asserts that they are members of a group known as the Santillan gun trafficking organization. This note also includes a social network analysis (SNA) of the cell and an analysis of the ammunition seized.

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Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 45: Rio De Janeiro Operação Cidade Integrada (Operation Integrated City) Police ‘Occupy’ Favelas to Restore Territorial Control

Fri, 01/21/2022 - 1:06pm
Police in Rio de Janeiro (RJ) began a major operation—Operação Cidade Integrada (Operation Integrated City)—on Wednesday 19 January 2022 to retake control of RJ’s Jacarezinho favela.  Approximately 1,200 police (Polícia Militar or Military Police) took part in the co-ordinated action. The operation is reminiscent of the UPP (Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora or Pacifying Police Units) approach initially implemented ahead of the 2016 Olympics. This new initiative apparently seeks to expand that approach by integrating comprehensive social programs to restore state authority and governance. The action seeks to displace criminal governance by the Comando Vermelho (CV or Red Command) and milícia (militia) groups.

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Venezuela: Understanding Political, External, and Criminal Actors in an Authoritarian State

Fri, 01/14/2022 - 4:38am
The predictable triumph by Maduro loyalists in Venezuela’s rigged November 2021 elections was a symbolic nail in the coffin for the attempt by the de jure government of Juan Guaido to restore the more liberal type of democracy previously prevailing in the country. Venezuela now seems to ever more resemble Cuba, with an authoritarian government in control for the long haul. Yet while Venezuela is unlikely to return to democratic governance anytime soon, parallels to Cuba conceal the complex dynamic between regime figures, external state actors, and criminal and terrorist groups that is shaping the country’s future.

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A social network analysis of Genaro García Luna and his alleged ties to the Sinaloa Cartel

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 5:22pm
This article is a mixed methods research study on Genaro García Luna—former head of Mexican Federal law enforcement—and his ties to the Sinaloa Cartel and other Mexican officials involved in the criminal organization from 2003 to 2008. This study thus explores the role and influence of corrupt Mexican officials that allowed for a secure and efficient illegal trafficking of drugs inside Mexico and into the United States. It should be noted that, not all individuals found in this Social Network Analysis (SNA) are assumed to be guilty or have been proven so via conviction in a court of law. The presumption of innocence is an important concept that applies to the actors discussed here.

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SWJ–El Centro Announces New Slate of Fellows/Associates for 2022

Tue, 01/04/2022 - 2:54pm

SWJ–El Centro Announces New Slate of Fellows/Associates for 2022

New Senior Fellow, Fellows, Associate, and Intern

Small Wars Journal-El Centro (SWJ–El Centro) is pleased to announce the Class of Fellows and Associates for 2022. Senior Fellows are active in managing El Centro. Fellows have already made significant and distinguished contributions to the field through the course of their career. Associates are actively engaged in research or practice in the region and in transnational organized crime or insurgency. Interns are emerging scholars and practitioners.


The new El Centro Senior Fellow is Dr. Nathan P. Jones:

  • Dr. Nathan P. Jones is an Associate Professor of Security Studies at Sam Houston State University and a Non-resident Scholar for Rice University’s Baker Institute Mexico Center. He holds a PhD from the University of California, Irvine Jones published Mexico's Illicit Drug Networks and the State Reaction (Georgetown University Press, 2016). He is a Fellow of the Institute of Strategic Risk Management (ISRM) and has served as An El Centro Fellow since June 2012.

New El Centro Fellows are Dr. Pablo A. Baisotti, Dr. Patricia H. Escamilla-Hamm, Stephen M. Noguera, and Dr. Jonathan D. Rosen:

  • Dr. Pablo A. Baisotti is Associate Researcher at the Department of Latin American Studies University of Brasilia, and External Lecturer at the Institute of Iberian and Ibero-American Studies, Warsaw University. He holds a PhD in Politics, Institutions and History from the University of Bologna, an M.Phil. in International Relations Europe-Latin America from the University of Bologna, and an M.A. in Law and Economic Integration from the University Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and University del Salvador. As editor or author he has published more than 20 books on Latin American history, politics, literature and economic policy.
  • Dr. Patricia H. Escamilla-Hamm  is a scholar and independent consultant and former Associate Professor of National Security Affairs at the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, National Defense University in Washington, DC. She taught at the University of California at Irvine (UCI), and was assistant professor at Iowa State University (ISU) and El Colegio de la Frontera Norte (Colef, Tijuana, Mexico). Dr. Escamilla has a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Southern California; M.A. in Latin American Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); and a PhD in Political Science from the University of California, Irvine (UCI).
  • Stephen M. Noguera, CFE serves as the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Chair and Professor of National Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, College of International and Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. He also serves as a Deputy Program Director for the Countering Transnational Organized Crime (CTOC) Program. Stephen holds an M.A. in Management, a Diploma from the US Naval War College and is currently a PhD candidate in Criminal Justice. Following 14 years of service in local law enforcement, Stephen joined the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) in 2001.
  • Dr. Jonathan D. Rosen is Assistant Professor in the Professional Security Studies Department at New Jersey City University. Dr. Rosen earned his Master’s in political science from Columbia University and received his PhD in international studies from the University of Miami in 2012. Dr. Rosen’s research focuses on drug trafficking, organized crime, and security. He has published 20 books with Routledge, Lexington Books, Palgrave Macmillan, the University of Florida, and the State University Press of New York. He has published journal articles in Trends in Organized Crime, the Journal of Criminal Justice, Deviant Behavior, International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, and Contexto Internacional, Revista CS, among other journals.

