The institutional impact of political–criminal alliances: a transnational perspective

Author: Diego Alejandro Dominguez M.

Dominguez M. , Diego Alejandro, 2019 The institutional impact of political–criminal alliances: a transnational perspective, Flinders University, College of Business, Government and Law

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This thesis investigates the capacity of transnational criminal organisations to affect the public institutions of states. This thesis contributes to the existing literature on the political influence of criminal organisations by providing a theoretical and methodological framework to measure institutional impact at a transnational level. In addition, this thesis devotes efforts oriented to providing alternative anti-crime policies for disrupting illicit networks.

Immense damage is inflicted on public office with the confluence of criminal agents and public officials. The adverse effects of this illicit association on public office can be observed in the deterioration of the criminal justice system and limiting the capacity of the state to provide basic functions such as security and public health. These are recognised by criminologists; however, little research has concentrated on developing tools for weighing and quantifying the influence of political–criminal alliances on the public establishment. In addition, in cases in which criminal organisations accomplish illicit objectives that are reflective of political corruption, it is assumed that processes of political corruption are accomplished by leaders of illicit networks.

From that perspective, the main objective of this research is to evaluate the adequacy of the theoretical framework of Garay-Salamanca, Salcedo-Albarán and De León-Beltrán (2009) for exploring the institutional effects of criminal networks and for measuring the transnational political influence of illicit networks. Further, this thesis examines the extent to which the leaders of transnational illicit networks possess the capacity to exert political influence on states.

This thesis relies on an exploratory case study that investigates the formation of political–criminal alliances between members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and public officials in various countries of Latin America such as Ecuador and Venezuela. Drawing on a comprehensive dataset of seized and declassified email correspondence between key rebels and public officials (2001–2008), this research applies social network analysis techniques to chart and measure FARC’s political influence across borders and describes in detail the ability of top leaders to capture extraterritorial public institutions.

The findings of this thesis illustrate the existence of complex political–criminal alliances distributed across Latin American countries; Ecuador, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela. After quantifying the political institutional effects created by this illicit collaboration, the results indicate that the FARC network exerted high levels of political corruption upon states. In addition, the results demonstrate that the leaders of the FARC network were not always accountable for the institutional impact that FARC exerted upon the Latin American states.

The findings suggest implications in the context of governance of Latin American states such as the capacity of FARC to be awarded public contracts and to manipulate election results in Latin America. This thesis suggests further implications in the field of crime prevention, specifically for the successful disruption of illicit networks. Anti-crime policies that focus exclusively on targeting top leaders of criminal networks, instead of players involved in political corruption processes, will allow illicit networks to reorganise and strengthen their organisational and operational structures. Resilient illicit networks prove that such anti-crime efforts are ineffective, posing a significant threat to good governance.

These implications allow a hypothetical exercise to be conceived to develop theoretical propositions that can be considered by scholars and experts of crime prevention to successfully disrupt illicit networks. The final part of this thesis explores the applicability of such theoretical propositions by analysing the political impact of cocaine trafficking in the Americas. Although the analysis suggests great application potential, further research is encouraged to evaluate the applicability of the propositions presented here.

Keywords: political-criminal alliances, illicit networks, political corruption, institutional impact, social network analysis, FARC, illicit network disruption, drug trafficking, transnational organised crime

Subject: International Studies thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2019
School: College of Business, Government and Law
Supervisor: Professor Andrew Goldsmith