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Eduardo Salcedo-Albarán & Luis Jorge Garay @ Small Wars Journal - El Centro


Recent empirical research on drug trafficking networks in Central and South America, confirms that illicit networks are not only composed by unlawful social agents: an important intervention of gray agents is found. Those grayagents are defined as the social agents in which the organizational role and the functional role do not coincide: a public servant, a political actor or a security agent promoting criminal interests. In the interaction among gray agents, social relationships different to those of confrontation between lawful (bright) and unlawful (dark) social agents are reproduced. Therefore, different fluxes of information are established among public servants, political actors, officials and criminals. Identifying the most important categories of information that sustain the networks, which can be understood as part of the informational structure of the network, is useful to address short and long-term strategies to confront and disarticulate those illicit networks. In this paper, social interactions and fluxes of information are identified and analyzed for two cases: The “Michoacana Family” in Mexico, and a money-laundering network in Guatemala.


In different municipal, provincial and national States across the Western Hemisphere, it is possible to find processes in which criminality and corruption are mutually related. For instance, in Mexico it is possible to find municipal mayors accused of working with drug-trafficking networks, while in Guatemala a former President has been requested for extradition by the United States, in order to be prosecuted for orchestrating massive money laundering for drug-traffickers. These processes that can be understood as types of high-scale and systematic corruption are carried out throughout the establishment of long-term agreements, mainly of political nature. In these cases, for instance, high-rank officials and public servants establish agreements with criminals with the purpose of promoting mutual benefits of different nature, not only economic ones. This situation contrasts with low-scale corruption that is carried out mainly throughout sporadic and short-term agreements, in which low-rank officials and public servants receive payments in order to provide specific benefits, not only to criminals but also to regular citizens trying to avoid punishments or trying to obtain a license, for instance.

As it will be explained below, most of those types of high-scale corruption can be defined as processes of Advanced State Capture (AStC) and Co-opted State Reconfiguration (CStR), in which lawful and unlawful agents coordinate their interests in order to promote mutual benefits throughout the infiltration, manipulation and reconfiguration of formal and informal institutions. After explaining the concepts of State Capture and Co-opted State Reconfiguration in the first and second parts, and introducing the methodological principles in the third part, two cases of criminal networks are analyzed in the subsequent parts: La Familia Michoacana [“The Michoacana Family”] in Mexico, and a Guatemalan network involving a former President. It is examined and analyzed the structure of social relationships and fluxes flows of information sustaining each network. Implications for policy making and enforcement processes are concluded in the last section.

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