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Transnational criminal organizations in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay

In recent years, economic and political changes in Brazil and Latin America’s Southern Cone have provided opportunities for transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) to strengthen their presence in the region. In some cases, this has included the cooptation of the political system and building of alliances with political actors to facilitate the production and movement of illicit goods and to promote the interests of a reconfigured elite. This corruption threatens to undermine the region’s young democracies, which are only now entering their second generation of electoral politics. In addition to the security concerns posed, the expanding presence of TCOs in Brazil and the Southern Cone negatively impacts U.S. economic interests. Illicit businesses that sell counterfeit items, launder money, or participate in racketeering unfairly compete in the market, putting legal enterprises at a disadvantage and preventing effective functioning of the economy.

With a grant awarded from the U.S. Department of State, CLALS has launched a two-year project intended to provide a detailed snapshot of the extent and operation of transnational criminal organizations in Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay.

The goal of this project is to map the independent and collaborative activities of currently active TCOs, and interdiction efforts, in these three countries and the Tri-Border Area, in order to improve understanding of criminal dynamics in the region and beyond. Specifically, it will investigate the scope and scale of TCO operations, the range of criminal activities engaged in by TCOs, types of trafficked goods, trafficking routes, transit points, money laundering processes, and the extent of involvement of corrupt officials. In so doing it seeks to provide new insights and recommendations on the impact of these TCOs for US security and economic interests, and to inform decision-making regarding the allocation of law enforcement resources, intervention strategies, and anticipation of future threats.

This project is a collaboration between CLALS and InSight Crime, a non-profit journalism and investigative organization hosted by CLALS and with an office in Medellín, Colombia, that specializes in organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean. This initiative is led by CLALS Director Eric Hershberg, InSight Crime Co-Director Steven Dudley, and AU School of International Service Associate Professor Matthew Taylor.