The U.S. National Security Council defines Transnational Organized Crime as follows:
Transnational organized crime refers to those self-perpetuating associations of individuals who operate transnationally for the purpose of obtaining power, influence, monetary and/or commercial gains, wholly or in part by illegal means, while protecting their activities through a pattern of corruption and/ or violence, or while protecting their illegal activities through a transnational organizational structure and the exploitation of transnational commerce or communication mechanisms. There is no single structure under which transnational organized criminals operate; they vary from hierarchies to clans, networks, and cells, and may evolve to other structures. The crimes they commit also vary. Transnational organized criminals act conspiratorially in their criminal activities and possess certain characteristics which may include, but are not limited to:
· In at least part of their activities they commit violence or other acts which are likely to intimidate, or make actual or implicit threats to do so;
· They exploit differences between countries to further their objectives, enriching their organization, expanding its power, and/or avoiding detection/apprehension;
· They attempt to gain influence in government, politics, and commerce through corrupt as well as legitimate means;
· They have economic gain as their primary goal, not only from patently illegal activities but also from investment in legitimate businesses; and
· They attempt to insulate both their leadership and membership from detection, sanction, and/ or prosecution through their organizational structure.
Reading this definition immediately brings to mind a group of Latin American political leaders, which reached maximum power during the first decade of this century and which is now significantly weakened due to a combination of destiny, political events and the action of justice This group included as main members Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Argentina’s Nestor and Cristina Kirchner, Brazil Lula da Silva and Dilma Roussef, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega and Cuba’s Raul and Fidel Castro, as well as second-level members Evo Morales of Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Jose Manuel Zelaya of Honduras, Fernando Lugo of Paraguay and cheer leader Jose Mujica of Uruguay. They put together an alliance, a criminal organization that controlled much of the political power and national wealth in Latin America during the first ten to twelve years of this century, through the illegal use of state-owned companies, large private corporations such as Brazil’s construction companies and Venezuelan financial sector, rogue military institutions and fascist-like civil organizations such as the Piqueteros in Argentina and the Colectivos in Venezuela.
In the course of developing a large and strongly interconnected criminal network this political mafia frequently linked with terrorist organizations such as the Colombian FARC and Hezbollah, and with rogue governments and failed states in other areas of the world, such as Gadhafi’s Libya and Ahmadinejad’s Iran.
With the exception of Cuba, leftist or rightist autocratic governments in Latin America largely kept to their territorial boundaries, without attempting to impose their ideologies abroad. Fidel Castro’s Cuba engaged in ideologically driven foreign excursions to consolidate their communist revolution. Castro found much intellectual and sentimental sympathy among the Latin American left but little echo or real support from regional governments. In fact, the regional democratic forces of the times, led by men such as Romulo Betancourt, John Kennedy and Jose Figueres prevailed over Castro’s efforts, who had to retrench until being, today, at the point of extinction. Other strong, populist, autocrats, such as Argentina’s Peron, Nicaraguan Somoza, Dominican Republic Trujillo or Chile’s Allende and Pinochet never attempted to create a regional school of thought or to form a political alliance to prevail over the region.
In 1999 the coming into power of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, a military man with a chaotic ideology, coincided with a surge in the price of oil that gave him, for about six years, almost unlimited financial resources to buy adepts at home and abroad for his mixture of Marxism, Bolivarianism and Fascism. Continuing where Castro had left off Chavez developed a major geopolitical objective of becoming the voice of the Latin American peoples, even of the world, against the "satanical empire of the north". To this messianic aspiration he dedicated almost all of his energies and most of the Venezuelan national income. A man driven by inferiority complexes derived from his upbringing and from his undigested Marxist and other type of leftist readings, he rapidly extended his goals of becoming an absolute leader at home by trying to become a main global leader, in the mold of Mandela, eventually settling for Mugabe.
The initial successes of Chavez gave him an image as the successor of Fidel Castro, as the owner of his political legacy. He rapidly generated a large following in the region, which included leaders of several important countries. In succession he created ALBA and PetroCaribe, economic groups in which he dispensed prodigal financial handouts and received political loyalty as payment. He also forced his way into Mercosur, due to the lure of subsidized oil.
