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Business and Organized Violence in Latin America
There is a very nasty book that has just come out of Canada on business and organized violence in Latin America. If you want to read it yourself, check out Organized Violence: Capitalist Warfare in Latin America edited by Dawn Paley and Simon Granovsky-Larsen. (University of Regina Press, 2019) It is an edited collection. Edited collections tend to be mixed bags. Some essays are wonderful. Some are just okay. But taken together – this collection of essays tells a story. That story is grim. The blood and guts spill all the way from Paraguay to Colombia to Guatemala and Honduras to Interior Mexico to Mexico right flush up against the American border. The details in each local setting differ. However, there are common elements that show up over and over again.
Some of the material fits standard left-wing accounts of evil capitalists creating profits for themselves by seizing everything in sight and destroying anyone who gets in their way. A lot of those stories are true. Dispossession is good business.
Some of the stories fit right-wing accounts of capitalists being held under the gun of narco-criminals who bleed everyone for money. International companies make particularly inviting targets.
Note that these two stories can be simultaneously true. Criminals and paramilitaries obtain leverage by helping business interests get the land and territories companies need. Once the economic enterprises are up and running, the criminals don’t exactly go away. There are now new and lucrative targets to be stolen from and shaken down.
There are heroic stories of communities rising up to confront and defeat the cartels.
There are not-so-heroic stories of the anti-cartel groups being corrupted themselves. Worse, there are stories of big government viewing the self-defense-groups rather than the criminals as the biggest threat, allying with the cartels to crush the resistance.
Then there are the less violent-but-no-less-unsavory cases of governments using legal fictions and shady maneuvers to steal the peasants’ land right out from under them so the major development project can go forward. GNP goes up, but the original residents of the land are completely impoverished.
I won’t try to retell the forty or more stories that can be found in the volume.
But if you want violent left-wing stories of capitalists allying with the state and criminals to kill anyone who opposes their development projects, check out Tyler Shipley’s account of what has been going on in Honduras.
If you want bloody non-partisan stories of criminals invading a region and sticking their claws into every business they can find, check out Guadelupe Correa-Cabrera and Carlos Daniel Gutierrez-Mannix’s tale of the Zeta invasion of the Mexican state of Tamulipas.
It’s all depressing stuff.
I’m going to bed.