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Friday, November 8, 2013
This post was written by CIP intern Benjamin Fagan.
The following is a round-up of some of the top articles and news highlights from around the region over the past week.
Argentina’s government has uncovered secret documents from the military dictatorship era (1976-1983) that shed light on human rights abuses. The documents, found in the basement of the Air Force headquarters, contain a blacklist of public figures, such as famed folk singer Mercedes Sosa, as well as secret transcripts of the junta meetings. The Open Society Foundations Justice Initiative published an interesting piece exploring the potential implications of the find.
The Mexican government deployed the Army, Navy and Federal Police to replace local police in the port and city of Lázaro Cárdenas, in the embattled western state of Michoacán. The strategic port, which has become a hub for commerce as well as the cartels, is a stronghold of the Knights Templar drug cartel. The group reportedly taxes products passing through and extorts businesses operating in and around it, in addition to being involved in several other lucrative activities, such as smuggling in precursor chemicals to process methamphetamines.
Citizen vigilante “self-defense” forces have pulled back in response to the military’s deployment. Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope wrote in Animal Politico, “This seems to be a largely reactive measure, prompted more by the actions of criminals that by a well planned law enforcement strategy. It may have some immediate positive effects, but how will these be maintained in the long term?” More from Bloggings by Boz and the Los Angeles Times.
The U.S. Department of State announced a $5 million reward “for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Rafael Caro-Quintero, who kidnapped, tortured and murdered U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique ‘Kiki’ Camarena in 1985.” Caro-Quintero was imprisoned in Mexico until earlier this year, when he was released by an appeals court. This week, Mexico’s Supreme Court overturned this appeal ruling and the Associated Press quoted a U.S. official as saying it was “the correct decision.”
VICE published an interesting article that looks at the way cartel members have been using social media to “run positive PR campaigns, post selfies with their pistols, and hunt down targets by tracking their movements on social media.” And if you were wondering, yes, cartel members post pouty “duckface” pictures to Facebook.
The police chief of Honduras, Juan Carlos “El Tigre” Bonilla, sat down with the Associated Press for an extensive interview that touched on allegations of abuse from the National Police. In response to accusations against his force he stated, “I can’t be on top of everything. Sometimes things will escape me. I’m human.” He also noted the United States was his “best ally and support” in the fight against drug traffickers in the violent country. This is contradictory to claims made by Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield who said, “in accordance with its obligations under the Leahy Law, will not work with the Director General of the National Police. We have no relations with him; we don’t give him so much as a dollar or even a cent.” More from the Pan-American Post.
El Faro reported the ruling party candidate in Honduras’ upcoming presidential elections, Juan Orlando Hernandez, has called for the acquisition of war planes in response to El Salvador’s recent deal to buy 12 A-37 military planes from Chile. Hernandez stated the deal was “breaking the equilibrium” of power in the region, especially as El Salvador is laying claim to Isla Conejo, a small island controlled by Honduras in the Gulf of Fonseca.
A new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research looked at the economic and social state of Honduras since 2006. The report concluded “economic inequality in Honduras has increased dramatically since 2010, while poverty has worsened, unemployment has increased and underemployment has risen sharply.”
Brazilian authorities found themselves in an “uncomfortable position” after Folha de São Paulo reported the government had spied on foreign diplomats, tracking their movements and monitoring a property leased by the United States Embassy in Brasília. However, as Americas Quarterly noted, the espionage activities “paled in comparison” to the United States’ National Security Administration’s massive data collection. Brazil’s Institutional Security Cabinet also stressed the legality of the program, saying it was “in absolute compliance” with national laws, and that the government will pursue prosecution of the leaker of this classified information.
O Globo published the first in a series of articles that explore civilians killed by police forces. According to the report, five people are killed daily in Brazil by a member of the police force, while in the United States, that number is just over one person a day. This comes weeks after multiple police officers were arrested for the murder of Rio bricklayer Amarildo de Souza, who was tortured and killed during the police pacification of the Rocinha slum.
There was major progress in the talks between the FARC rebel group and Colombian government, with the two sides announcing an agreement on political participation. The agreement outlines a commitment to opening the political process to the rebel group and contains guarantees to ensure the safety of leaders of new political movements. The joint statement from the FARC and Colombian government stated, “We have agreed upon an integral system of security for political exercise.” Looking ahead to the next round of talks, Reuters published a good overview on the upcoming challenges for negotiators in reaching a final settlement. More from USIP’s Colombia expert Ginny Bouvier, the Washington Post, BBC, Colombia Reports, La Silla Vacía, and Semana.
Twelve United States Congressmen wrote a letter to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos expressing serious concern for the security situation of Afro-Colombian communities involved in the land restitution process. More from Colombia Reports.
Nicaragua’s ruling party has proposed a set of changes to the Constitution, including the abolition of term limits, which would allow President Daniel Ortega to seek a third consecutive term. Nicaragua Dispatch had a great overview of the possible changes, which include allowing current members of the police and military to hold office. The piece noted that the FSLN’s “supermajority status in the National Assembly absolves them from the need for serious consultation or compromise.” More from the Economist and the Guardian.
A few interesting things happened in Venezuela this week:
- Maduro declared an “early Christmas” this year in order to boost the spirits of the Venezuelan people. The early holiday season was implemented to boost morale in the country, and government workers will be receiving two-thirds of their holiday bonuses in November.
