By Miguel Lagos:
One of the concerns that emerged regarding much of the violence that has been seen in the social protests in the Americas—from the north in the US to the south in Chile—over the past twelve months, is that more and more evidence is emerging that moves them away from speculation.
We are talking about cooperative relationships between political extremists and criminals to perpetrate acts of political violence—such as urban terrorism or low-cost terrorism.
These are extreme organized actors with political and ideological objectives who resort to other criminal actors to activate articulated and systematic violent challenges (including arson and looting).
For example, in the last violent protests in September in Colombia, the authorities (Ministry of Defense) reported the existence of a network of organizations influenced by the “dissidents” of the FARC and the ELN as well as by the Chilean MIR. The existence of infiltrated narcoterrorists is not new; however, the lethality increases when the warning of the appearance of a sort of operational “model” that “subcontracts” urban criminal cells to reheat social conflicts arises.
“The organizations, which have existed at least since 2015, ‘prepare to act when they find moments of agitation’ (…) and identify their activity as ‘neighborhood work’ that seeks, first, ‘to indoctrinate young people and give them armed training for urban activities’ and, second, ‘to develop a model of subcontracting urban criminal cells’,” noted a journalistic report based on official Colombian intelligence documents (The Anarchist Nexus between Anti-Police Protests in Colombia and the Chilean Outburst. El Libero. 10/10/2020. Chile)
As we can see, this type of linkage involves the action of criminal political forces (within growing transnational networks) that could become increasingly effective within the uncontrollable “social conflict” that threatens regional and hemispheric security.
The resulting manifestation of these political-criminal links is the development of acts of urban terrorism. These acts not only involve violence that is carried out but also threats of violence in order to intimidate and neutralize those who do not join in the unrest and disorder. Constant aggressions to healthy competition and political freedoms are deployed.
It is important to note that not all protest is for toxic or obscure purposes. Much depends on the contexts where they take place (it is not the same to radicalize in Venezuela as in Chile or Peru, for example); and in fact they integrate legitimate demands and claims that unfortunately degrade when penetrated by the violents. In this way, it is imperative that those who seek change in free democracies denounce and distance themselves from those who choose to destroy the peaceful nature of citizen mobilizations.
As has been said, the growing lethality is found in the social tensions on the American continent (as has also been happening in Europe according to specialists Rajan Basra and Peter Neumann, in 2017) and seems to be gradually overlapping or merging extremist and criminal means of action.
The result: the progressive undermining of the political and economic systems within the countries that are adverse or unfavorable to their projects of unlimited and totalitarian power.
Miguel Lagos is a political analyst and columnist focused on issues of risk and political conflict, radicalization and violent political extremism. @_mlagos_.