Vanda Felbab-Brown discusses the link between violent insurgency and illicit economies in an interview with NPR’s central Florida affiliate station.
Scott Finn (WUSF): When you look some of the most violent places in the world – the border between the US and Mexico, Afghanistan, Somalia – these are all places where the conflict is deeply tied into illicit economies. Is this a new thing?
Vanda Felbab-Brown: It’s certainly been a phenomenon over the past couple of decades and in some places, like Afghanistan, the narcotics trade is really the most intense than we have ever seen anywhere in the history of modern drug trade, far more so than Colombia, which in the 1990s and 2000s was the prototypical place where insurgency and narcotics would coincide. But certainly we have seen intensification in the way militants exploit illicit economists and to some extent this is natural. Where you have very intense violence formal and legal economics suffer immensely, and so informality and illegality is what replaces the collapsing form of economy.
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“I think it’s by having this cluster of [illicit] activities and abilities that has helped [North Korea] as sanctions have been applied. With the newest round of sanctions, my guess is that they’re doing the same thing: looking for ways to navigate around them.”