- The President also announced a new holiday in memory of former President Hugo Chávez. The holiday will be held on December 8, the same day as important mayoral elections across the country.
- The Associated Press reported that during a televised speech, Maduro called for the installation of anti-aircraft missiles in the slums of Caracas. The move is to repel “imperialist” attacks, while “arming civilians and putting state-of-the-art artillery in densely-populated neighborhoods is an integral part of an ongoing defense buildup.”
- Inflation has reached above 50 percent, the highest since 1999 when Chávez took power. Here is a picture via Twitter of Venezuelan inflation from 1973-2013. More from Reuters and the Wall Street Journal.
- Despite major diplomatic differences, Venezuela and the United States are participating in the CRUZEX joint air exercises being held in Brazil and run until November 15.
Friday, October 25, 2013
This post was written by Sarah Kinosian and CIP intern Benjamin Fagan.
The following is a round-up of some of the top articles and news highlights from around the region over the past week.
United States Policy
On Thursday, the United States Congress held a hearing, “Creating Peace and Finding Justice in Colombia.” It was held before the House’s Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. WOLA’s Adam Isacson testified, as did Ginny Bouvier from USIP and Max Shoening from Human Rights Watch, among others. The topics discussed included the peace process, the role of the United States should a peace agreement be reached, and labor rights and land rights. See the commision’s website and Colombia Reports for more information.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto launched an official investigation looking into the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices, including any accounts of Mexican cooperation in the U.S. spying programs. The decision comes after this week’s revelation that the NSA hacked former President Felipe Calderon’s public email account. While Mexico’s response to disclosures of U.S. spying has been more measured than that of other targeted governments, the country’s foreign minister said he would be seeking an explanation from the U.S. ambassador. More from The Christian Science Monitor, Latin Americanist blog, BBC Mundo, Der Speigel, CNN, Los Angeles Times, and Excelsior.
Brazil and Germany teamed up this week to cosponsor a U.N. resolution on internet privacy. Although the draft resolution did not directly mention the recent disclosures of the U.S. National Security Agency’s spying practices, it most certainly was the prompt.
President Obama postponed his meeting with President Mujica due to the government shutdown. The meeting is planned to take place next year.
On Wednesday, Colombia’s Constitutional Court struck down a law that would have increased military jurisdiction over human rights crimes. As of right now, all human rights cases involving members of the military are to be tried in civilian court. Members of the U.S. Congress had withheld at least $10 million in military aid over human rights concerns implicit in the measure.
As the Associated Press noted, Defense Minister Juan Pinzon called the ruling “a blow to the morale of the military forces that without doubt will affect Colombians’ security.” The measure was seen as President Santos’ concession to the armed forces for their backing in peace negotiations with the FARC. As La Silla Vacia noted, the law would have acted as a “protective shield that would give them legal guarantees.” The decision to throw out the “fuero militar” could have a negative impact on the armed forces support for the peace process. More from the Pan-American Post, Amnesty International, Semana, and El Espectador. For more context on the law in English, see last week’s AP article profiling the measure.
Amnesty International reported right-wing paramilitary group Los Rastrojos has threatened “social cleansing” of indigenous leaders and groups involved in protests throughout the country.The threats come amid reports of security forces using excessive force against demonstrators.
A court ruling in Guatemala this week could open the door for amnesty for former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt. Guatemala’s Constitutional Court ordered the First Chamber of Appeals to rule on whether a 1986 amnesty law applies to Rios Montt, despite several prior rulings that it did not, given the charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. If the chamber finds the law applies, his case will be thrown out. Judge Jorge Mario Valenzuela, president of the chamber, says they will announce their decision today or tomorrow. As Central American Politics blog noted, “The Constitutional Court seems intent on ensuring that Rios Montt and other human rights violators are never held accountable.” More from the Pan-American Post.
Human rights organization FIDH released a report (PDF) on the Rios Montt trial, asking for members of the European Union (EU) not to ratify the EU-Central America Association Agreement in protest of the annulment of Rios Montt’s genocide conviction.
A report published by the National Economic Research Center (CIEN) found the rate of murders linked to firearms has doubled over the past ten years to 82 percent. This is nearly twice the global average of 42 percent and over Central America’s average of 70 percent. More from InSight Crime.
There is one month before presidential elections take place in Honduras on November 24 and the race is in a dead heat between Xiomara Castro for the center-left LIBRE party and Juan Orlando Hernández for the ruling National Party. Honduras Culture and Politics blog has a helpful overview and breakdown of polling numbers, while Hermano Juancito published two informative posts ahead of elections -- one outlining the political landscape and the other looking at corruption, violence and mudsling ahead of elections. More from Just the Facts, Reuters and World Politics Review.
The United Nations Human Right Council began its review of human rights in Mexico on Wednesday in Geneva. Members called on Mexico to investigate several of the severe citizen security issues going on in the country, such as deadly attacks on journalists, violence against women, and forced disappearances by security forces. Swiss representative Michael Meier said, "Despite Mexico's will to improve the training of relevant authorities, the number of officials suspected of being involved in enforced disappearances is very alarming." Mexican Foreign Minister Jose Antonio insisted progress had been made and cited the creation of a new victims law and an alleged drop in complaints filed against the military. More from Animal Politico, El Universal and Reuters.
This week the Cuban government announced it would be doing away with its dual currency system. The measure was put in place in 1994 and has been unpopular with the island's residents. No timetable has been given for when the new single currency system will go into effect. The Economist had an overview of the current system and laid out some challenges that lie ahead of the changeover.
