• 22 August 2019

    |

    Posteado en : Opinion

    |
    facebook twitter linkedin

    Women and criminal gangs in Central America

    Sandra Zayas, prosecutor of Guatemala and EL PAcCTO collaborator talks about developments in the role of female gang members in Central America

    Prevention: a priority

     

    Prevention. This is the area we must focus on in Central American countries because, mathematically, three of the six countries in the region have had a problem with gangs for many years and the situation is emerging in the other three, meaning they will be able to achieve very different results if they work on social prevention and crime.

     

    When you look at the active participation of female gang members, it has changed a lot: from women being the victims of coercion to actually joining these criminal groups. In some countries in the region, they have even become responsible for areas such as logistics and finance.

     

    We must not forget to differentiate between gangs in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, some very powerful such as Mara SalvaTrucha and Barrio 18, and mafia-related gangs in Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama, some emerging and  others with very specific purposes.

     

    Gangs in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras have more female gang members and several studies on this topic have found that Guatemala is the Central American country with the highest rate of gender inequality, classified as “high”, El Salvador and Honduras as “medium”, and Costa Rica and Panama as “low.” This means fewer job opportunities, less parity, a more serious social gender problem. This gender inequality in our countries coincides with the facts presented at the Workshop on Female Gang members held this spring in San Salvador and organised by EL PAcCTO, a project funded by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP and Expertise France, with support from IILA and the Camões Institute.

     

    It is necessary to distinguish between female participation in gangs as perpetrators, accomplices or to cover up crimes by establishing different penalties for each case. We would also highlight that, in matters of drug trafficking, extortion and money laundering, female gang members take part in activities necessary to commit one or more crimes.

     

    In addition, drug trafficking crimes have led to extortion and murder (“hitmen”) in many of our countries, where female gang members are heavily involved. In Guatemala, there have already been three cases of female gang members who have set off grenades on public transport buses. Therefore, the participation of female gang members in criminal organisations is a fact.

     

    When it comes to the police, prosecutors and judges, there is no evidence that they distinguish between women and female gang members, with the exception of El Salvador and Costa Rica, where they have innovative internal protocols for treating female members of organised crime.

     

    Female gang members in prisons

     

    The United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and the Non-custodial measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules) recommend reducing imprisonment sentences for women through corrective measures without custody, taking into account maternity, the separation of mothers from minor children or even mothers who are being held with their children in prison centres. Once again, Costa Rica has managed to reduce the number of women prisoners, taking these criteria into account and using alternative measures to prison in all cases of women who are deprived of liberty. The other countries of the Isthmus only separate the women belonging to different gangs in different prisons in case of conflict between rival gangs. Then there is the matter of the non-existence of positive social reintegration for both women and men in most countries. It is more difficult to reintegrate female gang members into society, especially with an “aggravating factor” when gang women are protected witnesses or effective collaborators, betraying their “family”, their “gang”.

     

    There is little money allocated to invest in this type of problems, total or little political will to create positive regulations, and shared indicators and statistics throughout the legal systems. Specialised means of investigation and above all, a desire for change are also required.

     

    We know that we need intelligence offices, inter-institutional protocols, committed administrators of justice with sufficient tools to act effectively, inter-institutional and international cooperation, data registers and specific indicators for the problems to be solved, because all of this needs to be measurable.

     

    I conclude therefore with the 5Ws: What do we need to do? Work on this problem before it spreads to other countries and becomes as serious as it already is in some regions. How? By working together with defined government policies, with intelligence, registers and measurements. Why? For a better future for our countries. Who? All the inhabitants who love their country. Where? Around the world and when? Right now.

  • 25 July 2019

    |

    Posteado en : Reportage

    |
    facebook twitter linkedin

    Money laundering, a threat to social and financial stability

    Money laundering is closely related to crimes such as drug trafficking, corruption and organized crime. At FIIAPP we work to fight this problem through a wide range of projects

    The concept of “money laundering” arose during the 1920s in the United States. American mafias, dedicated to the smuggling of alcoholic beverages, created a network of laundries to hide the illicit origin of the money derived from this business.  

    As explained by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), money laundering is “the method used by infractors to hide the illegal origins of their wealth and protect their income, with the goal of flying under the radar of institutions in charge of investigation and law enforcement”.  

    The United Nations has the Financial Action Task Force, which sets standards to organize the legislative architecture of the fight against money laundering by organized crime .  

