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The Nexus between Transnational Organized Crime and Terrorism in Latin America - June 2024


This report explores the intricate relationships between organized crime and terrorism across Latin America. It presents case studies to illustrate the diverse ways in which these connections manifest among various terror and criminal groups throughout the continent. The United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) has conducted ongoing studies which highlight critical issues and cross-regional links, necessitating deeper analysis in other areas such as Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.

The analysis focuses on two main dynamics: terrorist groups engaging in criminal activities to fund their ideological pursuits, and criminal groups employing terrorist tactics for financial gain. Primary criminal activities include drug trafficking, migrant smuggling, and money laundering, while terrorism tactics range from murder and kidnapping to extortion and attacks on civilians and infrastructure.

The report aims to impact policy and action in combating terrorism and organized crime by advocating for a deeper understanding of these issues and the development of more effective state responses. This includes a broader approach to counteracting the threats posed by the crime-terror nexus.

Additionally, the report discusses how financial incentives from criminal activities might shift terrorists' motivations from ideological to financial, complicating the challenge for government agencies. The "terrorist activity cycle"—including recruitment, radicalization, training, funding, logistics, attack, evasion, and media exploitation—provides multiple intersection points for crime and terrorism.

Both terrorist and criminal organizations are developing sophisticated in-house capabilities and forming alliances to further their goals. The crime-terrorism nexus is expanding beyond physical borders into cyberspace, making these threats more proficient and widespread. Without enhanced intergovernmental cooperation, these groups will likely continue to outpace national and international efforts to curb their influence.

The report concludes with recommendations for governments to effectively address the nexus between transnational organized crime and terrorism.


Video by Odhran McCarthy