Whether it is working in cahoots with paramilitary groups (often the private armies of drug kingpins) to carry out the social cleanings of rural areas and towns, or whether it is negotiating the disarmament or the submission to justice of these same groups, it seems to me that these two different modes of relations are expressions of a continuum along which the state and criminal groups both act. This “intertwinement” I have defined as what represents the Mafia and what distinguishes the Mafia from other social phenomena. Not only is the relationship with the state a defining feature of the Mafia, but it is also a defining feature of the state. I thus suggest that the negotiation the state at times undertakes with groups like the paramilitaries is the recalibration of a correlation of forces. In other words, my observations in the field, combined with the historical record, suggest that in the case of Colombia, a direct confrontation between the state and organized crime, such as the paramilitaries and the related drug-trafficking cartels—like when the state declared a war against Pablo Escobar and the Medellin cartel—has been the exception, while the norm has been either an alliance or a negotiation between the state and the illegal groups.
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