    UNODC also emphasizes that individuals and terrorist organizations employ techniques similar to those practised by people who are involved in money laundering to hide their resources. All these techniques carry with them crimes such as corruption or organized crime

    In this regard, the Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund , Min Zhu, notes that “money laundering and terrorist financing are financial crimes that have economic consequences . They can threaten the stability of a country’s financial sector or its external stability in general. Effective regimes to combat money laundering and terrorist financing are essential to safeguarding the integrity of markets and the global financial framework, as they help mitigate the factors that lead to financial abuse.”  

    Along these lines, we must emphasize that money generated by criminal activities is difficult to hide. Over the years, States have reinforced the mechanisms necessary to identify, seize and confiscate that money wherever it is. “Measures to prevent and combat money laundering and terrorist financing, therefore, are not just a moral imperative, but an economic need,” according to Zhu.  

     

    2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goal 16  

     

    Spain, together with the 193 countries of the United Nations, pledged to comply with the 2030 Agenda, approved by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015. In this context, the non-governmental organization Transparency International (IT) has published a report, which takes April to June 2018 as its reference, in order to examine the progress of Spain in relation to Sustainable Development Goal 16, based on promoting a just, peaceful and inclusive society, which contains goals related to transparency and fighting against corruption . This document focuses on the situation of illicit financial flows, bribery and corruption in all its forms, transparent and accountable institutions, public freedoms, and the right to access information.  

    In addition, the report highlights that, although Spain has made great strides at the legislative level on this matter, “it is necessary that the institutions constituting the first line of prevention and fighting against corruption, such as the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor, remain totally independent from political power.” Likewise, “Spain has the challenge of achieving a homogeneous and effective legal framework in all matters related to public integrity and accountability, and at all territorial levels.”  

     

    FIIAPP works on the fight against money laundering 

     

    FIIAPP is working on the fight against money laundering through a variety of projects.  

    EL PAcCTO is a European Union programme implemented by FIIAPP and Expertise France with the support of IILa and Camões. The main goal of this project is the fight against transnational organized crime and the strengthening of the institutions responsible for guaranteeing citizen security in 18 countries in Latin America.  

    “EL PAcCTO aims to address various challenges and, thanks to the exchanges in working groups and the presentation of practical cases, also identify the difficulties and weaknesses specific to Latin America and identify possible coordination difficulties between the agents in the fight against money laundering”, highlights Jean Dos Santos, an EL PacCTO project expert.

    Additionally, a project called  European Support  for Bolivian Institutions in the Fight against Drug Trafficking and Related Crimes places special emphasis on money laundering. The project has sought to improve capability through training courses. It has focused on strengthening inter-institutional coordination and international cooperation and has given aid support to overcome the fourth round of the Mutual Evaluation of the Financial Action Task Force Group of Latin America.  

    “Whether or not the Bolivian State can remain off the famous black or grey lists comprised of States that have neither established prevention measures against money laundering nor committed themselves to doing so depends in large part on passing this Mutual Evaluation”, emphasized Javier Navarro, National Police Inspector and expert on this project.  

    Following this same line of work, the EU Law Enforcement Support Project in the fight against drugs and organized crime in Peru seeks to improve the effectiveness of training schools, inter-institutional cooperation and Peruvian intelligence systems in order to fight drugs, organized crime and money laundering.  

    Likewise,  EU-ACT projects on Action against Drugs and Organized Crime and SEACOP are also active in the fight against money laundering, a problem closely related to drug trafficking and organized crime.  

    Drug trafficking organizations are present in different countries. The materials may be supplied by one country, others may be transit countries, others destination countries, etc. Money laundering may take place in yet other countries. Therefore, if this is not addressed from a transnational standpoint, it is impossible to deal with,” explains José Antonio Maté, EU-ACT Project Coordinator for the Central Asia area.  

    With the ARAP-Ghana project , ‘Accountability, Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption of Ghana’, the goal is to reduce corruption and improve accountability in the African country, taking into account the money laundering that corruption brings. Ghana has created the National Anti-Corruption Plan (NACAP), of which this project is part.  

    Finally, in the El PacCTO:Supporting AMERIPOL project it is expected that money laundering will be incorporated into the technological platform for the exchange of police information that this project is promoting in Latin America. 

