ChapterPDF Available

Organized Crime and the State in Venezuela under Chavismo

Authors:

Abstract

Venezuela's economic and social crises and poor policymaking have strengthened illegal economies and contributed to a rise in organized crime throughout the country. These range from the drug trafficking network of corrupt military officials and civilian political leaders informally known as the "Cartel of the Suns" (Cartel de los Soles) to the armed, pro-government radical political collectives (colectivos) that control a number of urban slums and the organized super-gangs known as megabandas. Armed paramilitaries and dissident guerrilla groups from Colombia also operate in some of Venezuela's border states. Unfortunately, under President Nicolás Maduro the country has been unable to effectively use state security forces to combat these threats to security and is unwilling to seek help in doing so from international organizations such as the OAS or UN. Instead, the relationship between organized crime and the state is one that is beginning to move from what Lupsha calls the "parasitic" stage to the "symbiotic", in which the criminal organizations work in concert with the state.
Article
Full-text available
How do corrupt practices evolve into the almost complete criminalization of the state, and what are the conditions necessary for a mafia state to emerge? In this article, we trace Venezuela’s political trajectory under President Hugo Chávez and its causal connection to the consolidation of a mafia state under President Nicolás Maduro by identifying critical junctures that occurred under the administrations of Presidents Chávez and Maduro. These critical junctures first laid the foundations for the mafia state, albeit unintentionally, and then allowed and encouraged the criminalization of the state. The incremental abolition of governance institutions started by Chávez and continued by Maduro in the context of dramatic decline in oil production created an ideal environment in which criminal activities could thrive. By the end of this process, Venezuela had evolved into a complex kleptocracy in which no rule of law or institutions were capable of or willing to oppose the executive and its loyal military and irregular force allies. Thus, a mafia state is born.
Technical Report
Full-text available
Puntos claves La cuestión venezolana ha dejado de ser una crisis nacional para convertirse en un problema hemisférico crónico. El colapso político, económico y social de Venezuela no sólo ha hundido a su población en la mayor crisis humanitaria que se experimenta actualmente en Occidente, sino que implica la transformación de su Estado y territorio en un factor de riesgo creciente para la seguridad regional. Un problema semejante requiere una gestión multilateral por parte de las democracias de la región, así como también de Norteamérica y la Unión Europea. Si bien dicha aproximación multilateral se viene ejerciendo con claridad desde mediados de 2017-cuando el autoritarismo venezolano dejó de ser híbrido para convertirse en hegemónico-, los resultados distan de ser satisfactorios, con lo cual se amerita una revisión de la estrategia seguida hasta ahora. Esto pasa por reforzar la multilateralidad, aumentar el compromiso de las democracias occidentales y reevaluar el sistema de incentivos (positivos y negativos) desplegados hasta ahora.
Article
Full-text available
When organized crime reached the political agenda in the early 1990s, it was framed in terms of “Mafia‐type” organizations and infiltration in (local) governments, geographical areas, and economic sectors (racketeering). This conception contradicted the phenomenon: the primary business of organized crime is more fittingly described as “transit crime,” as opposed to the control of economic sectors or regions. Criminal groups should be viewed as “criminal networks” (instead of as pyramidal structures), as can be seen in several illegal activities: drug trafficking, human trafficking for sexual exploitation, smuggling of illegal immigrants, arms trafficking, and trafficking in stolen vehicles. The misconception of the nature of organized crime put criminal investigation strategies on the wrong track, but the changing view of organized crime is mirrored by a change in criminal investigation strategies. Flexible “prompt intervention” strategies are more common, as an alternative to the large‐scale and lengthy “long‐haul” strategies of the past. Both covert policing and infiltration and uncontrolled deliveries (of drugs) were regulated or forbidden and displaced by increasing reliance on “unobtrusive” methods of gathering evidence such as wiretapping and bugging. These methods may be effective in cases of transit crime. The innovative administrative approach may be more effective against racketeering than against transit crime.
Article
Widespread reports and extensive film evidence show them killing and beating protesters, destroying vehicles, sacking homes and businesses, and apparently also attacking pro-government forces, presumably in an effort to tarnish the image of peaceful demonstrators, escalate the conflict, and justify strong-arm tactics. A former Cuban intelligence agent who served in Venezuela, Uberto Mario, reported that Cuba recruits criminals from poor neighborhoods for the tupamaro, a radical Marxist group that predates Chávez and is now considered part of the colectivos. They are trained to destabilize Venezuelan society and contain opposition and unrest. Mario affirms that Cuban agents recruit them and that, after receiving instruction in Marxism-Leninism in Caracas, they are sent to Cuba to learn how to kill and repress. The key to understanding why the Venezuelan government would promote a crime pandemic lies in examining Marxist theories that hold that the bourgeoisie and the proletariat must be unnaturally forced into economic equality.
Article
Peace operations are increasingly on the front line in the international community's fight against organized crime. In venues as diverse as Afghanistan, the Balkans, Haiti, Iraq and West Africa, multiple international interventions have struggled with a variety of protection rackets, corruption and trafficking in a wide range of licit and illicit commodities: guns, drugs, oil, cars, diamonds, timber - and human beings. This introduction to the Special Issue on peace operations and organized crime discusses the concept of 'organized crime' as a label, and suggests ways of differentiating organized crime groups on the basis of their social governance roles, resources and strategies towards authority structures - such as peace operations.
Article
President Fox has made the improvement of public safety and reduction in corruption priorities of his government. Backed by an educated urban middle-class electorate, he faces fundamental challenges to the achievement of his goals. These include a legacy of institutionalized PRI (Institutionalized Revolutionary Party) corruption, limited respect for the rule of law, and the penetration of drug trafficking groups into the state structure. Mexico's long border with the United States has contributed to the rapid rise in organized crime and the use of Mexican territory by foreign crime groups. Mexico's past may preclude the transition to a more democratic and open society despite the best of presidential intentions and the desires of much of the Mexican population.
Article
Scholars have debated the importance of declining political trust to the American political system. By primarily treating trust as a dependent variable, however, scholars have systematically underestimated its relevance. This study establishes the importance of trust by demonstrating that it is simultaneously related to measures of both specific and diffuse support. In fact, trust's effect on feelings about the incumbent president, a measure of specific support, is even stronger than the reverse. This provides a fundamentally different understanding of the importance of declining political trust in recent years. Rather than simply a reflection of dissatisfaction with political leaders, declining trust is a powerful cause of this dissatisfaction. Low trust helps create a political environment in which it is more difficult for leaders to succeed.