When the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) was adopted in 2000 total profits of Transnational Organized crime where estimated to be about US 10 Billion. By 2010 the income flow had jumped to 90 Billion. Today it is one trillion.
Considering the world GDP reached US $ 88 trillion last year transnational organized crime (TOC) is about 2% . Or to put it into the words of the former Director of the UN office against Drugs and Crime Antonio Maria Costa “transnational organized crime is one of the 20 leading economies of the world”.
If so lets assume for the sake of the analysis that TOC is as economically strong as Switzerland which is the 20th economy of the world both in GDP and PPP terms. Well, then TCO produces and consumes half a trillion Us dollars every year. Now just imagine the mischievous things that it can execute with this munition. Because at the end of the day TOC ‘s supreme interest is cash and its protection so as to be able to accomplish its sordid deeds.
In the 1980’s there were about 6 unlawful states and territories in the world. Today there are at least 60 .. And guess where they sprout. If your guess was trade routes you are right. Because it is trade that creates wealth and TOC goes where there is wealth creation. Some think, well there is no wealth creation in Somalia. Perhaps but around Somalia wealth creation is the rule.
Think of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. Dubai, for example, has seen a double digit GDP growth from 1975 to 2018 going from US $26 B to US $ 43B. Take Madagascar. Its GDP has grown from US $2B in 1975 to US$11 B in 2018. Meanwhile from religious; geopolitical and ideological reasons Somalia was shredded away. As political institutions collapsed, the void was opportunely filled by warlords turned terrorists, turned criminals. And they took it to the seas where they still exert overview of trade after almost three decades of operation. Indeed, organized crime saw the opportunity to participate in the growing well creation originating in the Persian Gulf through the penetration of a fragile nation state.
In Latin America we have moved from Ciudad del Este, a spot in the South American map where crime had its way to the reenactment of the Silk Road through Mexico and Central America and the take over of some Caribbean nations. In Mexico just as in ancient times drug trafficking covers a route that starts in Colombia and ends in Tijuana. Along the journey covering seven nations there are oasis cities. These are those politically and militarily controlled by the drug lords.
Drug cargos pass through these cities unencumbered by authorities until they reach the US border where their helpers oversee the safe passage into the greatest drug market in the world. We now have at least 20 cities along the Atlantic and Pacific shores of Central America and Mexico. The logistics also serves to sustain other illicit activities such a human traffic; trade in counterfeit products and “nests” for cyber criminals. In Brazil authorities have long lost the fight against organized crime that not only manages prisons but has taken over the role of police in the favellas.
These networks and logistics infrastructure have been agile in reinventing themselves in these times of Covid 19. Given the traditional ineptness of public bureaucracies to respond to an emergency, TOC has taken over the supply of medical inputs. Masks, protecting overalls; thermometers; gloves and respirators have been stockpiled by TOC with a view to either sell these products at twice the price paid to factories in China or to further the political ascent of their political assets in the region. This is why all of the sudden the region is virtually flooded with medical inputs. Income flows from these sales will balance losses experienced by the choke in drug manufacturing precursors from China which has dented drug trade.
In short, TOC is winning given the lack of political will among nation states to coalesce around this threat to fully apply national and international tools created to deal with the challenge. The retrench of most nations from multilateralism into quasi feudal foreign policies will be the best insurance policy for TOC to prosper this century.
Published by lath.com on May 18, 2020
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