  • 29 November 2018

    |

    Posteado en : Opinion

    |
    facebook twitter linkedin

    The importance of more effective international judicial cooperation

    Antonio Roma, coordinator of cooperation between justice systems at EL PAcCTO, reflects on the role and value of international judicial cooperation within the framework of the project

    Today, international judicial cooperation is a necessity for all countries. In particular, if we talk about the European system, we have gone from cooperation between states to cooperation between judges of states, without the need to go through a centralised control system of administrative authorities. In that regard, in Europe, we therefore have extensive experience based on a principle of integration.

     

    With the objective of developing this integration, at EL PAcCTO—a project financed by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP, and in collaboration with the Italo-Latin American Institute and the Camões Institute of Portugal—we work to strengthen effective judicial cooperation with Latin America. The region is full of professionals—true professionals, for that matter—who work in their respective countries and who are highly competent. However, the structures they have for working in international judicial cooperation remain very dependent on cooperation between states. At EL PAcCTO, we can go as far as the will of the states determines, since it is an on-demand project.

     

    In any case, we are making a very strong commitment to facilitating cooperation systems, by increasing the acts of cooperation available to them. It is not about allowing them to help foreign judges or foreign prosecutors, but about giving them the best conditions to request help abroad: to open their borders to the world in order to receive information and investigate the crimes they are dealing with.

     

    We are working through several lines: for example, we are facilitating an update of international cooperation laws to give them access to the new techniques that inevitably arrive. The truth is that crime advances so fast, money moves so fast, and the perpetrators of crimes cross borders so quickly, that any attempt to continue with a scheme based on cooperation between states typical of the mid-twentieth century leads to few results.

     

    Organised crime requires being very up-to-date, and to achieve this, picking up the pace is very important. For this reason, we are working on the creation of joint investigation teams and other innovative cooperation techniques between states, and also in relation to cybercrime, because the existing forms of cooperation in this area, such as instant contacts between the state police and fiscal authorities, are in need of an update.

     

    We are also establishing a line of work that is being used by different nations to facilitate computer technical systems. In this way, the system users, i.e. the prosecutor or the policeman who is on the last corner of the state border, will have the mechanisms to not only get the information, but also the facility to prepare cooperation events with other states. All of this will be made simple, facilitating the work of all parties and ultimately promoting greater international cooperation between them.

     

    In short, EL PAcCTO is not based on training courses or on knowledge updates; instead we seek to have an effect which is as direct and practical as possible and, therefore, to learn by doing but also and, above all, by improving structures, systems and techniques.

  • 25 October 2018

    |

    Posteado en : Entrevista

    |
    facebook twitter linkedin

    “Coca leaf production and consumption are deeply rooted in Bolivia”

    Javier Navarro, National Police inspector and technical expert on the FIIAPP programme to support the Bolivian special force fighting drug trafficking, shows us in this interview how complicated it is to pursue the production and illegal trafficking of coca leaf in Bolivia, where it is grown and consumed legally

    How do people see the coca leaf in Bolivia?

     

    The production and consumption of coca leaves are deeply rooted in society and its customs. The Plurinational State of Bolivia has acknowledged that there are 20,000 ha of coca plants being grown in two main areas: Las Yungas, in the department of La Paz, and Chapare, in the tropical region of Cochabamba. Producers are registered and are entitled to grow one “cato” of coca (1,600m2). The coca leaf they grow then goes to a cooperative and from there onto the legal market, either for personal consumption, called “picheo”, i.e., balls of coca leaves are put into the mouth and the juice sucked out of them, or for coca mate, sweets and other products. All that comes from these areas is considered legal cultivation. The Government also has to manage the eradication of coca leaves in places where their cultivation is not authorised.

    How does it become illegal?

     

    Logically, not all the production goes onto the legal market; some of it follows parallel routes and is used to make coca paste. The paste is the result of adding other elements to the coca to produce cocaine hydrochloride.

     

    Also, it should be remembered that Bolivia is not only a producer, it is also a transit country, as paste arrives from Peru, another producing country that has some 45,000 ha of coca cultivation.

     

    So, what is the profile of a coca leaf producer in Bolivia?

     

    It is, purely and simply, that of a farmer, who, with one “cato” of coca, earns just enough to make a modest living. That is the reality and what I see. Can this coca leaf subsequently be processed or go to an illegal market? It may do, but the producer par excellence does not have the profile of a trafficker.

     

    The producers produce it as part of their basic subsistence economy, to live decently with their families, and producers are different from traffickers. Maybe this would be the smallest link, the lowest on the chain, where a producer is making it illegally.

     

    What resources does Bolivia have to prevent illegal trafficking?

