It was in 1993 when dozens of girls in Chihuahua, Mexico were murdered and dumped around the city to be left out as if they were garbage (Wright, 2011, p.707). The number of murders grew over the years, as police officers proved unable to control and find the perpetrators, until the protesters had become the activists. The town became a place of femicide, and currently, it has become a place of Narcopolitics. In this area, the connection between drugs and the dynamics of power appeared to be relentless. This took place even during the opium trade when Western imperialism and colonialism reached the borders of Vietnam and then across Afghanistan. Here, narcopolitics plays a key role in the history of societies, and in the way imperialism and colonialism spread across the other borders of the islands—all for the commercial interests of the Western politics. This is seen in the manner the British government dealt with Singapore and China for broader economic and social life. It proves the assumption that crime—whether it has something to do with sex, drugs, or corruption—always involves a probe into the nature and dynamics of power.
Part 1: Sex and Crime
The criminal offense
Sex has always been a motive in men’s abuse of power. This was seen in a case in Zimbabwe when a seven-year-old girl was raped, but the local police allowed the rapist to escape arrest (Vogl, 2015). Still, although the victim’s parents succeeded in submitting the case to a not-for-profit, anti-corruption organization, the rapist tend to be HIV positive and had died of Aids; thus, the seven-year-old girl is now HIV positive. In another case in Tripoli, Lebanon, Hoda was about to renew her working contract in the regional governor’s office, but claims he took her into his office and was about to sexually abuse her. Hoda fled and tried to find another government office where she could renew her working contract, but was referred back to the same governor. Hoda thought about capturing the incident in the video of her mobile phone, and two months after, had the courage to submit it to the Lebanese Transparency Association (Vogl, 2015). She publicly filed a complaint against the governor, who later on resigned his office under the reason that had nothing to do with Hoda’s complaint. This and other cases of sextortion are always included in the headlines in many countries around the world, wherein there is abuse of power taking place in the scene.
An abuse of power
Back in the 1970s, journalist and feminine activist Susan Brownmiller explained how rape appears to be a historical condition underlying all the facets of the male and female relationship. According to Brownmiller, who was one-time actress, researcher, and reporter:
It is a crime not of lust but of violence and power. The threat, use and cultural acceptance of sexual force is a pervasive process of intimidation that affects all women. (Moore, 1975)
Based on the interview of Brownmiller, she replied that she had not experienced being raped before, but she came up with a consciousness-raising group and decided it was worth studying. By then, she learned that most rape was black on black and not black on white. She learned that the victims were not to be blamed, and that most rape incidents were interracial (Moore, 1975). Brownmiller (1975) mentioned in the interview that there was increase in rape because of the increase in violence (not of sex), since “the criminal population is rising and becoming more adventurous” (Moore, 1975). Still, there is rapid increase in sex crime as a result of the abuse of power, which should be applied with legitimacy. The application of illegitimate power is considered an abuse, connected to the “use of violent, fraudulent or corrupt means to achieve dishonest or harmful objectives” (David, 2003, p.95), with unlawfulness of purpose as well as conventional offences.
Sexual exploitation, harassment or abuse is a form of human trafficking, as it is an act of transport, transfer, receipt, or harboring a person, as a means of deception, coercion, or abuse of position and the vulnerability of others, for the purpose of exploitation. This is seen on children trafficking or women trafficking, in which there is a form of deception to possibly earn the consent of the child regardless of the circumstance. Unlike the smuggling of migrants, human trafficking involves the smuggling of migrants. Here, the traffickers
move their victims from the country of origin to the destination country, possibly through one or more transit countries, without complying with the relevant migration laws and regulations of the countries involved. (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2011, p.5)
In human trafficking, victims experience border crossing and travelling, as an effect of smuggling the migrants. This is a type of distinct crime, although it tends to overlap with smuggling of migrants in one way or another. In both instances however, there is recruitment and exploitation, usually of children and women, and may be the effect of corruption, which is a type of abuse of public power. In sexual exploitation, public power is used for private benefit, or “the misuse of entrusted power for private gain” (UNODC, 2011, p.5).
Part 2: Narcopolitics and Crime
The criminal offense
Over the years, there has been drug-related incidence of violence taking place within public places across many countries worldwide. In Mexico alone, the death toll related violence due to narcopolitics was said to be almost 25,000 for the preceding 44 months until August of 2010 (Mahadevan, 2011, p.6). This does not include yet the additional 3,000 from the revelation of secret statistics that the intelligence service of Mexico were able to compile (Mahadevan, 2011, p.6). By 2006, more than 6,000 people have died in Chihuahua, Mexico alone, and more than 28,000 across the island of Mexico, and all of these are related to violence caused by narcopolitics and the use of illegal drugs (Wright, 2011, p.707). Usually, violence associated with the drug trade come with the city’s poorer districts—those whose productive labor come as “a profitable hub of global industrialization in the era of the North American Free Trade Agreement” (Wright, 2011, p.708). For this, Leonard (2015) insisted in his book that a good majority of those in prison fit the profile of being “poor, undereducated, unemployed or marginally employed, and disproportionately people of color” (p.1).