Al Jazeera reported on the creation of a “Special Economic Zone” on the island where, “One-hundred percent foreign ownership will be allowed for firms operating in the zone, and contracts will be extended to 50 years, up from the current 25.”
Bolivian President Evo Morales, once head of the coca growers union, defended eradication efforts in the northern region of Apolo, citing strong evidence of narcotrafficking in the area. The statement comes after coca growers attacked security forces involved in an eradication operation, killing four and taking six hostage, all of whom were later released. Morales pointed to the capture of four Peruvians in the area as evidence that foreigners were trafficking in the region. President Morales has called for an increased military presence on the border to stem the illegal flow of coca, EFE reported.
IDL Reporteros published an interesting piece on the growing use of small planes to transport cocaine out of the remote Apurimac and Ene River Valley (VRA) region, where more coca is grown than anywhere else in the world. These “narcoflights” land on some 40 clandestine runways that are scattered throughout the harsh geography of the region.
The Secretary of Uruguay’s National Board of Drugs Julio Calzada traveled to the U.S. this week to look at the legal cannabis market and regulation in Colorado. Calzada told the Associated Press, “We see the hypocrisy of U.S. politics towards Latin America. We have thousands of deaths that are the simple result of (drug) prohibition.” On the visit the delegation toured growhouses with digital marking systems and learned about video monitoring systems. This trip comes as the drug regulation body announced earlier this week that the initial regulated pricing of marijuana cigarettes would be around $1 a gram. More from the Pan-American Post about legal debates surrounding the law.
President Nicolás Maduro announced the creation of a vice-ministry for the “Supreme Social Happiness of the Venezuelan People.” The new cabinet position will be charged with overseeing the social missions, known as “Bolivarian Missions,” that were a hallmark of former President Hugo Chávez’s presidency. More from BBC Mundo.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
This post was written by CIP intern Benjamin Fagan.
Between now and February 2014, El Salvador, Honduras and Chile will hold presidential, elections. Below, we take a look at some of the top security issues each country faces and what the front-runner candidates are saying about them.
El Salvador saw an initial 45% drop in its murder rate in the months following the implementation of a truce between the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 gangs. Current FMLN President Mauricio Funes purportedly facilitated the truce, yet his administration refuses to acknowledge its involvement in the agreement.
This is largely due to the fact that most Salvadorans see the truce as beneficial to these criminal groups, as Salvadoran journalist Oscar Martinez noted in The New York Times. While the murder rate has gone down, other criminal activities have continued, primarily drug trafficking and extortions. These security problems, along with a recent rise in murders and isolated incidents of gang violence, have led to increased scrutiny on the sustainability of the truce.
The United States government has neither publicly supported nor condemned the truce, yet there are indications the State Department does not approve of the process. As Miriam Wells of InSight Crime noted, the designation of MS-13 as a transnational criminal organization coupled with the denial of visas to Salvadoran government officials who planned to come to DC to request funding for the gang truce, “hardly amount to an endorsement.”
Salvadorans will vote for their next president on February 2, 2014. The three frontrunners are:
Current Vice-President from the ruling leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party, Salvador Sanchez Ceren.
Norman Quijano from the conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party and current mayor of the country’s capital, San Salvador.
Former President Antonio “Tony” Saca, who was in office from 2004-2009. This time around Saca is running with the conservative Gran Alianza por la Unidad Nacional (GANA) party. During his presidency he was affiliated with the ARENA party, however he was kicked out in 2009 for attempting to woo ARENA politicians to the GANA party while still a member of ARENA.
Sanchez Ceren: In line with the current FMLN administration, he supports the truce as an “opportunity for dialogue … we have learned that the main problems are resolved through the path of dialogue and understanding.” Sanchez Ceren has placed emphasis on the implementation of social programs to stem criminal activity, which he plans to finance through Petrocaribe, an oil alliance of several Central American and Caribbean with Venezuela that allows them to buy oil with low-interest payments. El Salvador joined the bloc last year.
Quijano is vehemently opposed to the truce, noting it is “an opportunity for the gangs to implement a criminal tax such as extortion” and that “the authority should always be on the side of the people, never on the side of the criminals.” Quijano advocates prison reform as an instrumental part of promoting long-term security. Under his plan, prisoners would be classified by seriousness of offenses and social programs would be implemented to focus on reintegration into society. Quijano also noted the United States will be an important ally in the fight against drug trafficking.
Tony Saca is largely opposed to the truce, blaming it as a tool to “deceive” the Salvadoran people so criminal organizations can take territory. Saca’s security plan focuses on employment and continued law enforcement measures to curb crime. He stated it is necessary “to multiply employment so that we have the necessary funds to augment the number of police in our territory.”
Another interesting element of this election is the reach of these campaigns into the United States. Recent legislation has given citizens abroad the right to vote. All three candidates have made campaign trips to the United States to convince the 1.8 million Salvadorans living in the country that their policies will move El Salvador forward.
Honduras’ security situation has been a central issue on the campaign trail. The country has the highest homicide rate in the world, with an average of 20 murders a day. In response, the government has been increasingly militarizing its fight against the soaring crime and violence. Most recently, 1,000 members of a new military policing unit were deployed throughout Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, the most violent cities in the country, in an effort to curb violence ahead of the presidential election.
