Small Wars Journal

Third Generation Gangs

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

Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 43: Former Rio de Janeiro Prison Secretary Arrested for Collusion with the Comando Vermelho

Fri, 09/10/2021 - 5:36pm
On 17 August 2021, the ex-Secretary of Prisons (Secretaria de Administração Penitenciária – Seap), Raphael Montenegro, was arrested for corruption after meeting with a Comando Vermelho (CV or Red Command) leader in the Federal Prison in Catanduvas, Paraná. He was fired from his position the day of his arrest. Montenegro was offering to transfer gang members to less restrictive state prisons in Rio de Janeiro and overlook the gang’s activities and prison expansion in exchange for reducing violence in Rio.

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Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 42: Brazilian Gangs Utilize Human Shields, Explosives, and Drones in a New ‘Cangaço’ Style Urban Bank Raid in Araçatuba, São Paulo

Sun, 09/05/2021 - 4:01pm
On Sunday 29 August 2021, at approximately 2200 hours, around 20 armed gunmen conducted a series of raids on three banks in Araçatuba, São Paulo, killing at least three. The armed commando wore bulletproof vests and helmets and used assault rifles, explosives, and drones. Hostages were also used as human shields to hamper their capture and facilitate escape. Blockades constructed from burning vehicles, as well as explosives were deployed to facilitate their escape during the ‘mega-robbery.’ Brazil has been plagued by this type ‘urban bank raid’ in recent years.

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Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 41: Criminal Insurgency and ‘Revolution’ in Haiti?

Fri, 07/02/2021 - 5:41pm
Gang violence in Haiti is spiraling out of control as rival gangs fill the void in governance fueled by chronic insecurity, corruption, and violence. The resulting instability places gangs in conflict with each other and the state as they compete for territorial control. The outbreak of gang violence is exacerbating the situation, leading to a crisis disaster. This humanitarian crisis includes extreme gang violence, attacks on police stations and health care providers, while internally displaced persons converge with the Covid-19 pandemic and hurricane season to elevate insecurity. One gang leader, an ex-police officer Jimmy Chérizier, known as “Barbecue” the head of G9 Fanmi ak Alye (G9 Family and Allies) has called for ‘revolution’ to solve the situation.

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Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 34: The Ranfla Indictment and the Command and Control (C2) Targeting of MS-13’s ‘Board of Directors’ in El Salvador

Mon, 01/25/2021 - 3:36pm
The 31-page Ranfla Indictment filed in the United States District Court, Eastern District of New York on 16 December 2020 and unsealed on 14 January 2021 is a product of Joint Task Force Vulcan (JTFV). The indictment follows the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) kingpin strategy of targeting the upper echelon of Mara Salvatrucha’s (MS-13) leadership—the Ranfla Nacional in El Salvador—with the intent of demolishing its command and control (C2) structure. The extradition of the eleven imprisoned Ranfla members from El Salvador to the United States (three are still at large) to stand charges represents a component of the indictment presently being explored. Of strategic concern is the Ranfla’s ability to direct MS-13 clica (clique) activities within the United States.

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Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 33: Brazilian Gangs (Quadrilhas) Wage Urban Bank Raids in a New ‘Cangaço’  

Wed, 12/02/2020 - 10:15pm
Armed gunmen attacked banks in two Brazilian cities on Monday 30 November 2020 through Tuesday 1 December 2020.  The attacks occurred in Criciúma, Santa Catarina state in southern Brazil and Cametá, Pará state in Brazil’s north.  The attackers are believed to be unrelated but share common tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs).  Brazilian media refers to the style of attacks as the ‘New Cangaço’ referring to historic banditry in the 1920s-1930s.

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Gangs in lockdown: Impact of Covid-19 restrictions on gangs in east and southern Africa

Wed, 10/28/2020 - 2:27pm

Gangs in lockdown: Impact of Covid-19 restrictions on gangs in east and southern Africa

The coronavirus pandemic has altered communities and the political economy of states throughout East and southern Africa.  Lockdowns in particular have profound social impacts. This study—Gangs in lockdown: Impact of Covid-19 restrictions on gangs in east and southern Africa—from the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) explores the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on gangs and illicit economies by using Cape Town, South Africa, as a lens to analyze trends across the East and southern African region.

Gangs in Lockdown

The study's author Julia Standard draws on in-depth reportage together with interviews across the Cape Flats with gang members, community members and civil-society activists, to chart the first hundred days of lockdown. This case study is integrated with insights from the GI-TOC's network of researchers in Cape Town, other cities in South Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania. The report concludes that the lockdowns have brought about significant change in a number of areas, namely how gangs operate economically; the political power they wield over communities; levels of violence and street-level crime; and the relationship between corrupt law enforcement officials and gang members.

A summary of Gangs in lockdown is available here.  A timeline: "Cape Town Lockdown Timetime" is available here; and the full report can be downloaded here

Source: Julia Stanyard, Gangs in lockdown: Impact of Covid-19 restrictions on gangs in east and southern Africa. Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, 28 October 2020, 


Eighteenth Street: The Origins of ‘Barrio 18’

Sun, 08/30/2020 - 10:29pm
Eighteenth Street (18th Street) is a gang originating in the Pico-Union District of Los Angeles. It is one of the gangs frequently mentioned in a transnational context and often referred to as a mara—a type of sophisticated gang—due to its presence in El Salvador and other parts of Central America. Eighteenth Street is known as 18th Street, Barrio 18, Calle 18, Mara 18, and M-18 in its various locations. This article summarizes its origins and national and transnational migration/diffusion.

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Covid-19, Gangs, and Conflict: A Small Wars Journal-El Centro Reader

Sat, 08/29/2020 - 1:19am

Covid-19, Gangs, and Conflict: A Small Wars Journal-El Centro Reader

John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker, Editors

SWJ has released a new curated collection COVID-19, Gangs, and Conflict examining the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in light of exploitation by gangs, cartels, and mafias.  The reader contains previously published material as well as a prologue by Steven Dudley, a foreword by Nils Gilman, an introduction by John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker. These are followed by a series of previously published SWJ-El Centro research notes on the topic, a curated section of essays, a conclusion by Robert J. Bunker, an afterword by Colon P. Clarke, and a postscript by Tuesday Reitano.

Covid Cover

The Coronavirus pandemic is fueling conflict and fostering extremism while concurrently empowering gangs, cartels, and mafias in their quest for power and profit. In COVID-19, Gangs, and Conflict, Editors John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker bring together a curated collection of both new and previously published material to explore the trends and potentials of the global pandemic emergency. Topics include an exploration of proto-statemaking by criminal groups, the interaction of pandemics and conflict, as well as a comparison of gangs, criminal cartels, and mafias exploiting the crisis and exerting criminal governance in Brazil, El Salvador, Mexico, Colombia, and South Africa. Implications for national security, biosecurity, slums, transnational organized crime, and threats and opportunities in the contested pandemic space are assessed. SWJ

Source: John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker, Editors, Covid-19, Gangs, and Conflict: A Small Wars Journal-El Centro ReaderBloomington: XLibris, 2020.

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

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.

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