The new El Centro Associates are David A. Kuhn and Marisa Mendoza:

  • David A. Kuhn is an Associate with C/O Futures, LLC and the Principal of VTAC Training Solutions. He has over 3200 hours in the planning and execution of complex and hazardous underwater operations along with extensive training and certification in HAZMAT, WMD, IED, and incident and project management from US military and related entities. He provides specialized law enforcement and first responder training throughout the United States, focusing on terrorism incident response, threat mitigation, and interdiction.  He is a recognized authority in the area of military standoff weapons and deployment, MANPADS (Man-Portable Air Defense Systems), and forensic analysis of incident areas where such weapons or explosives have been deployed.
  • Marisa Mendoza is a PhD student in Political Science (Politics and Policy Concentration) at Claremont Graduate University. Ms Mendoza holds an Executive MBA from the Drucker School of Management, Claremont Graduate University and a Master of Social Work (MSW) and BS in General Studies (English concentration) from the University of Southern California.

The El Centro Intern for 2021-2022 is Issac Poritzky:

  • Isaac Poritzky is a senior at the College of William & Mary. He is graduating in May 2022 with a B.A. in Government and a minor in Religious Studies.  Isaac’s research interests lie at the intersection of Middle East security studies, (mainly Iran and Israel), influence operations and counter-terrorism. This past year, during an internship at the US Army Training and Doctrine Command where he analyzed emerging terrorist threats and foreign influence operations to inform policy.

SWJ–El Centro wishes departing Intern Anibal Serrano Godspeed as he pursues his academic career.

Dr. Robert J. Bunker 

Dr. John P. Sullivan 

Senior Fellows, SWJEl Centro




Field Report: Security in Tamaulipas Today: Simulated Peace

Mon, 01/03/2022 - 1:20pm
Field Report from Tamaulipas: English language version of "Informe de campo: Seguridad en Tamaulipas Hoy: Una Paz Simulada." Since 2010, the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas has been in a state of high-intensity armed conflict. Earlier that year, the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas—who at one point worked together—began a brutal confrontation that led to levels of violence never before seen in the state. In the framework of the Mérida Initiative and the ‘war on drugs’ declared by former President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (2006–2012), the extreme conflict between two violent organized crime groups—which had militarized their strategies, diversified their operations and had access to high-caliber weaponry-intensified with the entry of federal forces into the state.

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Informe de campo: Seguridad en Tamaulipas Hoy: Una Paz Simulada

Fri, 12/31/2021 - 5:44pm
Field Report from Tamaulipas in Spanish: Desde el año 2010, el estado fronterizo mexicano de Tamaulipas se ha mantenido en una situación de conflicto armado de alta intensidad. A principios de ese año, el Cartel del Golfo y los Zetas—quienes en algún momento trabajaron de forma conjunta—comenzaron una brutal confrontación que desencadenó en niveles de violencia nunca antes vistos en la entidad. En el marco de la Iniciativa Mérida y la “guerra contra las drogas” declarada por el expresidente Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (2006-2012), el conflicto extremo entre dos violentos grupos del crimen organizado—que habían militarizado sus estrategias, diversificado sus operaciones y que tenían acceso a armamento de alto calibre—se intensificó con la entrada de las fuerzas federales al estado.

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Mexican Cartel Strategic Note No. 33: Pueblos Unidos Launch Sophisticated Prison Break Allegedly Using Coches Bomba (Car Bombs) or IEDs

Mon, 12/20/2021 - 3:51pm
An armed cell composed of ten members using high caliber weapons and six vehicles, two of which were reported to have been set on fire as a distraction, broke into the jail (Centro de Readaptación Social de Tula – Tula Social Correctional Center or CERESO) in Tula, Hidalgo, on 1 December 2021. The cell helped nine inmates escape including the presumed leader of the Pueblos Unidos (United Towns or Villages), José Artemio Maldonado Mejía, Alias “El Michoacano,” “El R” or “El Rabias.” Maldonado Mejía is an alleged head of the huachicloero (petroleum theft) enterprise known as the Cártel Pueblos Unidos. Numerous media reports mention the use of car bombs or explosives during the operation.

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From 18th Street to Barrio 18: The Morphing of a Barrio

Wed, 12/08/2021 - 5:57pm
This article reviews the evolution of the 18th Street Gang in Los Angeles to Barrio 18 in Central America. 18th Street’s transnational shift was motivated by “internal and transnational migration flows,” as well as, the US increasing deportations of “foreign” criminals. As 18th Street members arrived in Central America, they brought their own US-based gangster culture, a particular way of dressing, talking, and bravado. These members were deported to countries where they had little to no understanding of the cultural dynamics, as many were born in Central America but raised in the United States. El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras were new environments, and each presented unique dynamics that 18th Street members had to adapt to, to survive.

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