     

    The government has the Bolivian police force, especially the Special Forces to Combat Drug Trafficking, a vital ally in the fight against drug trafficking. These are special squads that are found all over Bolivia and they try to prevent drug trafficking from intensifying.

     

    What is the role of the project in this network?

     

    The project tries to provide support and strengthen departments and institutions linked with drug trafficking by bolstering their skill sets through technical assistance (legal, protocol, manuals), for which we co-opt experts in the short term from the National Police and Civil Guard in addition to French experts. The latter give assistance in very specialised areas, to strengthen the aspects that they consider necessary. Specifically, five themes are dealt with: criminal investigation, intelligence, borders and airports, and related crimes (money laundering and people trafficking and smuggling).

     

    What are the prospects for the future?

     

    The project is solid and well established; in fact, it is the institutions that turn to it so that they can become stronger in the areas they consider the weakest. This year, we have been working on all the areas to consolidate them and strongly reinforce them and next year will see the final implementation.

     

    We also hope that, logically, when this first part of the project ends there can be a second part, as this would be very important, so that we could continue to strengthen these areas and move forward and improve all the Bolivian institutions.

  • 18 October 2018

    |

    Posteado en : Reportage

    |
    facebook twitter linkedin

    Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility

    The EU organises activities as part of European Cybsersecurity Month, an issue on which EL PAcCTO is working against organised crime

    Changing passwords, configuring privacy settings and purchasing antivirus software are the necessary steps par excellence before browsing the internet. These steps are increasingly important to avoid the risks and dangers to which we are exposed on the internet and which require constantly updated information.

     

    For this reason, each year the European Union organises a variety of activities, as part of European Cybersecurity Month (ECSM), that are dedicated to sharing good practices and promoting cybersecurity among the public and organisations. The European Cybersecurity Agency (ENISA), the European Commission and some 200 partners from the entire region took part in the sixth iteration of this awareness-raising campaign.

     

    “Cyber security is a shared responsibility— Stop. Think. Connect” is the slogan for 2018. It reflects a step prior to entering the digital world, where everything is accessible and instantaneous. Think. Think what we are sharing, what we are writing or what we are clicking on.

     

    Are we aware?

     

    The operations director of ENISA, Steve Purser, told La Vanguardia that it is necessary to “develop electronic common sense”. In other words, “we must behave in a similar manner in the electronic world and in the real world” and not respond or provide information without thinking what it will be used for.

     

    This is an attitude that is taking hold of the public and making us mistrust junk mail and web pages that literally jump onto our screen. In spite of this, many users fall prey to commonplace fraud or theft, which now have their online version.

     

    These are dangers about which Antonio Roma, coordinator of cooperation between judicial systems for EL PAcCTO, spoke, saying that the problem is that “criminals are always going to be one step ahead and find other ways of getting to us”. Real computer crimes are more serious, such as the viruses that enter our equipment through files, or mass attacks that “affect general or even national security,” said Roma.

     

    These attacks are often beyond our control but we must also be warned about them. For this reason, the judicial coordinator of the European Union-funded programme managed by FIIAPP and Expertise France, in cooperation with the Italian-Latin American Institute (IILA) and the Instituto Camoes of Portugal, stresses that campaigns like the EU’s are necessary because they are “measures that we should remember, our knowledge should be updated, the types of threats and the public’s awareness increased”.

     

     

    With this aim, some 400 activities are being organised in various European countries: talks, user-focused workshops, web seminars, campaigns, etc. Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza and Valencia are some of the cities chosen to alert people to “a growing phenomenon”, according to Roma. In relation to awareness raising, he stated that “it is necessary not to lose sight of the fact that having security is necessary”.

     

    Our privacy, one click away 

     

    According to the ENISA report, published at the beginning of the year, the main threat to users is malware or “malicious software”, in which there are viruses that come to us over the internet and in emails without our knowledge.
    The next danger in the ranking is computer attacks and phishing or “identity theft”, a scam to collect users’ private data, especially access to their bank accounts.

     

    This information is frequently saved on our equipment. And it is our increased internet activity, either by opening accounts on different sites or publishing our lives on social media, that makes our privacy more and more exposed to these threats.

     

    This risk is increased by the use of mobile phones, it is the price paid for greater accessibility. Antonia Roma emphasised, in relation to this point, the increasingly early contact of children with different devices.

