Criminal Interests within Political Insurgencies: The Case for Development-Centred Counterinsurgency

Criminal Interests within Political Insurgencies: The Case for Development-Centred Counterinsurgency

Oscar Palma
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9675-4.ch021
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Insurgencies are progressive and systematic insurrections with political aims. They are usually aimed at the creation of a new state, the liberation of a nation from foreign intervention, the transformation of the political system, or the imposition of a certain way of life. Whereas this political character sets them apart from common criminals, whose main objective is personal profit; in practice, most insurgencies are a combination of criminal and political interests. Solutions that address political grievances or criminal motivations separately, leaving one of them aside, are highly likely to fail, perpetuating violence. Development-centred counterinsurgency seems to be an ideal framework to confront this type of insurgencies. The case of Colombia is examined to observe achievements, failures and challenges.
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Background: Economic Interests In Conflicts

The interest of individuals in making profit out of wars is not a new feature in warfare. Centuries before the so-called new wars, supposedly waged for economic incentives and not for political motivations, combatants were already interested in looting.1 From Julius Caesar to Bismarck, including the conquistadores, the feudal barons and the condottieri, interests in profit had always been common (Lewison, 1936).

The study of economic interests in conflict has almost become a sub-discipline in Development and Security Studies. It is a common theme explored in the post-Cold War era, especially to understand dilemmas throughout the developing world. Several authors such as David Keen (1998, 2006), David Malone and Jake Sherman (2005), Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler (1998, 1999, 2000) and Mats Berdal (2009) have explained how in specific cases economic interests precede political motivations in the causation and endurance of conflict.2 The control of regions where specific commodities are produced generates competition between diverse groups and forces that recur to violence to guarantee this domination. In many cases, in the absence of state institutions, a criminal economy emerges. As explained by Keen, “conflicts can create war economies, often in regions controlled by rebels or warlords and linked to international trading networks; members of armed gangs can benefit from looting; and regimes can use violence to deflect opposition, reward supporters or maintain their access to resources” (Keen; 1998, 11).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Taliban: Islamist insurgency operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan seeking the creation of an Islamic state in territories of their dominion. Although history points at its creation in Pakistan, they reached power in Afghanistan implementing their own regime based on the sharia. They hosted Al Qaeda within their territory, and as a consequence, the international coalition removed them from power after the 911 attacks in the United States. Since then, they have been waging an insurgent war against the international coalition and the Afghan government, largely funded by the opium and heroin markets.

Hybrid Organization: It is an organization which combines political and criminal interests, a commercial insurgency is a type of hybrid organization.

Counterinsurgency: A comprehensive and progressive political strategy designed by a state in order to defeat an insurgency, and using all the dimensions of power including military force.

Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC): (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) Marxist-Leninist insurgency fighting the Colombian state since the 1950s. Many believe their political ideals have been lost, and their existence is explained today by their interests in profiting from drug dealing and other criminal activities.

Guerrilla: It is a mode of war referring to the exploitation of the environment in order to wear the enemy down; more than fighting it frontally, fighting it for a long period in order to wear it down instead of defeating it directly; and conducting actions through a sequence of attacks and retreats, using basic instruments instead of advanced technologies ( Navias & Moreman, 1994 )

Triadic Character: It is a description of the character of commercial insurgencies, and possibly of other hybrid organizations. This type of organizations have military, political and criminal dimensions, based on different types of motivations and functions that militants have within organizations.

PKK: The Kurdistan Workers Party, is an originally Marxist-Leninist organization fighting the Turkish state in order to obtain the liberation of Kurds. In recent years and after the arrest of its most prominent leader Abdullah Ocalan, it has abandoned the Marxist-Leninist doctrine, to engage on ‘Democratic Confederalism’. It has also been signalled of being corrupted by criminal interests, disrupting its political nature.

Terrorism: Although it is a contested concept. One of the more accepted academic definitions is provided by Bruce Hoffman: “the deliberate creation and exploitation of fear through violence or the threat of violence in the pursuit of political change. All terrorist acts involve violence or the threat of violence. Terrorism is specifically designed to have far-reaching psychological effects beyond the immediate victim(s) or object of the terrorist attack.” (Hoffman, 1998 AU48: The in-text citation "Hoffman, 1998" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. )

Commercial or Criminal Insurgency: Describes an insurgency movement whose political motivation has been perverted by criminal interests. It hasn’t necessarily become a criminal organization itself, but it has become impossible to determine if their objectives are purely political or criminal.

Insurgency: A struggle between a non-ruling group and the ruling authorities in which the former consciously employs political resources (organizational skills, propaganda, and/or demonstrations) and instruments of violence to establish legitimacy for some aspect of the political system it considers illegitimate. Legitimacy and illegitimacy refer to whether or not existing aspects of politics are considered moral or immoral (or, to simplify, right or wrong) by the population or selected elements therein.” ( O’Neill, 1980 , p.1)

Criminality: Like terrorists, criminals use violence as a means to attaining a specific end. However, while the violent act might be similar –kidnapping, shooting, arson, for example –the purpose or motivation is not. Whether the criminal employs violence as a means to obtain money, to acquire material goods, or to kill or injure a specific victim for pay, he is acting primarily for selfish personal motivation (usually material gain). (Hoffman, 1998 AU47: The in-text citation "Hoffman, 1998" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. )

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