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Dangerous Liaisons

Organized Crime and Political Finance in Latin America and Beyond

edited by Kevin Casas-Zamora

Publication Year: 2013

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.

In Dangerous Liaisons noted 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.

Contributors include 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).

Published by: Brookings Institution Press


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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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1. On Organized Crime and Political Finance: Why Does the Connection Matter?

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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

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2. Argentina: Two Cases

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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...

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3. Brazil: Crime Meets Politics

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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...

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4. Colombia: Coexistence, Legal Confrontation, and War with Illegal Armed Groups

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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...

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5. Costa Rica: Four Decades of Campaign Finance Scandals

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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...

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6. Mexico: Organized Crime and Elections

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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...

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7. Bulgaria: Perception and Reality

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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....

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8. Italy: The Godfather's Party

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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...


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pp. 247-248


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pp. 249-260

About the Publisher, Back Cover

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pp. 261-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9780815725305
E-ISBN-10: 0815725302
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815725299
Print-ISBN-10: 0815725299

Page Count: 259
Publication Year: 2013