This militarization of law enforcement has sparked concern from members of the U.S. Congress. Representatives Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Michael Honda (D-CA) sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, citing their “great concern” over the “promotion of increasing militarization of the police.” The AFP later quoted a State Department official who echoed the representatives’ concerns and said, “In our view, the creation of a military police force distracts attention from civilian police reform efforts and strains limited resources."
Some believe that the United States is not doing enough to counter human rights abuses ahead of elections. In the Miami Herald, Professor and expert Dana Frank wrote, “The United States, meanwhile, is pouring funds into both Honduran security forces, countenancing a militarization of the Honduran police that has long been illegal here at home, while dismissing Congressional pushback about human rights issues in Honduras.”
The congressmen’s letter also urged the State Department to monitor the election process, and to “speak forcefully against” attacks targeting the opposition and human rights defenders. Since June 2012, at least sixteen members of the opposition LIBRE party have been killed -- Rights Action has a list of LIBRE candidates and activists killed since May 2012. The first paragraph of the letter read:
We are writing to express our concern about U.S. policy and the approaching November 24 elections in Honduras. The evidence so far indicates that the freedom and fairness of this election is very much at risk, as human rights abuses under the existing government continue to threaten basic civil liberties, opposition candidates do not enjoy a level playing field, and state security forces are taking on an increasingly central, and ominous role in context of the election.
The presidential election will be held on November 24, 2013. There are two frontrunners in the race that are proposing radically different approaches to the fight against the crime and transnational drug trafficking that plagues the Central American nation.
Xiomara Castro, wife of deposed leader Manuel Zelaya and candidate of the center-left LIBRE party.
Juan Orlando Hernandez, the candidate from the highly conservative ruling National Party and current head of the country’s congress.
Juan Orlando Hernandez is advocating an expansion of military policing, pledging to put a “soldier on every corner.” He was the main architect of the new Military Police of Public Order unit. Some key remarks made while on the trail included:
“Peace in needed, because in these times, humble people must resort to asking permission from criminals to enter into their own homes.”
“I will not rest until we have the Military Police in every neighborhood.”
“LIBRE and liberals have achieved nothing in the realm of security and now they attack me for calling for the Military Police.”
Sources: 1, 2, 3
In the U.S. Congressional letter mentioned above, the authors expressed concern over Hernandez’s and the National Party’s heavy influence in Honduran politics:
We are particularly alarmed to learn that the ruling party, and its presidential candidate Mr. Juan Orlando Hernandez, now dominates all the key institutions of the government, including the country's electoral authority and the military, which distributes the ballots.
Xiomara Castro is on the other end of the security spectrum. She said the military police “have failed” to ensure security and a change of strategy is needed. Castro has promoted establishing community police forces and said the military should be deployed to prevent drug trafficking at the borders. Below are some of her remarks on the security situation:
“LIBRE proposes a community police, near to the people, so that the police know us, so they know who we are, and celebrate the security of the Honduran people.”
“More than 24,000 people have been assassinated. We are the most violent country in the world and we are not even at war. This can only mean that the current strategy is not the correct one.”
"If we manage to stop drugs coming into our country, it will be much easier to ensure internal security for the people"
Sources: 1, 2, 3
There has been some good coverage recently ahead of elections. The Christian Science Monitor looked at challenges for the LIBRE party, while Reuters provided a solid summary of the political landscape in the country. More from Hermano Juancito, CEPR and Honduras Culture and Politics blog.
While the race has been close between Castro and Hernandez, for some time, Castro was leading in the polls. However, the latest October survey numbers show Hernandez has pulled ahead, 25.7 percent to 22.2 percent. It is important to note that in the same poll, 30.8% of respondents refused to state a preference or said they would not vote for any of the candidates.
Chile is slated for elections on November 17, 2013 in a race between former President Michele Bachelet of the Socialist Party, Evelyn Matthei of the Independent Democratic Union and seven other candidates. The most recent polls indicate that Bachelet will garner 32% of the vote and easily win a second round runoff against Matthei, who is currently polling at 20%. The two candidates’ family narratives reflect the turbulent history of Chile. Matthei is the daughter of a key member of the Pinochet regime and Bachelet is the daughter of a Brigadier General who was tortured under the Pinochet government.
Evelyn Matthei has proposed a security plan that focuses on four main factors: crime prevention, criminal control, rehabilitation and reintegration and the fight against drug trafficking. She also noted that current programs on crime “have gone too far in the protection of criminals” and believes they should receive more jail time.
Michele Bachelet has proposed a plan to reduce crime in the country with an added focus to prevention. She has also fiercely criticized the Piñera administration’s approach toward security, stating, “obviously the plan to ‘Colombianize’ is not appropriate … the option used in other countries to incorporate the Armed Forces in citizen security is not necessary nor valid.” Bachelet is likely referring to security forces’ heavy-handed response to indigenous and student protest movements, including the use of water cannons and tear gas.
Bachelet noted a key part of her citizen security plan is to “make sure that the Public Ministry has the resources and ability to tend to victims, giving both protection and clear information.” Her proposal also includes an expansion of law enforcement with thousands new investigators and police officers throughout the country.
Friday, October 18, 2013
This post was written by CIP intern Benjamin Fagan.
The following is a round-up of some of the top articles and news highlights from around the region over the past week.
