The Crime and State Terrorism Nexus: How Organized Crime Appropriates Counterinsurgency Violence

Perspectives on Terrorism 13, 6. 2019

Studies on the connections between organized crime and terrorism tend to focus on non-state armed groups, and on the convergence of violent tactics. This article demonstrates that such a focus can overlook well-documented connections between state terrorism and organized crime. Particularly in post-Cold War Latin America, criminal groups recruit violence specialists from military and paramilitary units with histories of using indiscriminate violence and other forms of terrorism during counterinsurgency campaigns. Through this recruitment process, tactics of state terrorism are appropriated into the repertoires of criminal groups.

This article demonstrates this process with a case study of the Zetas in Mexico, which was the first group in the country to actively recruit soldiers with counterinsurgency training. By doing so, the group caused a paradigm shift in criminal operations in the country, leading to the widespread adoption of terrorist tactics. This case study highlights the need for scholars of terrorism and organized crime to bring state terrorism back in, and to more thoroughly examine the points of contact between state and non-state terrorism. 

Revise and Resubmit

“From Front Lines to Fun Runs: Changing Discourse in the Official Newspaper of The Guantánamo Bay Detention Program”

Working Papers

“Grammar of Threat: The Social Vision of Criminal Messages in Colombia and Mexico”
Co-authored with Shauna Gillooly

Commentary & Analysis

The Battles After the Battle: Interpreting Violence and Memory in Culiacán.” Co-editor, October 2020
Introduction: Revisiting the Interpretive Frenzy.” Mexico Violence Resource Project
Introducción: Reconsiderando el festín interpretativo.” Revista Espejo

In Defense of Zombies
Political Violence at a Glance, July 2020

The Jakarta Method Comes to Latin America (book review)
NACLA, May 2020

Narco-terrorism Charges Against Maduro and the “Cartel of the Suns”
NACLA, April 2020

Revisiting the Battle of Culiacán
NACLA, November 2019

López Obrador’s Public Enemy Number One
NACLA, February 2019