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Transnational Organized Crime in Latin America and the Caribbean: From Evolving Threats and Responses to Integrated, Adaptive Solutions.

Transnational Organized Crime in Latin America and the Caribbean: From Evolving Threats and Responses to Integrated, Adaptive Solutions. R. Evan Ellis. New York: Lexington Books, 2018.

Transnational organized crime is crime organized and executed across national borders by organized groups or networks of criminals. Transnational organized crime involves every conceivable type of crime conducted by every means possible. The activities involved cause major losses to legitimate economic activities, deprive governments of revenue and significantly increase the cost of combatting crime. Beyond the negative economic impact, transnational crime undermines and in some situations overwhelms national security, destroys fundamental aspects of democracy and cripples the law and order function to the State. All countries have to contend with transnational organized crime and cope in varying degrees, but small island developing states such as those in the Caribbean are particularly vulnerable because of their small size, limited institutional capacity and openness both economically and topographically

After a culmination of several years of study and travel R. Evan Ellis has provided a concise overview of transnational organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean. There is much valuable up-to-date information although it would have been desirable to have more on the Caribbean. Only the Dominican Republic and Jamaica are mentioned but none of the small island developing states which are the most vulnerable to transnational crime.

Chapter two encompasses a voluminous amount of data on the "geography" of transnational crime. This survey reveals broad commonalities of issues and causal factors simultaneously with considerable heterogeneity of remedial approaches. This is to be expected given the environmental, topographical, developmental, linguistic, cultural and ethnic diversity of South and Central America and the Caribbean. The geography of transnational organized crime extends beyond the "source countries" and "transit countries" to the "demand countries" outside the region. Ironically, some countries can have two or all characteristics at the same time. The depth and breadth of Ellis' research is most evident in the third chapter which provides information on the most prominent groups, cartels, and gangs. There is a wealth of valuable, normally inaccessible information compiled from a wide range of sources including interviews.

The contribution of the book is much more than the information it provides. Its importance is its analysis of responses to transnational organized crime. The longest chapter (the fourth) is devoted to extracting the lessons from a thorough comparative survey. Ellis's first conclusion is that too much time and effort has been devoted to treating symptoms. His analysis leads him to argue that the response has to be at the national level in conjunction with international cooperation. At the national level it has to be "coordinated, whole-of-government solutions". The gravamen of his argument is a "collaborative approach to fighting transnational organized crime" because it is a complex, multi-dimensional and interdependent system. Three elements appear to be common to efficacious policy approaches when implemented in combination. These are law enforcement, institutional reform and addressing underlying socioeconomic conditions.

The efficacy of counter measures against transnational organized crime depends on a focus on attacking "systemic centres of gravity". There are three main types of centres of gravity, namely, (1) the vast sums of money handled by individuals and groups, (2) the pandemic corruption and (3) political will. In addressing transnational organized crime there are lessons to be extracted from a comparative analysis of regional efforts. Ellis's analysis encompasses eight categories: whole-of-government solutions, interdiction of criminal flows, targeting leadership of transnational criminal organizations, use of the military in domestic law enforcement, institutional reform within law enforcement, targeting the financial flows of criminals, prison operations and regional, hemispheric and multinational cooperation. Although there is not as much information on the Caribbean as Caribbean readers would want there is a lot to be learnt from the experience of Latin America.

Ellis builds on the analysis to provide "concrete" recommendations for Latin American and US policymakers to work together for a more effective response to the challenge of transnational organized crime. A fundamental and necessary part of countering transnational organized crime is control of the national space i.e. land, air and sea. This is best done by cooperation based on the continuous exchange of best practices. In all operations targeting the leadership of criminal groups care must be taken to anticipate and manage the collateral damage. Field operations need to be complemented by legal and financial tools.

Ellis's Transnational Organized Crime in Latin America and the Caribbean is a timely and well-researched book on the persistent and mutating pandemic of transnational organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is recommended reading for the layperson as well as researchers on this subject.

Richard L. Bernal, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Global Affairs, University of the West Indies.
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Author:Bernal, Richard L.
Publication:Social and Economic Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2018
Words:782
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