Tuesday was Teachers Day in Brazil, and protests erupted in multiple cities with marchers demanding educational reforms and free university tuition. The protests were the largest in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, where violence broke out with firebombs thrown by protesters and the use of tear gas by police. Folha de S. Paulo reported police were using lethal weapons, mainly shooting warning shots around protesters.
The New York Times featured gripping photos by FotoProtestoSP, a group of photographers that have documented various protests throughout the country.
The Igarape Institute released a new report about the future of Brazil’s security. The report notes that Brazil has a two-pronged approach to dealing with transnational crime: deepening its involvement in the larger international community while focusing on smaller bilateral agreements with its close neighbors to tackle the region’s issues. The study looks ahead and asks: “What direction will Brazil take in the coming decade?”
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has been promoting arms sales in Latin America with trips to Peru and Brazil this week. UPI noted Moscow media outlets are reporting that Russia is now the largest arms supplier to the region and the sales of weapons could potentially net $1.7 billion. On Wednesday Brazil’s Defense Ministry announced it would be going ahead with a $1 billion deal to buy anti-aircraft missile batteries from Russia.
The Associated Press published an excellent article that outlined growing criticism of Colombia’s Military Justice Law, which “would broaden the military justice system's jurisdiction and narrow the definition of extrajudicial killings.”This law would likely see an increase in impunity for military members accused of human rights abuses, as their cases could be transferred from civilian to military courts. These concerns have led U.S. Congress members to withhold $10 million in aid.
The fifteenth round of peace talks in Havana between the Colombian government and the FARC rebel group have ended without an agreement on political participation. Reuters reported on growing tensions between the two sides and noting as well that “Polls in Colombia show the population is tiring of the talks,” which have been lagging on for 11 months. The FARC delegation noted that public opinion should not affect the pace of the talks. More from El Espectador and El Tiempo.
Mexico City lawmakers are set to propose legislation to decriminalize and regulate the marijuana market through the implementation of cannabis clubs. Mexico City Assemblyman Vidal Llerenas stated, “We cannot hope for a drug-free world. But we can hope to limit the damage and take the profits away from organized crime.”
Ecuadorian officials showed signs of openness to a change in drug policy during a binational meeting in Uruguay. Rodrigo Velez, head of Ecuador’s national drug office, stated, “Ecuador looks with interest at Uruguay’s experience with the new regulated marijuana market.” However, Velez noted Ecuador’s proximity to the world’s largest coca-producing nations, Colombia and Peru, warranted a cautious and democratic response to drug policy.
The Global Post published a two-part series on coca production in Peru’s valley of the Apurimac and Ene Rivers (VRAE), where more coca is grown than any other region in the world. The first piece looked at a possibly violent backlash from farmers should U.S-backed counternarcotics operations in the region eradicate their crops. The article noted that U.S. assistance is increasing, as “the US Embassy in Lima said it was this year handing Peru $68 million for counternarcotics operations and $32 million for alternative development, including support for testing new crops and increasing their yields. Combined that is almost double the 2012 total of $55 million.”
The second article focuses on the VRAE’s small-scale rural farmers’ financial dependence on coca. One quoted farmer highlighted a major problem in the country: “When we grow cassava or bananas no one wants to buy them. But they come almost every day to buy our coca.”
One thousand members of Honduras’ controversial new military police unit were deployed Monday to San Pedro Sula and parts of Tegucigalpa, the most violent cities in the country. The new force, known as the Military Police of Public Order (PMOP), is the government’s latest measure using militarized tactics to combat rampant crime and violence. The continued use of this tactic has become the primary issue in the ongoing presidential race, with the ruling National party’s candidate, Juan Orlando Hernandez, supporting the use of military policing to fight crime. Xiomara Castro, the LIBRE party candidate, is advocating a community police force that interacts with local communities. More from the Pan-American Post.
This move toward militarization has caught the attention of the US Congress. On Wednesday congressmen Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Mike Honda (D-CA) and Hank Johnson (D-GA) penned a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry airing a number of concerns, including “that the Embassy has not spoken forcefully about the militarization of the police under the impetus of one of the candidates.” More from Honduras Culture and Politics blog.
Mexico is going to delay its deadline to vet local and federal police throughout the country, the Los Angeles Times reported. As the paper noted, “As part of a program created in 2008, Mexico’s half a million police officers are to be tested and vetted based on numerous criteria including financial information, trustworthiness, family connections and skills.”
This testing is tied to part of the United States’ $2 billion aid package, which has invested in overhauling the police. Analyst James Bosworth has a rundown of the challenges the vetting program has faced on his blog. Continued reports of serious criminal offenses by officers has highlighted the need to effectively implement police reform, however the process has been extended for one year, InSight Crime reported.
A piece in The Economist noted that analysts “agree that the government has yet to do anything to improve the quality of the police” and that although President Peña Nieto has decided to downplay the fight against drug kingpins, he “has yet to come up with a serious alternative.”
The Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Center released a report that found there has been a dramatic increase in citizen security interventions in the region since the late 1990s. Citizen security interventions are described as preventative measures “intended to support social cohesion.”
Friday, October 11, 2013
This post was written by CIP intern Benjamin Fagan.
The following is a round-up of some of the top articles and news highlights from around the region over the past week.
Inter American Court of Human Rights
Peruvian Judge Diego Garcia-Sayan, President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH), said that the use of military for domestic law enforcement was acceptable in the fight against crime. Charles Parkinson of InSight Crime noted, “his endorsement of the use of the army for citizen security may affect claims made against military human rights abuses before the CIDH, which is often the only serious option available to citizens as military personnel tend to be tried in closed military courts.”
