Elites, Organized Crime, Violence, and the Erosion of the State in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua

Despite a consensus that organized crime in Latin America is growing in scope and geographic reach, there is little research on the impact of organized crime on social, economic, and democratic development. This project builds an evidence base documenting how relationships between political elites and organized crime affect economic, political, and social development in four Latin American countries.

Recognizing that the presence and influence of organized criminal actors goes beyond the failed state and failed economies, this project employs social capital and network theories to explain the complex relationships that exist between elites and organized crime. Researchers in Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua will produce three papers investigating these relationships, and recommending policies and action. Finally, public policy recommendations will provide strategies for improving the performance of public interventions.

By documenting patterns of alliance between local elites and criminal groups, and assessing the impact of these relationships on the legitimacy and accountability of public authorities, this research will provide researchers, analysts, and policymakers with new tools to counteract the expansion of drug, human, and arms trafficking in the region. Using traditional as well as new media (such as blogs and social networks), the project will engage with a wide audience. At national conferences in each of the four countries, researchers, journalists, and government officials will build on the research results by jointly developing policies promoting greater accountability and legitimacy of public authorities. These sessions will include exercises building the capacity of local researchers and media to continue with this work. Project results will be publicly shared through the Internet and traditional media.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Sunday, September 9, 2012

End Date

Monday, March 9, 2015


24 months

IDRC Officer

Gottsbacher, Markus

Total funding

CA$ 563,600


Colombia, South America, Guatemala, North and Central America, Honduras, Nicaragua


Governance and Justice

Project Leader

Steven Dudley


Fundación Insight Crime

Institution Country


Institution Website