• 18 October 2023


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    Cross-regional dialogue against border crime

    We present a series of talks between the European Union and Latin America on cooperation on cross-border crime, in the framework of the European EUROFRONT programme

    One morning, a national police station in Spain receives a report of the theft of a vehicle. It was a top-of-the-range Maserati car. The first investigations led to the identification of the modus operandi used by the persons responsible for the theft.

    A few days later, there was an increase in reports of the theft of high-end cars (Land Rover, BMW, Mercedes…) in several European countries, where a very similar theft system had been used. This circumstance leads the agents, coordinated through EUROPOL, to believe that they could be dealing with a single organisation. This is a case of organised crime, the definition of which implies that three or more people, over a prolonged period of time and seeking their own benefit or power, commit a series of serious crimes. Collaboration between police authorities allows the keys to be identified in order to bring the case to court.

    As the investigation progressed, it was discovered that the vehicles were used to transport drugs in various European countries and that the gang organising the robbery was linked to a large drug trafficking network with a transnational presence. Once certain vehicle models, which are rare in Latin America, have reached the end of their useful life, the network sends them in containers to be sold in the region. Following the trail of the theft and the sale of is helping to unravel the web of connections that the cartel uses to weave the relationships that, to date, have allowed it to circulate its product.

    How do connected crimes operate across borders?

    The narrative description with which we have opened this article, based on real situations, does not correspond to any known criminal plot. However, this story could well represent a sum of criminal realities whose common factor is the use of borders as a vehicle. Such events are a major challenge for Europe and Latin America. Our objective is, therefore, to give practical expression to a set of complex, supra-regional threats that require the cooperation of multidisciplinary teams (police, judicial, penitentiary, specialised in migration and, above all, in the field of public management).

    This is one of the greatest obstacles to the protection of human rights. A complex and multifaceted challenge, which we will unravel through expert voices in a series of video-conversations entitled “Dialogue between regions against border crime” and coordinated by the EUROFRONT programme.

    Challenges of cross-border crime and coordination between EU programmes in Latin America

    These video-conversations between EU-LATAM experts also involve the heads of four EU-funded programmes promoted by the FIIAPP and its partners, which extends to more than 30 countries in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa. These colloquia reflect some of the work being carried out in some of these countries, so it is a small sample of the great work of the whole network.

    All of them place at the centre of their methodology the exchange between specialists from Europe and Latin America, as equals, favouring the development of mutual capacities and the sum of wills. This is what each of the programme leaders tell us, and how they define their work:

    – José Antonio Cambronero (EUROFRONT): “We work to strengthen and streamline border management in seven Latin American partner countries”.

    – Agustín Fernández (EL PAcCTO): “This is the first programme that addresses the entire penal chain: police, judicial and penitentiary levels”.

    – Manuel Rodríguez (Support Programme for the EU in the fight against drugs and organised crime in Peru): “Our objectives are to strengthen police, judges and prosecutors’ schools, increase inter-institutional coordination and optimise intelligence in the fight against drug trafficking”.

    – Alfredo Díaz Sánchez (SEACOP: Programme on illicit maritime trafficking and associated criminal networks): “We are in 29 countries (Latin America, Caribbean and Africa) strengthening training and operational processes”.

    Organised crime, drug trafficking and vehicle trafficking

    We also had the testimony of representatives from Argentina, Ecuador, Spain and Paraguay who participated in the Regional Meeting on Cross-Border Crime organised by EUROFRONT. As Manuel Rodríguez pointed out at the beginning, “meetings such as the one held are fundamental for the coordination of actions, the human factor is important, as well as meeting and exchanging with the people with whom we will participate in the operations”.

    Organised crime

    In this dialogue, Álvaro Álvarez Santiago, Chief Inspector of the Itinerant Crime Section of the Spanish National Police, and John Esteban Game Villacis, Undersecretary of Public Security of Ecuador, discuss the challenges and activities that their respective countries are developing in the fight against organised crime.

    For example, Ecuador is going to start the accession process to have a liaison officer at Europol, or that Latin America is creating the CLASI (Latin American Committee for Internal Security) to bring together different areas of police coordination. We will also see how various regional organisational actions “have been able to dismantle criminal organisations in several countries simultaneously”, in Álvarez’s words.

    In relation to the civilian population’s perception of European cooperation, we would like to highlight Game Villacís’ words: “citizens need action against invisible organised crime and corruption, not just against everyday criminals”.

    The conclusions of this block are, in turn, linked to what Alejandro Ñamandú tells us in the following video: “It would be clumsy not to exchange experiences between the different international police agencies”.

    Drug trafficking

    There is no doubt that drug trafficking is often at the centre of discussions on cross-border crime.  In the words of Alfredo Díaz Sánchez, head of SEACOP, “although there are other illicit flows addressed in this programme, the main flow between Latin America and Europe is drugs”.

    To broaden our vision in this regard, we attended the dialogue between Juan Antonio Sánchez Jiménez, Chief Inspector of the Central Narcotics Brigade of the Spanish National Police, and Carlos Alejandro Ñamandú, Commissioner General, Superintendent of Federal Investigations and Federal Police of Argentina.

    In conclusion, we would like to highlight the words of Alejandro Ñamandú: “Investigation is not an exact science. The exchange of experiences is fundamental to grow as an investigator (…) Criminal organisations are very specialised, they cooperate with each other and that is why police groups worldwide have to collaborate”.

    We return to broaden the focus with the fourth and final discussion, because, as Agustín Fernández of EL PAcCTO reminds us, “drug trafficking is not a single crime, it affects other crimes and must be tackled from an integral aspect with joint investigation teams”.

    Vehicle trafficking

    This is the crime with which we began the article and about which we can now learn more, thanks to the testimonies of Pedro Heriberto Lesme Servín, commissioner in the Department against organised crime of the Paraguayan National Police, and Jorge Carrascal, chief inspector and head of the Organised Crime Section in the Central Unit for Drugs and Organised Crime (UDYCO) of the Spanish National Police.

    As Jorge Carrascal tells us, “criminal organisations use vehicle theft as an end in itself, reselling them in other countries to obtain economic profit”. In addition, adds Pedro Heriberto, “there are vehicles with increasingly higher technological quality and this generates new challenges”. Faced with this situation, “some countries may be more advanced in the fight against certain modus operandi, hence the importance of cooperation”, underlines Carrascal.

    We see that one of the great challenges is to update the training of agents. Furthermore, as Jorge Carrascal emphasises, “we have to focus on borders, as criminal organisations change countries to make investigation more difficult“. This statement serves as a closing statement for these colloquia, which place the border at the service of the countries working against transnational crime. Among them, the eight EUROFRONT partner countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru), whom we thank for their contribution.

    The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the sole responsibility of the person who write them.

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