A new report was released by the Centro de Estudios Legales about extrajudicial killings by members of Bueno Aires’ Metropolitan Police.
The Russian Defense Minister is set to travel to Brazil and Peru to discuss the sale of military technology to the South American nations. Brazil is set to buy anti-aircraft system batteries and Peru is in talks to acquire tanks. Both deals are expected to be valued at millions of dollars.
The United States donated six UH1Y helicopters to the Guatemalan Air Force to combat drug trafficking, along with navigational and infrastructure equipment all purported to be valued at $40 million. Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said the donation was, “a show of confidence in Guatemala by the United States government.”
Michelle Bachelet, the center-left candidate for president, is likely to win the race in mid-November, according to new opinion polls. Ms. Bachelet, who already has held Chile’s highest office, is polling at 33%, meaning a run-off vote is likely. In Chile, a candidate must gain 50% of the vote in the first round to avoid a runoff.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has demanded explanations from the Canadian government over allegations of spying on the country’s energy and mining sectors. Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail quoted American journalist Glenn Greenwald, “There is a huge amount of stuff about Canada in these archives because Canada works so closely with the NSA.” This is just the latest in allegations of spying on Brazil.
This week ongoing teachers protests turned violent in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, with police responding with tear gas. Al Jazeera writes, “Rio's police forces have come under criticism in recent months for their forceful responses to a series of street protests that have swept the city since June.” One incident that has gained notoriety in the country is the Facebook picture of a Rio police officer holding a broken baton with the caption “My bad, Teach.” More from Southern Pulse.
The Associated Press reported that while homicides have dropped in Rio de Janeiro since 2007, disappearances have “shot up,” fueling speculation about the police’s role in recent disappearances in the city. These concerns come a week after ten police officers were charged with the murder of Amarildo de Souza, a bricklayer who lived in Rocinha, a slum targeted by the police pacifying units that are attempting to control Rio’s slums.
A plane crashed during an anti-drug operation killing three Americans and a Panamanian and injuring two others. The aircraft was tracking boats suspected of smuggling illicit substances when it crashed in northern Colombia near Capurgana. The mission was part of Operation Martillo, a security agreement meant to stem the flow of illegal drugs in the Caribbean region.
Daniel Mejia from the Universidad de los Andes criticized irregularities in a study published by former and current Monsanto contractors on the effectiveness of coca fumigation. In an interview, Mejia, Colombia’s leading drug policy expert noted, “there is a strong scientific base to question what we are doing with the fumigation of glyphosate.” The researcher also said the government tried to censor information indicating aerial fumigation is harmful and ineffective.
Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America believes that the FARC peace talks could provide an opening to end fumigation programs, stating, “Both sides should commit to bringing the fumigation program to an end, and to replacing it with voluntary manual eradication, as part of a larger effort to bring the civilian part of the government to long-neglected areas.” The post looked at three reasons why the government should abandon aerial coca fumigation.
In an opinion piece, Laura Gil wrote that the Colombian government’s decision to not release an agreement that awarded Ecuador $15 million in damages over the use of glyphosate on the countries shared border was to stifle criticism of the controversial practice. On Thursday, the agreement, along with extensive commentary, was posted on El Tiempo.
The Independent published a chilling article by journalist James Bargent on the trafficking of girls in Colombia’s second-largest city, Medellin. Gangs in the city have been known to recruit girls as young as ten years old to be sold to the highest bidder, often times drug lords or foreign tourists.
President Nicolas Maduro has asked for decree granting powers, allowing him to bypass the legislature to tackle the country’s economic woes and rampant corruption. The Financial Times noted that Maduro “needs the votes of 99 lawmakers in the National Assembly … meaning that he needs to lure one independent or opposition legislator.” More from the Pan-American Post.
In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Salvadoran journalist Óscar Martínez argued the Salvadoran government’s failure to take credit for its role in facilitating a gang truce that has “already saved more than 2,000 lives,” could eventually cause the truce to fall apart. More from Central American Politics blog.
In mid-September, Honduran authorities announced that working closely with the Drug Enforcement Administration they had taken down $800 million in assets of Los Cachiros, a major drug trafficking organization. This week it was revealed that members of the organization were told about the operation at least a month in advance, allowing them to clear out banks accounts and sell considerable assets in advance of the raid. InSight Crime examined the U.S.’ role in the affair, noting that this U.S. push against narco-corruption “may be too late and might provoke a violent backlash.”
There has been an average of more than ten massacres per month in Honduras this year, El Heraldo reported. As the rate stands, the country is on track to register well over the 115 massacres recorded last year. Massacre is defined as the murder of three or more people.
According to McClatchy, “two Cuban MiG-21 jet fighters found aboard a seized North Korean cargo ship three months ago were in good repair, had been recently flown and were accompanied by ‘brand-new’ jet engines, Panamanian officials say.” Cuba had claimed all equipment found in the hidden arms shipment was obsolete and being sent to North Korea for repair.
Friday, October 4, 2013
This post was co-written by Sarah Kinosian and CIP intern Benjamin Fagan.
The following is a round-up of some of the top articles and news highlights from around the region over the past week.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the amount of cocaine passing through the Caribbean has risen considerably in the past year. The Miami Herald reported that in the first half of 2013, 14% of all U.S.-bound cocaine passed through the Caribbean, double the amount that was recorded over the same time period last year.