Based on Raikhel’s (2011) book review of William Garriott’s book, entitled Policing Methamphetamine: Narcopolitics in Rural America, Garriott (2011) claimed that narcopolitics is everywhere; yet, is being manifested in different ways. Garriott (2011) defined narcopolitics as “a mode of political practice that works to rationalize governance in terms of the problems associated with illicit drugs, a.k.a. narcotics” (Raikhel, 2011). Narcopolitics is everywhere mainly because it is being manifested in the administration of public schools, the family dynamics, as well as the working state among other else. This is manifested in poorer neighborhoods in the form of hyper-surveillance and over-policing. Still, it is also manifested in wealthier neighborhoods in the form of drug tests for the negotiation of tension between family members. Likewise, this is manifested in public schools in the form of anti-drug programs (e.g., D.A.R.E.), including positive drug testing in pre-natal care clinics. Narcopolitics is also seen in the working industry, specifically in work-related benefits like working compensations for injury, contingent to the worker’s ability to prove they are drug free, and that the injury is not the result of drug use. Narcopolitics is demonstrated almost everywhere nowadays, and it was the one main reason why the Mexican government deployed troops to secure their cities against the cartels.
A mishandling of justice
In Mexico, Ciudad Juarez was not a place that, like other cities, confined prostitution within the walls of zonas de tolrancia, but allowed it to be done elsewhere across the city. This city was known for the women displayed in the public streets, markets, and squares, or those who sold themselves as public women (Wright, 2011, p.713). This worsened by the 1970s when young women began migrating by the thousands, to try and find work in the city like the factories and other industrial servicing offices. These industrial workers, however, became public women who worked by daytime and then, became prostitutes by night time. Thus, when dozens of young women were murdered and dumped in the streets of Ciudad Juarez, they took it as a public cleansing that restored the political and moral balance of the society. According to the political advisers, there was nothing to fear “as long as they knew where their female family members were” (Wright, 2011, p.713). It was as if, it was more important to cleanse the city from these public women than to find the criminals who were responsible of killing these young women in the city streets by the dozen. Wright (2011) reiterated the words of Amnesty International (2003) when she stated,
Girls who live double lives often end up dead; that was a normal chain of events, so the lack of investigations and convictions was not a problem given that there was not anything wrong with the violence. (Wright, 2011, p.714)
Because the young women were heroin users, it pointed out that it was somehow the fault of these girls that they became victims of the street criminals. As Diebel (1997) stated, “Their whole point is that it’s somehow the fault of these girls We are supposed to believe these women are responsible for their own deaths” (p.A1). The brutality of the crime, however, speaks the opposite, as stealing turned out to be more offensive than killing young women.
Part 3: Corruption and Crime
A criminal offense
In UK, Scotland Yard was said to be a major place of corruption over a 35-year period, with allegations of child sex offences that the officers covered up, and which were investigated under the British police standards (Gearin, 2015). Based on the investigation, there were at least “14 allegations of high-level corruption of the most serious nature occurring between 1970 and 2005” (Gearin, 2015). The claims emerged to be those of child sex abuse allegations of a number of politicians, plus other public officials and police officers who suppressed the evidences and halted the investigations. It turned out that they covered up the child sex offences to save their names from public scrutiny and shame. This incident proves that white-collar crime remains to be in the margins of criminology research, and that the criminals need not be the outsiders, the poor and the disadvantaged people.
According to criminologist Edwin Sutherland, back in the 1940s what happened to be harmful behavior, included crimes of those in high, powerful social status or the white-collar crime (Leonard, 2015, p.3). These elite crimes—separate from conventional crimes—turns out to include the crimes of the corporations, such as the financial crimes set in insider trading, price-fixing, or the selling and marketing of unsafe products. This type of crimes appear to be worse than the street, conventional crimes of the poor, disadvantaged people. Street crimes are more prominent in the public, which come with vivid visuals of “bodies, distraught neighbors, and frightening suspects” (Leonard, 2015, p.3), with images that prevail more within the minds of people, as stories are repeated again and again in the newsstands. However, the elite crimes of corporations are seldom being shown or manifested in public, unless they become a scandal or has become a crisis, such as the Enron scandal back in 2008 (Leonard, 2015, p.3). Leonard (2015) tried to explain the elite crimes when she stated,
Most of these offenses are buried in the business section of newspapers, and while investigative reporting of corporate crime plays a vital role in exposing this illegality, the placement of information often implies that these crimes are distinctly different from conventional crime. (Leonard, 2015, pp.3-4).
