Gang update

From El Salvador (WSJ):

Politicians must ask permission of gangs to hold rallies or canvass in many neighborhoods, law-enforcement officials and prosecutors said. In San Salvador, the nation’s capital, gangs control the local distribution of consumer products, experts said, including diapers and Coca-Cola . They extort commuters, call-center employees, and restaurant and store owners. In the rural east, gangs threaten to burn sugar plantations unless farmers pay up.

At what point do we say the government has been replaced?  On the analytics:

“We’ve left behind the era of the cartel and the kingpin,” said Alejandro Hope, a security consultant in Mexico City. “Today, most violence in Latin America is the result of a new system that’s more diverse, harder to control, and much more local.”

In Brazil to the south (NYT):

In Rio de Janeiro state alone, more than 5,197 people have been killed this year — far more than the 3,438 civilians killed in conflict last year in Afghanistan, according to United Nations figures.

One-quarter of those may have been killed by the state, a sign of state weakness not strength.

One approach is to view all this as a problem to be solved, and surely there is something to that attitude.  Another approach, not mutually exclusive, is to view it as a problem that is getting harder to solve.


Are there thoughts on the issue of politicians allowing gang intiminidation to flourish because it worked to their political goals and the servant is becoming the master? Unwinding a catastrophe was always going difficult. American history in Central America has always been one of shirking responsabilty for actions.


Can you explain this a little more? I am interesting to know which local politicians you think benefit from gang activity and your theory on how they benefit.

Two quotes/references come to my mind immediately.

"That we should try to emulate in thoughts and action the Democratic processes and institutions of the United States, a truly and completely representative government, one so sublime that it might better suit a republic of saints, be impossible here." - Simon Bolivar, Bolivar et La Emancipacion des Colonies Espanoles des Origines. Bolivar was referring to the idea that N. American democracy was impossible to truly implement in Latin America because it would've required a transplant of the types of men (leaders and citizens, aka "saints") that made it possible. It was a statement of frustration at what he saw was a "state of nature" inherent in the populace of his land, and the tendency towards corruption.

"It is a mythology of our modern times that humans have always yearned for freedom, democracy, and self-determination. Human history is the yearning for security and safety, the desire to be safe in person and property from armed thugs, robber bandits, barons and warlords bent on destruction. For most of the world's people and most of the world's history, 'your' robber baron is always preferable to 'their' robber baron, and government can be analogized to 'your' gang vs. 'their' gang." - Eugene Weber, Western Civ, UCLA

It would be very interesting, were it possible to gather such data, if the people in the Favela or the slum in El Salvador could say without reprisal whom they prefer. The government, or the gangs that have in all but name replaced them....

"Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom." - Benjamin Franklin

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury." - Alexander Fraser Tytler

"Every nation gets the government it deserves." - Joseph de Maistre

The USA was founded as a nation of virtue. Most of the citizens were English speaking British citizens, descendants of Puritans. Left to develop on their own for approximately 150 years - benign neglect - less than 10% worked for wages. Approximately 80% owned their own farms, and the rest were self-employed artisans and merchants. The were literate Protestants who made decisions by consensus in local meeting houses in congregations. In the main, they were very religious Protestants.

That particular set of circumstances arose only once, and cannot be duplicated, which is why there are no other democratic republics in the world like the USA and why we (USA) are losing ours.

A nation of virtue no longer exists. It's all downhill from here.

"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." John Adams


I think we are on the same frequency.

The people of Central America, as they are today, are not capable of living in a democratic republic.

Stationary bandits have to start somewhere.

"Politicians must ask permission of gangs to hold rallies or canvass in many neighborhoods, law-enforcement officials and prosecutors said."

Seems like the gangs would be right at home on American college campuses.

"Stationary bandits ..."

Lol! Yes, better than roving bandits!

