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Drug trafficking in Guinea-Bissau, 1998–2014: the evolution of an elite protection network*

  • Mark Shaw (a1)
Abstract

Guinea-Bissau has been regularly described as a ‘narco-state’. Yet, few studies analyse how drug trafficking has evolved here. Based on extensive interviews in Guinea-Bissau over several years, this paper documents the process. It concludes that using the term ‘narco-state’, where much of the state has little or no capacity, is inappropriate. A better approach is to analyse the actions of key players as an elite protection network. In Guinea-Bissau, that network did not act on its own, but relied on a series of ‘entrepreneurs' who operated as an interface between traffickers and the elite. While the military as an institution is often said to be in charge of trafficking, exclusive control by high-ranking military personnel within the elite network only occurred relatively late. Senior soldiers' attempts to provide more than just protection, and to enter the drug market themselves, led to the network's undoing.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Email: mark.shaw@uct.ac.za
Footnotes
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I am indebted to Pedro Djassi and Andreia Teixeira for their assistance in Guinea-Bissau and to Chris Saunders, Tuesday Reitano, Elrena van der Spuy, Julie Berg, Simon Howell, Clifford Shearing, Stephen Ellis and two anonymous reviewers for comments on earlier drafts. This work is based on the research supported by the South African Research Chairs Initiative of the Department of Science and Technology and National Research Foundation of South Africa (Grant No. 47303). The financial support of the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime is also gratefully acknowledged. Any opinion, finding and conclusion or recommendation expressed in this material is that of the author and the NRF and the Global Initiative does not accept any liability in this regard.

Footnotes
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