Elite crimes of corporations are not very much exposed to the public. In fact, Leonard (2015) reiterates how Lynch et al (2004) discovered that white-collar crime accounts for only “less than 5 percent of the pages of sampled texts, and remarkably few of the courses in Ph.D. programs in criminal justice” (Leonard, 2015, p.4). After 60 years of research, white-collar crimes and corporate crimes still remain within the margins of criminological research agenda, insisting that crimes involve only the poor outsiders and the disadvantaged.
An abuse of power
Based on the definition of World Bank, the term corruption can be defined as “the abuse of public power for private benefit” (UNODC, 2011, p.5). On the other hand, Transparency International takes a broader step when they defined corruption as “the misuse of entrusted power for private gain” (UNODC, 2011, p.5). This should include bribery of public officials, embezzlement and bribery in the private sector, laundering of the takings of crime, obstruction and concealment of justice, among other else. Under the chapter of the Convention, corruption is denoted as a crime—a notion wider than extortion and bribery. It can either be a petty corruption or a grand corruption, under which the latter involves high-level officials and would have a destructive effect on the governance and rule of law. Petty corruption, on the other hand, includes “the day to day abuse of power that involves lower-level public officials in the performance of their daily duties” (UNODC, 2011, p.6). Corruption can also range from active involvement to passive involvement, under which the former includes violating duties, facilitating transactions, or accepting and transferring bribes; passive involvement includes failing or ignoring to follow-up on indicators of corruption.
Part 4: Crime and the Dynamics of Power
Crime related to sex, corruption, and narcopolitics always involves an exploration of the nature and dynamics of power. As seen in the case of Hoda in Lebanon, the regional governor applied and abused his power to sexually mistreat Hoda, who only wanted to renew her working contract. Human traffickers, on the other hand, apply power towards the victims, who are usually children and women, to smuggle the migrants and get private gain. Young women in Chihuahua, Mexico also experience mistreatment because they are the poor, marginally employed citizens, undereducated and considered people of color. This is also seen in the UK, wherein the British police unit covered up the allegations of child sex offences of higher officers within Scotland Yard, mainly because they were politicians.
It happens that between street crime and elite crime, it is the latter that is more dangerous—the white-collar crime and the corporate crime done by the more powerful citizens of the state. They cover grand corruption, which has greater tendency to impact communities and profoundly affect the people’s quality of life within the district, as the poor, marginalized communities tend to be the victims, and the higher officials are the ones who gain the profit. The effect is a community where citizens are afraid to venture, unable to work productively, and is separated from their neighbors and other associates. Friedman, Tucker, and Neville (1998) stated the total effect of crime and corruption when they said:
Without intervention, victims can become chronically dysfunctional afraid to venture out at night, unable to work productively, alienated from neighbors and friends, distrustful of police and courts, and overly dependent on social services. Their withdrawal from life hurts their families and weakens the fabric of the community. (Friedman, Tucker, and Neville, 1998, p.3)
Crime caused by illegal sex, drugs, and corruption has to be stopped, or it destroys the community and become chronically dysfunctional. The first step is through individual counseling and offering of practical assistance to the victims of crime, to help them recover from the trauma of victimization, while helping the community address its social condition. As for those within the dynamics of power, community activism will lead to social change, which puts the white-collar criminals under the power of the social justice.
I agree with the assumption that crime brought by sex, drugs, and corruption always involves a probe into the nature and dynamics of power. This is seen in white-collar crime in many distinct areas around the world, which led Sutherland (1983) to conclude that white collar crimes had become common. As Sutherland (1983) stated, “a general theory that crime is due to poverty and its related pathologies is shown to be invalid” (p.7). Crime has reached beyond the streets and into the rich areas of the communities. In fact, a number of researchers stated that “most serious crimes that cause the greatest property loss and the greatest physical injury are perpetrated by the rich than by the poor” (Braithwaite, 1991, p.40). This is because crime is directly related to power, and because of the inequality in the accumulated goods and wealth, those who are in power are invoked to decrease the goods available to the poor to satisfy the needs. They may also choose to increase the goods available to the rich, whose needs are satisfied, but should require criminal opportunities to indulge their greed. What is being sought brings pleasure to their mind, body and soul. They seek to find contentment in an illegal fashion, for they have power within their hands.
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United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. 2011. Issue Paper: The role of corruption in trafficking in persons. Available at: <https://www.unodc.org/documents/human-trafficking/2011/Issue_Paper_-_The_Role_of_Corruption_in_Trafficking_in_Persons.pdf> [Accessed 5 January 2016].
Vogl, F. 2015. Action needed to curb corruption crimes against women and girls. The Huffington Post, [online] 15 September. Available at: <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frank-vogl/action-needed-to-curb-cor_b_8136032.html> [Accessed 5 January 2016].
Wright, M.W. 2011. Necropolitics, narcopolitics, and femicide: Gendered violence on the Mexico-U.S. border. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 36(3), pp.707-731.