Extortion crackdown on gangs backfires

June 22, 2014

Extortion, zakat, jizya, revolutionary taxation—these are all basic means of collecting revenues to fund militant groups, and each method carries its own religious and ideological justification.

The problem is that once a group entrenches itself in a weak state and begins consistently making successful extortion demands against local businessmen, the phenomenon becomes very difficult to stop. This has been illustrated in Spain by ETA, by the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and by guerrillas in the Philippines.

One method to combat such extortion networks is “decapitation,” that is, simply taking the senior leaders of the extortion rackets out of the picture. But analysis by InSight Crime of the unraveling crackdown against extortion networks of Central American gangs shows why that may not always be the smoothest tactic:

Honduras Extortion Gangs Undergoing Violent Leadership Crisis

Police in Honduras say moves to block cell phone signals in prisons have weakened the control of the incarcerated heads of extortion gangs, leading to increased violence as gangs fragment and mid-level operators compete for control of the market.

Officials from the anti-extortion unit of the Honduran police told El Heraldo that many gang leaders had lost control of their subordinates on the outside as they had been isolated by the shutting down of phone signals in jails.

According to the police, lower-level gang members have been running their own unauthorized extortion operations and withholding money from leaders. This has led to the fragmentation of some of the main extortion gangs, as well as revenge killings over unpaid money.

An additional problem is that gang members on the outside tend to be much younger, less experienced and more prone to making mistakes than the leaders, say police.

The main three gangs behind extortion in Honduras were the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13), Barrio 18 and Los Chirizos…

One comment

  1. […] attempts to bring the extortion rackets under control have been […]

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