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Chile no longer an oasis against organized crime – DW – 05/14/2024

Chile no longer an oasis against organized crime – DW – 05/14/2024

Sunday night, Santiago d Chili. A group of people attacked a business in the center of the city. Criminals threaten owners at gunpoint while stealing money from the establishment. Several months ago, the same place was extorted by a gang involved in organized crime. They offered security in return for a sum. As the traders did not accept this, the mob set fire to the establishment.

“This is an unknown panorama in the Chilean tradition, because until a few years ago it was a relatively peaceful country, and indicators show a decline in security,” says Ivan Carson, a senior researcher at the Autonomous University. Chile, in an interview with DW.

While authorities have not resolved whether extortion gangs are linked to Sunday’s robbery, experts consulted by DW note that this is yet another example. Crime In a Latin American country.

Beyond an attack

Extortion of businesses by national and foreign gangs “is not an isolated case in Santiago or other regions,” Diego Sasso, a researcher at the Institute for Violence and Democracy (Chile), tells DW, but is part of a “regular pattern of criminals.” The system “ensures them regular and low-risk financing.

“All official statistics confirm the prevalence of these violent methods,” asserts Sasso. On the one hand, kidnappings increased by 68% from 2021 to 2022, while extortion increased by 37%, the expert adds, although he predicts that the figures for this crime are higher because of the way they are transported. Without direct contact with the victim, sometimes through anonymous messages or calls.

Data from Ministry of Public Affairs of Chile In the first half of 2023, a rate of 3.2 total homicide victims per 100,000 inhabitants was recorded, i.e. 633, compared to 651 victims recorded in the same period of the previous year.

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Chile, fertile ground for organized crime?

The last step Report According to the 2023 Inside Crime Portal, Ecuador leads Latin America in homicide rates, with 44.5 murders per 100,000 people, followed by Honduras, Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico. Chile is far below with 4.5.

Although the data does not paint a bleak picture of organized crime Mexico One ColombiaSeveral reports indicate that “cautionary” analogies are being made in Chile based on practices associated with these crimes.

He Global Organized Crime Index 2023, Published by the Global Initiative Agency, “signs of territorial control by criminal gangs” were observed, as well as “other unusual events in the country such as ‘narcofunerals'”, meaning funerals of members associated with drug trafficking.

According to experts, Chile is experiencing an environment of “significant deterioration” of criminal violence.Photo: Fernando Laos/Demotics/Image Alliance

To understand the origin of this criminal violence in the country, experts use several hypotheses. Diego Sasso, who is also a researcher at the London School of Economics (United Kingdom), reveals, on the one hand, the high flow of Chilean narcotics, whose production and trafficking have moved to the south of the continent.

Added to this is the spread of other illegal markets such as human trafficking or money laundering – especially after that The social explosion of 2019 and the Covid-19 pandemic. Experts agree that this period was a turning point in the country because there was a “power vacuum,” said Madias Garretán, a researcher at the Santiago-based Center for Conflict and Social Cohesion Studies (GOS).

At that time, the Carabineros After the protests of a year ago they were still on the path of contempt and there was not much control in the streets, as efforts were devoted to sanitary control. “There was an opportunity to diversify, expand criminal activities,” Garreton told DW.

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On the other hand, attendance Foreign bandsas Aragua Train (Venezuela)Octopuses (Peru) and the Espartanos (Colombia), “have introduced the skills of extreme violence in gang conflicts,” Sazo told DW.

Overall, experts speak of an environment of “significant deterioration,” reflected in the rise of criminal violence over the past five years. Sasso describes the patterns of this criminal violence as the increasing number of attackers, dismemberments, the proliferation and sophistication of weapons, and the dangerous conflict of criminal groups with law enforcement.

Is Chile really an unsafe country?

Despite the statistics – which only show objective data – Sasso says the country is “one of the safest and least violent in Latin America” ​​and recognizes that there are conditions that allow for pessimism, such as “the resilience of Chilean institutions”. .

Crayton does not agree with this and believes that “the reaction of the state is much slower than the ability to develop organized crime”, which is why he recommends that confiscation mechanisms be assigned to money laundering to prevent the financial structure of these gangs, which is its main aspect of the operation.

For Ivan Carson, who holds a PhD in political science from Pontificia Universidad Católica Argentina, “the biggest risk that Chile runs is becoming ‘Mexican’ or ‘Colombian’.” He further said, “The Tentacles of organized crime “They reach the political system and civil society, where they are allowed to operate out of fear or cooperation.”

From his point of view, Chilean society is still in a “phase of denial”, without clearly identifying the cause of this degradation, which is why intelligence and collaborative work is necessary, creating support networks and “learning from countries that have dealt with these” events,” he says.

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He 2023 Global Peace Index It identifies the world’s safest and most dangerous countries, Chile ranks fourth in safety in Latin America after Costa Rica, Uruguay and Argentina.