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U.S. Army War College >> Strategic Studies Institute >> Publications >> A Contemporary Challenge to State Sovereignty: Gangs and Other Illicit Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) in Central America, El Salvador, Mexico, Jamaica, and Brazil >> Summary

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A Contemporary Challenge to State Sovereignty: Gangs and Other Illicit Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) in Central America, El Salvador, Mexico, Jamaica, and Brazil

Authored by Dr. Max G. Manwaring. | December 2007

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SUMMARY

Another kind of war within the context of a ?clash of civilizations? is being waged in various parts of the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere around the world. Some of the main protagonists are those who have come to be designated as first-, second-, and third-generation street gangs, as well as their various possible allies such as traditional Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs). In this new type of war, national security and sovereignty of affected countries is being impinged every day, and gangs? illicit commercial motives are, in fact, becoming an ominous political agenda.

Rather than trying to depose a government with a major stroke (golpe or coup) or in a prolonged revolutionary war, as some insurgents have done, gangs and their allies (the gang phenomenon) more subtly take control of territory and people one street or neighborhood at a time (coup d? street) or one individual, business, or government office at a time. Thus, whether a gang is specifically a criminal or insurgent type organization is irrelevant. Its putative objective is to neutralize, control, or depose governments to ensure self-determined (nondemocratic) ends. This objective defines insurgency, a serious political agenda, and a clash regarding the authoritative allocation of values in a society.

The purposes of this monograph are to (1) introduce the gang phenomenon as a major nonstate player and a serious threat in the global and regional security arenas;( 2) examine the gang phenomenon in Central America in general and in El Salvador, Mexico, Jamaica, and Brazil more specifically; and (3) summarize the key points and lessons and make brief recommendations. These cases demonstrate the analytical commonalities of various types of gang activities as they contribute to the instabilities that lead to the erosion of national security, nation-state sovereignty, the processes of state failure, and the struggle between democratic and criminal values.