It just illustrates how far behind so many of these Latin American "nations" are. I believe they are hopeless, and our main approach to them should be to very carefully scrutinize who among them should be allowed to pass through the gates of our republic, and to severely restrict the numbers of them. A little spice in the soup is ok, too much and it's not the same soup anymore and is usually much much worse tasting.

Some, I assume, are good people.

Seem to me it's the good people leaving (fleeing) those countries and letting the bad ones (gangs) have their shithole.

Good people don't flee, risking their lives. Only the ambitious do, and often those are criminals or highly driven people.

That's a fair point, but it would have to be a mix right? Not a massive 90%/10% split, in either direction...

In college they used to call me ol’cuck-in-feathers

Hey, how did the Soros Caravan work out?

Poor George -- I'm sure it looked like a great plan when he drew it up in his mansion. But despite buying all those bus passes and Mexican Uber fares, he STILL could not get his "marchers" to the border in time for the US election today.

It would take a heart of stone not to laugh.

And he's a foreigner, you know. Who has been trying to influence US elections for many years. I wonder who he has been colluding with?

When the most craven troll need only repeat the President.

Or; when the truth speakers need only repeat the president.

Know your trolls.

Do you actually READ USA Today? Or do you just Google the answer you want and then quote the source, no matter it's credibility?

I suppose you can pull many quotes from Slate, Politico, and Huff et al out of your a**.

I follow 165 people (or things) on Twitter, so I see a lot of news go by.

When I am trying to remember what I saw, I Google it up.

I like using the USA Today link because I think they do try to be a non-partisan source of America's news.

Oh, here is another really good non-partisan cross section of the news:

Whatever you think of George Soros and his politics, let the record reflect that we was naturalized a US citizen in 1961.

Good people and bad people are rather blunt instruments.

Are the good people the kind of good people that will carry with them cultural habits and cognition that will allow the recapitulation of these patterns outside the territories of the massive former Spanish and Portuguese Empires? Or the sort of good people who not do this because they will be overpowered by assimilation to the norms and institutions of Anglo-North American society?

Excellent point. A lot of "good people" supported the Mafia, Nazis, and IRA. At best, they acquiesce to the actions and conditions in which evil thrives. They bring those values here.


America is very much a work in progress.

A "solution" that cries out for death squads from a caudero, Latin American slang for either strongman or cooking pot, forget which.

Bonus trivia: reading a book now "Why Australia Prospered" despite having, like Norway, a "resource curse" meaning, like in Africa, Venezuela, other failed states, they have 'too much of a good thing' in natural resources, that are looted and squandered by the gatekeepers. I wonder what the difference is between the countries that don't fall into a resource trap (Norway, Australia, Chile, where Cu is like 10% of GDP) and those that do (all of Africa save South Africa, parts of Latin America, some South Pacific islands)? Is it just that Steve Sailor says? But what about Dutch disease?

In Uganda's news today (BBC): "Uganda's government is a creating a new security force to combat soaring levels of crime, but critics fear it could become a law unto itself, writes the BBC's Patience Atuhaire from the capital Kampala. Zarake Maria Goretti sits on the grass after giving her blood samples for her medical check-up. The 22-year-old is one of thousands who turned up at an open-air ground, usually used for trade fairs in Kampala, to apply to join the new civilian militia, known as Local Defence Units (LDUs)." - I wish they had more photos of her, she looks cute from the one angle they have. A poster child for the LDUs.

BBC and Uganda make me think of just one thing and it ain’t the British Broadcasting Corporation

less children and a bit of nihilism? the fuel for war is the unlimited supply of young guys disposed to die to gain some status.

I have as tiny weewee

You are the 'Bagdad Bob' of Brazil.

No, I am not. President Bolsonaro is the Brazilian Reagan. "Here's my strategy on the Cold War: we win, they lose."

I am big Bolsonaro supporter, but he does have a way smaller penis than Trump.

It is not true.

President Bolsonaro would prevail.

It’s not a contest they’re both on the same side, Trump just has a way bigger penis because he’s the big papa.

