(Q24N) InSightCrime.org, a non-profit journalism and investigative organization specialized in organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean, with offices in Washington, D.C. and Medellín, Colombia has produced a roundup report of the most important criminal developments in the Americas during 2016 and what to expect in 2017.
InSight Crime’s GameChangers 2016 put a spotlight on crime and corruption among the region’s political elites, while reporting on government struggles to corral criminality, fueled by street gangs, drug cartels and Marxist rebels alike.
At the centre of the storm was Brazil, where government deals led to bribes and kickbacks that over time reached into the billions of dollars. The top casualty of the scandal was Dilma Rousseff who, ironically, was ousted from the presidency for misuse of funds, not corruption.
Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro is facing down a different type of crisis, one that includes an economic emergency, widespread corruption and rising crime rates at home, and an increasing number of current and ex-officials charged with drug trafficking abroad.
Guatemala’s Attorney General’s Office and its United Nations-backed appendage, the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala – CICIG), continued to arrest and charge more suspects from the mafia state established under former President Otto Pérez Molina, his Vice President Roxana Baldetti and their Patriotic Party (Partido Patriota – PP).
El Salvador’s Attorney General’s Office arrested one ex-president, began a corruption probe of another ex-president, and charged a former attorney general with corruption, in part because of their relationship with a businessman whom both the Salvadoran and US governments are investigating for drug trafficking.
Investigations in Honduras continue to swirl dangerously close to President Juan Orlando Hernández. The Attorney General’s Office there is still looking into ties between a corruption scandal in the Honduras Social Security Institute and campaign contributions to the president’s party, and accused drug traffickers tied the president’s brother to drug trafficking with one US official calling the brother “a person of interest” in an ongoing investigation.
The problems in the Northern Triangle emanate from the bottom up as well. More than a dozen mayors in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala are facing charges of corruption and organized crime. Mayors have not only allegedly worked directly with organized crime but formed their own organized crime groups, a trend we will explore in various investigations we are preparing for 2017.
Other countries such as Panama and Nicaragua are also facing challenges from corruption and organized crime. The Panamanian government requested the US extradite former President Ricardo Martinelli for alleged use of illegal wiretaps of as many as 150 political opponents and critics. And Nicaraguans are wondering what Daniel Ortega’s near absolute grip on all levers of power means after he was elected to a fourth term as president, something we will also explore in 2017, in our last installment of our Elites and Organized Crime series.
The Insigthcrime.org 54 page report had to this on Costa Rica:
Calor Calor and Bagdad “reportedly have cells in Costa Rica, although it is unclear just how high up their involvement in the drug trade goes.”
Across Panama’s western border, Costa Rica, which has long been considered the “Switzerland of Latin America,” has seen a drastic rise in violent crime associated with the illegal narcotics trade. Between 2000 and 2015, the country’s murder rate nearly doubled from 6.3 to 11.5 per 100,000 citizens. Up to 70 percent of the violence has been associated with territorial battles between local drug gangs.
This dynamic is new to the country, with Costa Rican Security Minister Gustavo Mata explaining that “criminality in the country now revolves increasingly around the drug trade, whereas previously it largely consisted of bank robbery, vehicular theft, and kidnapping.”
InsightCrime.org launched its website in December 2010 with news on organized crime and profiles of drug trafficking organizations and criminal personalities in Colombia and Mexico. The website has since expanded to include information on Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.