NEW PUBLICATION: “Following the Money Trail” to Combat Terrorism, Crime, and Corruption in the Americas

Over the past decade, there has been a greater appreciation of how “following the money trail” directly contributes to the fight against terrorism, crime, and corruption around the world. Money serves as the oxygen for any activity, licit or illicit; it is the critical enabler for any organization, from international crime syndicates like the Mexican cartels to terrorist groups like the FARC, ISIS, and Hezbollah. Financial intelligence has helped governments to better understand, detect, disrupt, and counter criminal and terrorist networks and expose political corruption.

Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States and its Latin American partners have strengthened their ability to combat money laundering and terrorist financing and consciously incorporated the financial instrument of national power into their national security strategies. “Following the money trail,” counterterrorism, and Drug Kingpin sanctions and asset forfeiture have become particularly important to attack narco-insurgencies, dismantle transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), and address political corruption scandals that have reached the highest levels of governments across Latin America.

This report focuses on the threats from money laundering and terrorist financing, distinguishing the two, and explains government efforts to counter illicit financing. It describes the ways illicit actors raise, move, store, and use money to pursue their dangerous agendas. Specific cases examining the FARC in Colombia, the 2015 fall of the Guatemalan government, and Brazil’s “Operation Car Wash” corruption scandal illustrate how governments use financial intelligence to pursue terrorists, criminals, corrupt politicians, and their financiers in Latin America. Finally, the report emphasizes the need to design, implement, and constantly update national and international strategies to combat the financing of emerging threats like terrorism, crime, and corruption and to safeguard our financial systems.

Download the report

[VIDEO] Dying for a Story: How Impunity & Violence against Mexican Journalists are Weakening the Country

Watch the video from yesterday’s event

Mexico has faced significant threats and violence from organized crime over the last decade. The human toll and tragedy of this violence is directly impacting journalists as well, leading to self-censorship, under-reporting of organized crime, and the corruption and state complicity that comes with it. Journalists have been killed, injured, and threatened as they seek to investigate and report on what is happening, and dozens of media outlets have been forced to close in the last few years. According to Article 19, eleven journalists were killed in 2016 and six so far in 2017 including Javier Valdéz, an internationally recognized journalist from Sinaloa’s RíoDoce, on May 15th.

In 2012, the United States supported the legislative framework that established Mexico’s National Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists. Through USAID, the United States has continued to support the Protection Mechanism and other programs to benefit journalists and defenders in Mexico. Nevertheless, the recent cases demonstrate that these mechanisms have not yet been effective. The Mexican government has expressed concern about the problem and promised justice, but investigations and prosecutions of those responsible have been very few. In the process, freedom of information, freedom of the press, the rule of law, and democratic governance have been weakened.

The Wilson Center and WOLA convened a discussion with experts and courageous Mexican journalists to hear about their work and the difficulties and risks they and their colleagues face. They were joined by Ana Cristina Ruelas, the Director of Article 19’s office for Mexico and Central America, Azam Ahmed, the New York Times’ Bureau Chief for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, and Jennifer Clement, the President of PEN International, who presented an overview of attacks and aggressions against journalists in Mexico and the Mexican government’s response to this concerning situation.

Over Half of Mexico Homicides Perpetrated by Organized Crime: Report

gun - crime scene10/27/16 InSight Crime

A study linking a percentage of Mexico‘s homicides to organized crime offers a different view of the rising violence depicted through government homicide figures, which do not discriminate between all killings and those related to criminal groups.

From January to September 2016, organized crime was responsible for 8,815 homicides, which amounts to 58 percent of all homicides during that period and a 47 percent increase in comparison to the same period the previous year, according to the study by Semáforo Delictivo and Lantia Consultores. The data was obtained through the monitoring of media reports, according to Animal Politico, and comparing the killing count with official homicide statistics.

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Fugitive Governor Further Damages Credibility of Mexico President

10/20/16 InSight Crime

Javier_Duarte_de_OchoaThe former governor of Veracruz, Mexico has gone missing amid a flurry of corruption allegations, dealing another heavy blow to the credibility of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s scandal-plagued administration.

Mexican officials, who suspect that former Gov. Javier Duarte may have left the country, have requested that the international police body Interpol participate in the search for him in 190 countries, reported El País.

Duarte resigned from his post as governor of Veracruz on October 12 to face over 50 allegations against him, according to El País. Officials said on October 19 that an arrest warrant had been issued against the politician for racketeering and corruption charges, reported the Wall Street Journal.

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U.S. extradites businessman accused of drug ties to Mexico

10/18/16 Reuters

The United States on Tuesday extradited to Mexico a businessman accused of working with drug cartels after $205 million in cash was found at his Mexico City home, ending a years-long legal battle.

Zhenli Ye Gon, who was arrested in the United States in July 2007 after the discovery of the cash, faces charges of organized crime, drug trafficking, firearms and money laundering in Mexico, a spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department said in a statement.

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Illegal Mining a Golden Opportunity for Mexico Crime Groups

9/29/16 InSight Crime

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A prominent Mexican activist turned government official recently called attention to the ties between organized crime and the nation’s mining industry, sounding an alarm that has grown increasingly loud in recent years.

In an early September public event concentrating largely on the 1994 Chiapas uprising, Jaime Martínez Veloz, head of the official Commission for the Dialogue with Indigenous Peoples (Comisión para el Diálogo con los Pueblos Indígenas) and a longtime advocate, blamed Mexico‘s mining industry for strengthening organized crime.

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Gunmen in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Kidnap Up to Dozen People

08/15/2016 The New York Times

youth with handgunMEXICO CITY — Armed men abducted 10 to 12 presumed members of a crime gang who appeared to be celebrating at an upscale restaurant in the popular Mexican beach resort city of Puerto Vallarta, the authorities said on Monday.

Eduardo Almaguer, the Jalisco State prosecutor, said at a news conference that the preliminary investigation indicated that both the kidnappers and their victims were members of criminal organizations.

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