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November 24, 2011 | by James Arger

Fear of the Dark

Orange Court by Gustave Doré

The criminal underworld. For some reason, whenever I hear this expression, I think of the dark corners of the cities depicted in Dickens’ novels — of gloomy streets and menacing shadows, of moonless nights and unhealthy smog, of cold-blooded villains and pale-skinned victims. From these words, my mind pictures another world, entirely separate from ours, underneath it, claiming for itself the sewers and the underpasses and the tunnels, all those forfeited places that light cannot reach. And, somewhere in the dark, deep within the confines of the earth, something is howling.

But there’s no such thing as a criminal underworld — just like there’s no such thing as the boogeyman. We closely watch the neighborhoods we live in, so that nothing escapes us. We stay clear of the “bad” places, because that is what “good” people do. And we keep the light on, so that we can sleep better at night. But you know what? This is all useless. This is all childish reassurance. Because the bad guys have moved on — they have evolved, they have changed.

Just look across the border, where the drug cartels look and sound like legitimate companies — where the narcos operate in broad daylight and reign over billion-dollar empires with their own, private armies. Look at Los Similares, for instance. They middle-manage and organize, they specialize or diversify, they outsource and plan mergers. The goons have turned corporate. The only difference with the “regular suits”, is that there is no severance package, no golden parachute. And termination is generally final.

And you know what? The cartels fit right in. Maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise — after all, they share the same killer instinct as their corporate counterparts. “Conflict creates opportunity”, to quote the Steinlöw Group, and with the kind of weapons the cartels have now acquired, there’s conflict aplenty. Yet, in spite of all the money they have, the narcos still rely on their firepower to enforce their rules. And getting at their weapon supply could well be the only way to jugulate the threat they represent. Which is the reason why, with the new batch of documents we’re making available today, Africa is our next stop.

Remember — it’s a jungle out there. And the predators are no longer afraid of the light. Out of the underworld, they now roam above ground.
Welcome to the real world.

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November 24, 2011

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