Transnational Crime in the Americas: An Inter-American Dialogue Book

By Tom Farer | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

President Bill Clinton helped trigger this book. For at an early point in his administration, he began to include transnational 1 organized crime in his mantra of threats to the national security both of the United States and of respectable countries generally. Unlike, for instance, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and even global warming, this issue did not have any real history on the agenda of national concern either in the U.S. or any of its major allies other than Italy, which was mainly concerned with the activities of the mafia at home. Yet, unlike certain other candidates for the post-cold war agenda, organized criminal activity across national boundaries had been around in one form or another for a long time; indeed, perceived as smuggling, it was downright ancient. One wondered: How could it suddenly have become such a grave menace…assuming it had? Assisting in the book’s insemination were those writers like Claire Sterling and think tanks like Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies that produced books and conferences announcing in apocalyptic terms an explosion of organized criminality across national frontiers. Having faced down the Comintern, were we now beginning a new twilight struggle, this time with a “Crimintern” (to borrow Tom Naylor’s ironic analogy)?

Alongside the big claims were the huge figures that regularly found their way into articles in papers of record, figures like the one hundred to four hundred billion dollars of annual revenues imputed to the drug trade alone. Assuming these evident guesstimates were anywhere near accurate, what did they in fact describe? If it were nothing more than the total of all retail transactions between a legion of street-corner dealers and millions of consumers, that was

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