Trump has tiny hands.

"I am big Bolsonaro supporter, but he does have a way smaller penis than Trump."

I'm afraid to ask how you know. Did he grab your naughty bits too?

Speaking of this sort of thing, does anyone know how things are going in the Philippines?

May be some indication of how things will go for e.g. Brazil under the new government.

Generally speaking crime is down in the Philippines, though not greatly so (and not homicide).

I'm not sure the situation is comparable though. The Philippines certainly had a violence problem as compared to the US, but a lot of Americans don't realize just how violent much of Latin America has become over the last 30 to 40 years. There were almost 65,000 people murdered in Brazil last year, the Philippines would have taken almost a decade to get to a comparable number for their smaller population. And Brazil doesn't even come close to having the problem that exists in northern Central America.

As I said, the situation is fully under control in Brazil.

Interesting, thanks for the information. What about drug addictions - are they going down to any real degree?

I agree that Brazil and the Philippines aren't perfect analogues of each other - but Bolsonaro's attitude of "we must stop the criminals, let's just kill them all" is very similar to stuff Duterte was saying.

In effect, both of them are committed to treating crime in a military fashion, and I was hoping the Philippines might be a helpful case study in how that goes.

President Bolsonaro does not support extermination. He supports lifting some restrictions on the rules of engagement (for example, allowing snipers to shoot suspects bearing assault weapons) and allowing common citizens carry weapons s they can kill criminals.

The point is, the situation is better in Brazil than in the Philippines because crime is overextended. We have plenty reserves we can throw at them. It is Stalingrad, and we are the Red Army.

The Philippines crime rate today was no different than the USA's in 1988 (near an all time high). Youth plus guns plus poverty equals crime. That said, I've yet to see a dead body from crime (I've seen three bodies in the street from traffic accidents) here in the Philippines, knock on wood.

As I said, the situation in Brazil is under control. Criminals are overextended whil we have reserves we can throw at them at will. They are the Nazis, we are the Soviets.

"They extort commuters, call-center employees, and restaurant and store owners. In the rural east, gangs threaten to burn sugar plantations unless farmers pay up."

The IRS is taking notes.

Sounds like the government is simply being replaced by private for-profit rights enforcement organizations. It’s a libertarian paradise.

+1, beat me to it. This is anarcho-capitalism in action. Aren't the gangs just private enforcement firms that go after those who violate the non-aggression principle against them by selling or distributing on the gangs' property?

More data:

The problem of crime and violence

Recent studies have shown a dramatic increase in crime and violence in Latin America, particularly in the 1980s. There are significant variations across countries in homicide rates: from 60.8 homicides per 100,000 population in Colombia to 2.9/100,000 in Chile in 1994/95.1 However, average rates in Latin America are higher than in any other region of the world and have increased from 8 homicides per 100,000 population in the 1970s to 13/100,000 in the 1990s.2 In addition to the general problem of violent crime, there has been growing concern in the region with the problem of violence against women and violence against children and adolescents.3

There is significant inequality in the distribution of violence among different social groups and geographical areas in the region. The highest homicide rates are registered among the male population and the age group 20-24 years old. In Colombia, for example, homicide rates for this group reach 249.4/1000,000, compared to 60.8/100,000 for the entire population.4 However, there have been significant increases in the homicide rates among the female population and the age groups 15-19 and 10-14 years old in the 1980s and 1990s.5

So it seems that it was not always that way, and the combination of high demand for drugs and the war on drugs contributed to the growth in the problem.

Another approach, not mutually exclusive, is to view it as a problem that is getting harder to solve.

No, it's a problem that libertarians cannot solve in reality or on the drawing board because solving it means employing tools and hiring people that libertarians dislike. Instead of acknowledging the limits of their preferred tools, libertarians pretend this cannot be done.