As the task of toppling the U.S. became too complex, in spite of the money at hand, this main objective was progressively changed into one of staying in power indefinitely. In an early stage the Chavez strategy of eliminating Congress in favor of a Constituent assembly with unlimited powers was adopted by Correa in Ecuador with success and was attempted by Honduras’s president Zelaya with less success. This model was proven to be unsuccessful in countries without the significant amount of money in the hands of the government that had allowed Chavez and, to some extent, Correa, to do their bidding.
The alliance against the U.S. required to stay in power indefinitely, This was the objective that led to the progressive creation of a mafia controlled economically by Chavez, who, in turn, was politically controlled by Castro’s Cuba. From being a political and economic alliance it rapidly developed into a Transnational Organized Crime Organization.
Examples of concerted, criminal action
Chavez buying Argentinean bonds to bail out Nestor Kirchner, a transaction against the Venezuelan nation and which benefited Chavez banking friends in Venezuela,
Members of the Kirchner governments promoting export deals with Venezuela at gross overpricing, so that members from the Argentinean and Venezuelan corrupt regimes could benefit. No wonder they call Chavez’s daughter “the Rice Queen”,
Venezuelan oil company, PDVSA, sending the Kirchner bags full of money to finance the presidential campaign of Cristina
Chavez’s financing of the first Umala bid for president,
The financing of the presidential campaign of Lopez Obrador in Mexico,
The financing by Chavez of the Front Farabundo Marti in 2008-2009
The financing by Chavez and Maduro of Castro’s Cuba, at the tune of some $4000 million per year in subsidized oil, some of which was re-exported by Cuba at international prices. Widespread corruption by members of the regimes in the Venezuela in sugar mills, Ports, Housing, Identity documents, Cuban refineries and other joint deals
The business deals between Lula and Chavez, via the Brazilian construction companies such as Odebrecht. Massive corruption by these two criminals is being unveiled in Brazil
The Venezuelan subsidies to Jose Mujica in Uruguay, including the sending of oil and the bailing out of financially broken Uruguayan companies in the agricultural and health sectors
The visit of Maduro to Paraguay, as Foreign Minister, to promote a military coup to put corrupt Fernando Lugo back in power
The attempts by Foreign Minister Maduro to put Zelaya back in power and his hiring by Venezuela, including the use of PDVSA aircraft
Money transferred by Chavez to Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega to consolidate him in power. Money dedicated to oil projects that were never built ended up in the pockets of the Ortega family
The deals with Petro Caribe countries, through which the countries could pay oil deliveries in black beans and bananas and pay their debts at 50% of the value, as long as they remained politically loyal to Chavez
The amounts of money given by Chavez to Kirchner’s piqueteros and to the corrupt Mrs. Bonafini, the head of the Madres de Mayo, to act as allies of the “Bolivarian revolution”
And so on,
For ten to twelve years this group of presidents and accomplices kept amassing power and wealth and then….
Chavez died, Nestor Kirchner died, Fernando Lugo was ousted, Zelaya was ousted, Lula was accused of grand larceny, Dilma Roussef has been impeached, the OAS has a democratic Secretary General, Cristina Kirchner was ousted, Jose Mujica is out of power, FARC is being forced to simulate a mutation from wolf to sheep, Umala was converted into a democrat and international public opinion has finally recognized the rogue group for what they are, not defenders of the poor but thieves and scoundrels , members of an Latin American mafia.
Mafia pockets still exist. Ortega is stronger than ever in Nicaragua and might pass power on to the Nicaraguan version of Lady Macbeth. Raul Castro is attempting to hypnotize the U.S. into giving the “revolution” a renewed lease on power. Thanks to Juan Manuel Santos the Colombian FARC might survive military defeat with their money almost intact and without fear of retribution for their crimes. Helped by a corrupt high military command, Venezuelan Maduro clings to power, albeit precariously. However, he is a viper without oil money fangs and can no longer poison the region.
There should be an investigation of this group as an organized mafia and not as individual, unconnected leaders. By acting collectively, as fellow conspirators, they were able to do much more damage to the region than if they had acted individually, as the old dictators used to do.