Challenges for Peace in democratic societies: Public security, crime and violence in South America

Internal description

Newton Fund (Research) [NEWT R]


This project has the general objective to analyse the challenges for peace in democratic settings, especially the violence perpetrated by a criminal group - the Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC) - and its effects in South America.
This sub-region is far from a peaceful area as understood by a segment of the literature of International Relations. Looking beyond interstate peace, it can be said that organized crime plays a key role, fueling the local violence and helping to put the region as one of the most violent in the world according to reputable organizations as United Nations Drugs and Crime Office (UNODC) and United Nations Development Program – UNDP. In addition, some of the higher levels of violence are on borders of Brazil and its South American neighbours. It originated in the illicit activities of Brazilian criminal organizations, such as Comando Vermelho (Red Command), Amigos dos Amigos (Friends of Friends) and the Primeiro Comando da Capital (First Command of the Capital – PCC), which seek to control areas of production of cocaine and drug trafficking routes into the country and abroad. These criminal organizations have increased their participation and power in the border regions by eliminating intermediate groups and clashing with state security forces, which increases violence in the region.

To better comprehend this complex scenario, our research programme has two specific objectives: 1) to explore the theoretical and conceptual debates on how violent non-state actors affect the social peace in democratic settings, particularly organized crime with transnational links; 2) to analyse the role of PCC-Primeiro Comando da Capital in the diffusion of violence in South America. Regarding PCC, it began its activities as a group of prisoners advocating human rights in São Paulo state penitentiaries. However, now it has transformed into a complex and powerful transnational violent non-state actor that controls one of the main drug export trafficking routes in the world: the route South America - Europe. Moreover, it is involved in brutal violent clashes to control another key drug route along the Solimões River and in the Brazilian central border areas (mainly with Paraguay and Bolivia). According to reports of InSight Crime – a non-profit journalism and investigative organization specialized in organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean funded by American University (USA) in 2016 and 2017 at least 130 killings were results of clashes between PCC and other groups for drug trafficking control.
According to Colombian Defence Minister Luis Carlos Villegas in an interview to The Wall Street Journal, the PCC is courting FARC dissidents to obtain heavy weapons and military training, while also hoping to expand into Colombian territory. Thus, the drug conflict could become even more bloody in the next few months or years, given that Colombia's southeast border is highly competitive criminal territory and PCC will likely confront other organized crime groups that are looking for ways to fill the power vacuum created by the FARC's demobilization.
Short titleR:HSG Mobility Grant Ferreira
Effective start/end date31/03/1831/03/19