By Beatrice E. Rangel
When the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) was adopted in 2000, total profits of Transnational Organized crime where estimated to be about US$10 Billion.
By 2010 the income flow had jumped to $90 Billion.
Today it is one trillion.
Considering the world GDP reached US$88 trillion last year, transnational organized crime (TOC) is about 2%. Or to put it into the words of the former Director of the UN office against Drugs and Crime Antonio Maria Costa "transnational organized crime is one of the 20 leading economies of the world."
If so lets assume for the sake of the analysis that TOC is as economically as strong as Switzerland, which is the 20th economy of the world both in GDP and PPP terms. Well, then TCO produces and consumes half a trillion US dollars every year.
Now just imagine the mischievous things that it can execute with this munition. Because at the end of the day TOC 's supreme interest is cash and its protection so as to be able to accomplish its sordid deeds.
In the 1980's there were about 6 unlawful states and territories in the world. Today there are at least 60.
Guess where they sprout?
If your guess was along trade routes, you are right.
Because it is trade that creates wealth and TOC goes where there is wealth creation.
Some think, well there is no wealth creation in Somalia. Perhaps, but around Somalia, wealth creation is the rule.
Think of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. Dubai, for example, has seen double digit GDP growth from 1975 to 2018 going from US $26 B to US $ 43B. Take Madagascar. Its GDP has grown from US$2 billion in 1975 to US$11 billion in 2018.
Meanwhile for religious, geopolitical and ideological reasons Somalia was shredded away. As political institutions collapsed, the void was opportunely filled by warlords turned terrorists turned criminals.
And they took it to the seas where they still exert taxes on trade via piracy after almost three decades of operation. Indeed, organized crime saw the opportunity to participate in the growing wealth creation originating in the Persian Gulf through the penetration of a fragile nation state.
In Latin America we have moved from Ciudad del Este -- a spot on the South American map where crime had its way -- to the reenactment of the Silk Road through Mexico and Central America and the takeover of some Caribbean nations.
In Mexico, just as in ancient times, drug trafficking covers a route that starts in Colombia and ends in Tijuana. Along the journey covering seven nations there are oasis cities. These are those politically and militarily controlled by the drug lords.
Drug cargos pass through these cities unencumbered by authorities until they reach the U.S. border where their helpers oversee the safe passage into the greatest drug market in the world. We now have at least 20 cities along the Atlantic and Pacific shores of Central America and Mexico.
The logistics also serve to sustain other illicit activities such as human trafficking, trade in counterfeit products, and "nests" for cyber criminals.
In Brazil authorities have long lost the fight against organized crime that not only manages prisons but has taken over the role of police in the favellas.
These networks and logistics infrastructures have been agile in reinventing themselves in these times of Covid 19.
Given the traditional ineptness of public bureaucracies to respond to an emergency, TOC has even taken over the supply of medical inputs.
Masks, protecting overalls, thermometers, gloves and respirators have been stockpiled by TOC with a view to either sell these products at twice the price paid to factories in China or to further the political ascent of their political assets in the region. This is why suddenly the region is virtually flooded with medical supplies. Income flows from these sales will balance losses experienced by the choke in drug manufacturing precursors from China which has dented drug trade.
In short, TOC is winning, given the lack of political will among nation states to coalesce around this threat to fully apply national and international tools to deal with the challenge. The retrench of most nations from multilateralism into quasi feudal foreign policies ensures that TOC will continue to prosper this century.Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.
For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.
You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.