Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Katharine Petrich was invited to present her research at the 4th Annual Symposium on Terrorism and Transnational Crime in Antalya, Turkey. Hosted by the Turkish National Police Academy’s International Center for Terrorism and Transnational Crime, the symposium gathered an international group of policymakers, law enforcement, military officers, and academics for three days of panel discussions, presentations, and best practices debate. The conference theme was “New Trends in Transnational Organized Crime and Smuggling” and a full list of participants can be found here.
Petrich’s research, entitled “Extremists in Forgotten Corners: Hezbollah in Latin America” utilized a realist framework and open source material to consider the case study of Hezbollah in Latin America, a region that acts as a financial artery for the Lebanese based group. In 2004, the American Naval War College conservatively estimated the group received at least ten million dollars (USD) per year from the Tri-Border Area, a single free trade area in Latin America. More recent estimates have tripled that figure, and suggested an area of operation expansion to Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, and Guatemala. Hezbollah's strong presence in the region allows access to and alliance building with a variety of transnational criminal networks, diversifying funding and support and complicating law enforcement and security efforts. Petrich’s work was selected not only for its academic merit but also for its timely nature. Petrich predicted the violent actions on the part of Hezbollah during the spring and fall of 2013 in an attempt to reconsolidate their power base in the lead up to the 2013 Lebanese political elections and suggested Hezbollah may also enact revenge strikes against neighboring states that are perceived to have aided in the Syrian downfall, such as Turkey. The close ties between Hezbollah and Syria mean a corresponding weakening both politically and strategically for the group as the Assad government comes under increased international pressure, and the resulting regional implications are grave. These political and economic pressures will certainly result in an increase in criminal activity as Hezbollah loses funding from the Syrian government, presenting significant law enforcement difficulties worldwide.