Many Central Americans (as well as Mexicans) live in my Brooklyn neighborhood -- it's a peaceful, safe neighborhood. I hope that doesn't change.
I wonder why everyone in NYC is so non-violent. Very annoying in various ways but non-violent. Another example -- the Muslims here (and there are many of them) are quite nice.

The situation is apparently quite different in Long Island and northern Virginia. There is probably a lot of self-sorting going on.

Ummm . . . Long Island is extremely safe. In 2017, the murder rate (for Nassau and Suffolk Counties) was about 1.35 per 100,000 residents (39 murders for 2.88 million residents). That's about 1/4 of the national average. For an international comparison, Long Island's murder rate is about the same as France and slightly lower than Finland. Its also quite a bit lower than the murder rate for Brooklyn, which at 4.11 per 100,000 (109 murders for 2.65 million residents), is itself below the national average.

Other stats from wikipedia

No, Long Island has a rather serious MS-13 problem. But it tends to stay "in house."

Are you asserting that there are murders and other violence that are not showing up in the official statistics? What’s the evidence for that assertion?

Would the the typical citizen of El Salvador prefer the official government or the local "gang" government? How do there rates of taxation compare?

Are gangs the evolutionary predecessor of government, as apes are the predecessor of man?

Apes are not the predecessors of man. Clay is.

"Are gangs?"

Pfft. Of course not. Apes have bands and tribes, governed by the strongest of their members. They have alliances and revolutions. Gangs are different, an external population or a sub-population that seeks leverage on a larger group. As in 1920's Chicago, or today's Russia.

But note, the apes would not let themselves be ruled by a dotard. Not for long.

I fear this is what a libertarian society would look like.

Law and order and social peace require a strong government that is able to crush all gangs and maintain a full monopoly on violence, on enforcing contracts, on law, and on courts. Failed weak government does not produce liberty, it produces chaos. Decentralized law enforcement leads to "warlordism."

I believe Sicily is the model that these central American banana republics are following. Sicily, of course, sent boatloads of immigrants to the US to escape gang violence. The gangs came with them, however.

"Law and order and social peace require a strong government"

No, it requires an armed citizenry.

President Blsonaro will allow every honest Brazilian to buy 900 bullets a month.

I always suspected that government originated from such gangs. But I haven't ever seen this idea in any history of the ancient world.

Academics only occasionally bite the hand that feeds them.

Mancur Olson wrote about this, as has Francis Fukuyama.

Eventually countries like El Salvador will just get walled-off as hopeless bandit-states or conquered by somebody who isn't a member of the Brookings Institute. We extend Westphalian sovereignty to more countries than merit it.

Unfortunately, gangs have become robust institutions throughout Latin America. By institution, I mean a set of norms within a community where compliance is rewarded and non-compliance punished by the community, mostly through social means but occasionally financially as well. In the West, some immigrant institutions are innocuous or even welcomed, such as holidays, sporting culture, education philosophy and respect for elders. Some however are virulent and the host country is right to demand they be abandoned, such as honor culture, extrajudicial laws, gender norms, racial hierarchies, and loyalty to the motherland.

The thing that seems to unite far right candidates like Trump, Le Pen, etc. right now is willingness to actively and invasively destroy these institutions, while the center and left believe the threat posed is either not significant, or can be dealt with softer approaches.

Trump got attacked for calling such countries "sh*tholes". Weird.

Tyler says, "One approach is to view all this as a problem to be solved, and surely there is something to that attitude. Another approach, not mutually exclusive, is to view it as a problem that is getting harder to solve."

Has this problem been solved before in modern times? If so, where? How?

Do we wait until it is solved from the bottom up? Or do "we" try to solve it from the top down, ie military intervention and subsequent installation of democratic institutions? Are the people capable of inheriting our democratic norms? Personally, I think not.

Right. If the problems of all those places out there that are, as usual, failing, are going to be foisted on us anyway with foreign aid and immigration of surplus young men, then they don't really merit sovereignty.

So, just to clarify, are you saying we should intervene?

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