     

    “Previously, the advice was to keep the computer in the living room,” he said. This is outmoded advice regarding safeguarding their privacy in the face of the bullying taking place and, in the worst cases, child pornography. In this situation, “It is always better to alert children to how to defend themselves and that their privacy has great value,” recommended Roma.

     

    What does cooperation offer? 

     

    The internet is a worldwide network and although the crimes may be committed from a computer close by, we can also be scammed from servers in other countries. This is where cooperation comes in. According to Roma, it is often unsuccessful, when the money from a theft ends up in “faraway countries that do not provide effective cooperation.”

     

    el-paccto-ciberseguridad
    Official launch of EL PAcCTO

     

    Despite what are called “opaque jurisdictions”, he believes that “legal cooperation has changed” and that, for example, there are new systems for freezing IP addresses. The time factor is the major obstacle: “getting there too late” when the police do not help or are not trained. Specialisation, in conjunction with technology, are, according to Roma, the tasks that have yet to be addressed in this field.

     

    Cybercrime and cybersecurity are topics that concern EL PAcCTO and on which work is being carried out across the board by all areas of the programme: police, courts and prisons. The EU-funded programme helps Latin American countries to combat organised crime, which also operates over the internet.

     

    The aim is to tackle this issue at the regional level, in addition to the concerns of specific countries, by “implementing operations to see what the problems are, where the bottlenecks are, so that there can be an effective flow of cooperation.”

  • 16 November 2017

    |

    Posteado en : Reportage

    |
    facebook twitter linkedin

    EL PAcCTO and the fight against organised crime

    The European Commission Programme aims to give technical assistance to countries to guarantee the safety of their citizens

    In Latin America there are 23 homicides for every 100 thousand inhabitants. This figure is double the amount for Africa and five times the amount recorded in Asia. What’s more, with only 9 per cent of the world’s population, Latin America accounts for more than 30 per cent of the violent killings committed worldwide each year.[i]

     

    Many of these are related to organised crime. This is one of the reasons why the sense of insecurity experienced by citizens has increased in recent years, making it a priority for these countries.

     

    For many years, different policies to combat organised crime were tried out in Latin America. Some were repressive and others more moderate (such as “mano dura” or “iron fist” and the converse “mano blanda” approach applied in Guatemala from 2007 to 2015), with the feeling that the problem was not effectively dealt with. The reasons are many and varied, but the periodical and short-term” nature of these policies may explain their ineffectiveness. One of the main lessons learned was the correct use of more global and long-lasting policies to identify and end insecurity in the region.

     

    This is where EL PAcCTO (Europe Latin America Assistance Programme Against Transnational Organised Crime) comes onto the scene. A European Commission programme with pioneering content as it is the first time the whole criminal justice chain is dealt with as a whole. More specifically, it focuses on three areas (police, judicial and fiscal and the prison system) with five transversal work focuses (cyber crime, corruption, human rights, gender and money laundering) and the inclusion of two intrinsically linked projects (AMERIPOL and another project managed by Interpol). It is, therefore, an ambitious and complex project which will try to tackled the problem of organised crime in the most global and effective way possible by providing technical assistance to 18 Latin American countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela).

     

    el-paccto

    The International and Ibero-American Foundation for Administration and Public Policies (FIIAPP) and Expertise France (EF) coordinate the project along with two partners, the Italo-Latin American Institute (IILA) and the Camoes Institute.

     

    The Programme will facilitate peer learning, South-South cooperation and the transfer of best European practices, and will be focused on public administrations. To do this, it will have the support of the Spanish General Council of the Judiciary, Ministry of the Interior via the Civil Guard, National Police and Prison Institutions, Ministry of Justice, the Public Prosecutor and their analogues in France, Italy and Portugal.

     

    EL PAcCTO seeks to create concrete guides and tools for international action, approval and cooperation, both regionally and between Latin American countries and EU Member States. This way, it aims to eliminate border using legal and technical solutions that make Latin America a free and safe space united against organised crime.

     

    The Programme is trying to respond now to all of the urgent demands from the countries because the aim of the programme is to build a safer society which benefits everyone. This is why it is important to increase social awareness about the dangers of organised crime. It is a matter of great importance to guarantee people’s rights, freedom and lives.

     

    [i] Highest murder rates in the world by city (2016), World Atlas. Available at http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/most-dangerous-cities-in-the-world.html

     

    María Jesús Martín is a Communication Technician at EL PAcCTO (Europe Latin America Assistance Programme Against Transnational Organised Crime) comes onto the scene.