Dangerous Liaisons

Dangerous Liaisons: Organized Crime and Political Finance in Latin America and Beyond

Kevin Casas-Zamora Editor
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 259
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Dangerous Liaisons
    Book Description:

    The relationship between criminal syndicates and politicians has a long history, including episodes even from the earliest years of America's colonies. But while organized crime may not get the headlines it once did in North America, the resurgence of such criminal activity in Latin America, and in some European nations, has grabbed the public's attention.

    InDangerous Liaisonsnoted scholars describe and analyze the role of organized crime in the financing of politics in selected democracies in Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico) and in Europe (Bulgaria and Italy). The book seeks to unravel the myths that have developed around crime in these locales, while providing facts and informing the debate on how organized crime corrupts democratic institutions, especially in relation to the funding of political parties and their activities.

    Among the subjects studied in detail are the role of organized crime in political finance through the lens of Argentina's presidential campaigns of 1999 and 2007; Brazil's elected officeholders and their role in corruption; the weakness of Colombia's democracy; the growing role of money in Costa Rica's politics; the destructive effects of drug money on Mexican institutions; the link between organized crime-narrowly and broadly understood-and political financing in Bulgaria; and crime and political finance in Italy.

    The work of the scholars corrects what volume editor Kevin Casas-Zamora calls "a glaring gap in the literature on the role of organized crime in the corruption of democratic institutions." That is, the funding of political parties and their activities-which in these cases are mostly election campaigns. The chapters not only present the evidence but also can be regarded as a call to action.

    Contributorsinclude Leonardo Curzio (CISAN/UNAM), Donatella della Porta (European University Institute), Delia Ferreira Rubio (a member of the international board of directors of Transparency International), Mauricio Rubio (a researcher at the External University of Colombia), Daniel Smilov (Center for Liberal Strategies, Sofia), Bruno Wilhelm Speck (University of Campinas), and Alberto Vannucci (University of Pisa).

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-2530-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. 1 On Organized Crime and Political Finance: Why Does the Connection Matter?
    (pp. 1-21)

    The relationship between criminal syndicates and politicians has been around for a long time and has been the subject of endless fascination. The presence of organized crime in the United States, for example, can be traced back to the Puritans. As early as the 1680s, records from the Massachusetts Bay Colony mention organized groups participating in prostitution and selling stolen goods.¹ These groups were as much a part of the landscape as local elections (which were common in some British colonies, such as Virginia, since the early seventeenth century). Peter Lupsha, a scholar of organized crime, writes that before the...

  5. 2 Argentina: Two Cases
    (pp. 22-41)

    Money, politics, and crime are the main elements of power struggles in any society. They interact in a wide range of arenas, such as policy, public procurement, legislation, law enforcement, domestic politics, international relations, elections, and government management. These interactions and power struggles can have considerable consequences for government efficiency, the quality of democracy and political representation, the design of economic policies for sustainable development and social inclusion, and national and international security. Globalization exacerbates the influence of money and organized crime on politics and diminishes the capacity of individual states to respond to complex transnational challenges.¹ This chapter explores...

  6. 3 Brazil: Crime Meets Politics
    (pp. 42-75)

    In Brazil the public debate on the role of organized crime has been coming to a head for the past decade. Public attention to organized crime has focused on urban gangs, such as the PCC (Primeiro Comando da Capital) and the CV (Comando Vermelho), that are involved with the trading and distribution of illegal drugs. These gangs epitomize the threat that organized crime poses to ordinary Brazilians. The criminal activities of these groups—whether it is distributing drugs in schools, conducting abductions, or holding people for ransom—affect the daily lives of millions of people.¹

    However, organized crime in Brazil...

  7. 4 Colombia: Coexistence, Legal Confrontation, and War with Illegal Armed Groups
    (pp. 76-106)

    Efforts to regulate campaign financing and political parties in Colombia came relatively late in the country’s history. Despite early discussions and proposals in the 1950s by both major parties—the Liberals and the Conservatives—and the Alberto Lleras Camargo administration (1958–62), Congress failed to pass any legislation on the matter. During this period, as Eduardo Pizarro (1998) argues, representatives in Congress made it clear that they were unwilling to rein in political parties.¹ There was also a profound lack of interest in key aspects of party organization, given the traditional emphasis on democracy as a system to deliver social...

  8. 5 Costa Rica: Four Decades of Campaign Finance Scandals
    (pp. 107-135)

    The growing role of money in politics has become one of the central issues in democratic debates throughout the world. Costa Rica, arguably the most consolidated democracy in the developing world, has not escaped this trend. In fact, the issue has been part of the national agenda, in different ways, for nearly sixty years. The enactment in August 2009 of a comprehensive overhaul of political finance regulations is merely the latest installment of changes. The discussions have centered on a generous public funding system and the recurring problem of questionable funding practices in the main political parties.

    The 2009 reforms,...

  9. 6 Mexico: Organized Crime and Elections
    (pp. 136-164)

    Managing money in politics has been a challenge for democracies since the time of ancient Greece. Even though the dilemmas associated with political financing vary across time and space, the central concern remains the same: preserving the autonomy of the political system and keeping the influence of money—and the agenda of those who provide it—at bay.¹ As we know all too well, the consequences of unbridled funds in politics are dire, as the voice of a select group takes over that of the general public, and the priorities and preferences of oligarchic circles override the national interest. Mexico...

  10. 7 Bulgaria: Perception and Reality
    (pp. 165-194)

    Organized crime is highly context dependent.¹ The Bulgarian type is different in important respects from the Italian Mafia, from Mexican and Colombian drug lords, and from other criminal networks. By extension, there are also variations in the impact that organized crime has on the political process, including political finance.

    At a sufficiently abstract level, one could of course discuss organized crime as a single phenomenon with global dimensions. Standardization of meaning comes at the expense of important embedded local understandings and perceptions, however. This chapter argues that perceptions, at least in certain societies, are crucial to understanding the problems associated...

  11. 8 Italy: The Godfather’s Party
    (pp. 195-246)

    Political finance in liberal-democratic countries is often by its nature a domain of unresolved ambiguities and embarrassment. The organization of any political activity—especially during electoral campaigns, when political financing is more intense—has an economic cost. But the rhetoric of popular participation, politics as vocation, and mobilization in the pursuit of high values conflicts logically and symbolically with this material and monetary dimension of “politics as a business.” When the friction between ideological appeals to long-term collective purposes, on the one hand, and everyday political needs and practice, on the other, is too forceful and becomes manifest to the...

  12. Contributors
    (pp. 247-248)
  13. Index
    (pp. 249-260)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 261-262)