The San Diego Union-Tribune highlighted a youth scouting program in Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez and Monterrey funded by the United States government. The program is meant to strengthen local communities and prevent youth gang involvement. It is a part of the Mérida Initiative, the United States’ main security package to Mexico.
On Monday, Venezuela expelled three U.S. envoys for allegedly colluding with “extreme right” opposition groups in order to destabilize the government. The United States reciprocated the move the next day, expelling three Venezuelan diplomats. Venezuelan state TV released a video showing diplomats meeting with “far right” organizations and politicians. The video, set to the ominous theme music from the popular American movie Requiem for a Dream, can be found here. For links to more stories, see the Just the Facts Venezuelan news section.
Paraguay has begun talks with the United States about receiving help in the fight against the EPP rebel group, ABC Color reported. While few details have been given, the Paraguayan Defense Minister noted more resources will be needed to continue military operations in the north of the country.
USAID officially ceased activities in Bolivia this week. The government of La Paz also voted to seize the building formerly occupied by the U.S. development organization, ending any presence of it the Andean country. On May 1 of this year, President Evo Morales expelled USAID for acting with political intent “against the Bolivian people.”
This week, FARC negotiators committed to “advancing toward a Colombia without coca” and told press that the negotiating teams have made ”modest progress”. FARC negotiators Ivan Marquez and Pablo Catatumbo gave their first-ever interview to a Colombian news network this week. Colombian magazine Semana reported that Marquez criticized former President Uribe, who opposes the talks, for “being incapable of winning the war and now not wanting to make peace.” See WOLA’s ColombiaPeace.org website for an updated and detailed timeline of the talks.
La Silla Vacia published an interesting article on five reasons why fumigation efforts to eradicate coca are a failure. The reasons were:
This week Colombia’s Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pizón traveled to Central America to discuss security issues related to narcotrafficking with leaders of the region. The Minister made a variety of agreements including a bolstering of security along the shared border with Panama, proposed naval exercises and army training with Guatemala, and commitments to increase anti-narcotrafficking cooperation with Honduras and the Dominican Republic.
- There is only a small statistical advantage to using fumigation in coca eradication
- Coca derivative prices have remained stable
- The social and health care costs of fumigation outweigh the benefits
- Glyphosate is harmful to humans and can cause skin and respiratory problems
- Fumigated communities lose trust in the State
After Guatemala’s President Otto Perez Molina call for a global shift in drug policy at the UN General Assembly, it appears action is being taken to realize this goal on a national level. This week Prensa Libre reported that a new commission would convene in 2014 to discuss legislative reforms of the national drug policy. Changes could include the reduction or elimination of penalties for personal use possession.
On Monday, El Salvador’s Archdiocese announced the closure of the church’s human rights office, Tutela Legal. As the Salvadoran daily El Mundo noted, the office “is an institution that has 80 percent of the documentation of serious human rights abuses that occurred during the civil war.” The decision drew much criticism from local and international human rights as well as current President Funes, who criticized the closure, saying it sent a negative message to the victims of human rights abuses.
As the Pan-American Post highlighted, the closure interestingly enough comes as the Constitutional Court will hear a challenge to the country’s 1993 Amnesty law. Should the law be overturned, the archives housed by Tutela Legal detailing abuses from the Civil War could prove invaluable. The Salvadoran government is taking steps to ensure the records are guarded, according to La Prensa Grafica. More from Tim’s El Salvador Blog, the Los Angeles Times and El Faro, the Salvadoran outlet that broke the story.
Dominican Republic and Haiti
Haiti recalled its ambassador from the Dominican Republic in response to a recent court ruling thats jeopardizes the citizenship of thousands of Haitian immigrants, including stripping their children of legal status. The Open Society Justice Initiative published a fact sheet on the situation and a press release urging the Dominican government to overturn the “legally flawed” ruling.
Labor rights group Verité published a report that places Peru as the top producer and exporter of illegally mined gold in the world. The illegal gold exports are more profitable than narcotrafficking activities in the country, which was recently named the number one producer of coca in the world, and is likely the top cocaine producer.
The Honduran government says there have been 2,629 murders in the first six months of 2013. The independent Observatoria de Violencia reported there have been 3,547 murders in that time. This week Honduras Culture and Politics blog has a post explaining the difference in the numbers and stating that Security and Defense Minister Arturo Corrales is “prepare to change the way he counts homicides so that it looks like the Lobo Sosa government is being much more effective against crime than it really is.”
Honduras’ new military police will begin patrolling the streets in the capital of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula in the 2nd half of the month, just before presidential elections in November. According to El Tiempo, 500 officials will be deployed to Tegucigalpa.
Recent polling in the presidential election of Honduras shows a slight lead by Xiomara Castro, the wife of deposed leader Manuel Zelaya. While Castro does command a lead, Analyst James Bosworth writes that Castro and the other front runner, Juan Orlando Hernandez of the ruling Nacional Party, have about equal chances of winning the election.
Ten police officers were arrested for the torture and killing of Amarildo de Souza, a bricklayer from Rio de Janeiro’s largest favela, Rochinha. The case has become a symbol for growing anger over extrajudicial police killings in the country. Brazil's human rights minister, Maria del Rosario said, "What this investigation reveals is the necessity of changes so that the police are more focused, more accountable to citizens and not oriented towards criminal disregard for human rights," the Guardian reported. More from the Pan-American Post.
