Narco-states versus freedom

By: Raúl Zibechi

Wealth accumulated by the one percent is being protected by an alliance between drug trafficking networks and sectors of the state apparatus that serve the interests of large multinationals but at the same time have been formed as an important factor of power. This alliance operates by clearing territories for mining and energy undertakings, from which it benefits by creating broad spaces under its control that it uses to lubricate its illegal businesses.

Recently, analyses started to be published about this reality that, under the mane of drug trafficking (narcotráfico), designs a mode of domination and control of populations. We should not lose sight of the fact that the narco-states are not deviations from the tradition of the nation-states, but rather their new configuration in accordance with extractivism/fourth world war, which complicates both the resistances of popular sectors and the emancipatory struggle in general.

The formation of narco-states (and narco-institutions) seems to be increasing and the space is not restricted to Latin America. In some European countries the mafias allied with politicians achieve setting up camp in municipalities and even entire regions, reaching a decisive influence in the configuration of the political map, particularly in Italy.

In several Latin American countries this alliance operates together with the evangelical and Pentecostal churches, especially in Brazil and Colombia, where they support right-wing parties and candidates, although some of them arrived to sustain the government of Lula for years, only to then take a sharp a turn in the opposite direction.

In recent months a violent conflict reappeared over control of the city of Medellín (Colombia), which had been held up as a paradigm of the pacification of one of the most violent cities, thanks to a municipal management that used the urban architecture to generate a culture of peace. The outbreak of violence en this showcase city shows the limits of public policies for controlling drug trafficking, as well as baring its alliances and modes of operating.

An excellent report from the journalist Camilo Alzate about the war underway in Commune 13, assures that “the city of economic prodigies is under control of the mafias” and adds a revealing phrase: “The real power that formal power needs.” After the progressive management of Mayor Sergio Fajardo (2004-2007) the city had become the showcase of pacification and hosted international business forums for the global elites.

In some countries, like in Uruguay during the presidency of José Mujica, Medellín was held up as an example of the successful combat against crime, which would be solved constructing sports spaces, public libraries and meeting places where young people would discover the wonders of life and get away from the criminal gangs.

The basic idea is that good management can solve structural inequalities without touching privileges, including the endemic corruption of the state apparatus. The concept of “urban acupuncture,” which had functioned decades before in the Brazilian Curitiba was reclaimed to solve social problems through punctual interventions in the city.

What’s certain is that that experience for export failed without those responsible facing it. The social leaders of Commune 13 told authorities: “We don’t trust in the institutions, and above all we don’t trust in the police.” And they conclude: “If the community cannot trust in the police, what do we have left?”

This is the central point. There are no sectorial policies for solving the problem of drug trafficking, because it has already been integrated into the state apparatus, the real power that utilizes the institutions. In Medellín there are hundreds of people threatened and displaced by the criminal gangs that imposed a permanent curfew at night. The police limited themselves to attacking young people, who they always consider suspicious, while protecting the mafias.

On various visits to Medellín I was able to verify how in the communes this narco power controls transportation, forcing the drivers to pay them a fee, as well as all the businesses within a territorial limit that they control. The business of cans of gasoline, of cell phones and television, are all in the hands of the narcos, in a broad geography that goes from Medellín to Río de Janeiro, passing through a good part of the continent’s cities.

How is this narco-state power dismantled?

Impossible to do it from inside, as all known experiences show.

It is a central theme for the anti-systemic movements, since this power is dedicated to destroying all popular organization because they covet complete control of territories. Therefore we know that only by organizing ourselves at the margin of these powers will it be possible to construct solid and lasting emancipatory movements.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, July 20, 2018

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee




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