Organized crime thrives along borders. In Latin America, sophisticated criminal networks have long taken advantage of lax controls and corruptible checkpoints to expand their transnational crime rings, hopping between countries to take care of business or seek refuge from law enforcement.
Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, plus Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil of the Southern Cone.
*This series of events is part of a two-year investigation by InSight Crime meticulously chronicling criminal activity in Central America’s Northern Triangle and the Southern Cone’s Tri-Border area – two regions pivotal to transborder crime. Visit the investigation’s page, explore an interactive map and find case studies and in-depth departmental border profiles here.
Armed with this research, we have developed an ‘interactive dashboard,’ – an online interface where users can view the severity of organized crime in these border areas. The dashboard also contains detailed profiles for each of the border departments and criminal actors analyzed as part of this project.
This, along with six deep-dive investigations into corruption and transnational crime, will be progressively rolled out during the online series, with our investigative reports published one country at a time.
Guatemala – February 2
– Drug trafficking and other transborder crime is rife along Guatemala’s borders, helped out by widespread corruption and a limited state presence. In border towns across the country, traffickers wage bloody turf wars to dispute even minor smuggling routes, often forging alliances with mayors to facilitate their business.
Full details and registration for the Guatemala event here.
Honduras – February 16
– In Honduras, drug trafficking reaches the highest levels of government, compromising the country’s borders and spurring on all manner of transnational crime. The incumbent National Party has played a leading role in Honduras’ steady decline into the murky world of narcostates.
Full details and registration for the Honduras event here.
Paraguay – February 25
– Endemic corruption at different levels of government has helped Paraguay become a major exporter of marijuana and a hub for contraband. Here, drug traffickers and dirty politicians often find common ground, and political fights spill into the underworld.
Brazil – March 4
– Home to some of Latin America’s most sophisticated gangs, Brazil’s criminal actors are omnipresent smugglers along the Southern Cone’s borders. Neighboring Paraguay serves as a refuge for both the gangs and white-collar criminals, including savvy operators whitewashing millions of dollars.
Argentina – March 16
– Argentina’s affluent cities are major consumers of cocaine and marijuana, smuggled from Paraguay and Bolivia and distributed by domestic drug rings. These networks sometimes include corrupt mayors, dirty cops, and paid-off judges, who help to move tons of drugs across land and riverine highways.
El Salvador – March 23
– El Salvador is home to sophisticated freight networks that specialize in moving illicit narcotics through Central America, in addition to notorious street gangs the MS13 and Barrio 18. Though mostly tied up in extortion, InSight Crime tracked how one faction of the MS13 branched out into the international cocaine trade.