Friday, September 27, 2013
This post was co-written by Sarah Kinosian and CIP intern Benjamin Fagan
On Thursday the U.S. Congress passed the Organization of American States Revitalization and Reform Act of 2013, a bill that requires the Obama administration create a strategy to reform the Organization of American States (OAS). Obama will likely sign off on the bill as it was signed by unlikely parties from both sides of the political spectrum, analyst James Bosworth noted. In that event, Secretary of State Kerry will have 180 days to submit a multi-year proposal to Congress. Eliot Engel, the senior Democratic member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, “The passage of this legislation signals a rebound in the Congressional relationship with the OAS.”
USAID released a report, ”Detailed Guidelines for Improved Tax Administration in Latin America and the Caribbean that will “enable tax administrations to assess their own performance against leading practices in a variety of areas.” A blog written by USAID economic advisor Doug Pulsar highlights the inability of several countries in the region to to collect and manage public revenues effectively.
The United States Government Accountability Office released a report calling for improvements in the implementation of the Leahy Law. In particular, the report calls for the State Department to better guide embassies on how to implement a requirement that “directs State to inform the foreign government if funds are withheld under the law and, to the maximum extent practicable, assist the foreign government in bringing those responsible to justice.”
U.N. General Assembly
Several Latin American leaders spoke at the UN General Assembly meeting this week. Yesterday Just the Facts provided a round-up and summary of their statements. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff received the most media attention over her harsh criticism of U.S. surveillance practices. Also notable were statements from Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Guatemala’s Otto Perez Molina calling for global drug policy reform yet again in front of the international body.
Following Rousseff’s critical speech at the UN, there were a number of articles examining U.S.-Brazil relations. Links to them can be found here. The Miami Herald published an interview with a former U.S. ambassador who said "From Washington’s perspective, the Brazilian government is not exactly friendly," noting the country’s relatively friendly relations with Iran, Venezuela and Cuba. The Christian Science Monitor asked, “Is Brazil’s Rousseff the New Voice of Latin America?” while the New York Times’ Room for Debate blog asked contributors with differing views, “As Brazil Snubs the U.S., Who Loses?”
Peru coca numbers
Peru has replaced Colombia as the world's leading producer of coca, according to the United Nations. This increase has been reflected in rising U.S. funding for counternarcotics operations in the country, Fox News Latino noted.This year, anti-drug assistance to Peru reached $100 million, almost double 2012's $55 million. According to the Christian Science Monitor, “It's a shift in the map of Andean coca production, which experts say strongly resembles the landscape from the early 1990s, a time of expanding drug crop cultivation and trafficking.” According to Peru’s former drug czar, Ricardo Soberon, “The problem exists because there is a complicity and corruption at various levels that allow planting to continue,” he told EFE in an interview.
Two majors storms have battered Mexico and left at least 115 dead. Security analyst Alejandro Hope writing for Animal Politico deems such storms more damaging to national security than criminal groups and drug cartels, and says policymakers should begin to tackle the risk of such events.
InSight Crime published a piece that gives an up-to-date overview of the current state of Mexico’s Sinaloa Federation, the Zetas, and other active cartels. According to the article, “Mexico's drug trafficking organizations have increasingly splintered, and may well end up consolidated under the influence of the last cartel standing. That cartel would likely be the Sinaloa Federation.”
In Mexico, “Military courts suffer from a fundamental conflict of interest, because the military acts as both defendant and judge,” writes Maureen Meyer and Clay Boggs in a new post from the Washington Office on Latin America. The authors call for an overhaul of the country’s Military Code of Justice to allow human rights abuses of citizens by military personnel to be tried in civilian courts.
Talks between the FARC rebel group and the Colombian government have slowed down in recent weeks. La Silla Vacia explores the reasons behind the stalled peace process, noting that Santos’ low poll numbers and recent protests by campesinos may be emboldening the rebel group. Another blow to the peace process was an announcement by FARC leader Timochenko that the group may break the confidentiality of the talks because the Santos administration was “imposing unilateral decisions.” Soon after, Timochenko denied that the group threatened to break the secrecy of talks but that keeping the Colombian people informed of advances in the talks, “did not break the pact of confidentiality.”
Authorities seized1.4 tons (2,900 lbs.) of cocaine from an Air France flight from Caracas to Paris. It was the largest seizure in French history. So far, 22 people have been detained in connection with the seizures, including low level Venezuelan military officers. As security analyst James Bosworth noted that it is unlikely that high level officials will be held accountable. The drug haul has substantiated U.S. officials’ concerns about the involvement of Venezuelan military and government officials in drug trafficking, particularly since the National Guard is in charge of airport security in Caracas. Reuters reported on Wednesday that Venezuelan authorities had seized another, considerably smaller, drug load (9.7 lbs) at the Caracas airport on a flight headed to Ibiza, Spain.
International Crisis Group released a new report on the Guatemalan justice system and the trial of former dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt.
Jamaican police figures indicate 860 homicides were recorded between January and September 23 this year, compared to 820 over the same period last year. Police attribute this spike to increased gang activity. As InSight Crime noted, “Much of the violence on the island is perpetuated by warring gangs involved in drug trafficking, as well as street crime and property theft.” According to the U.S. State Department’s 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy report, Jamaica is not only the biggest Caribbean supplier of marijuana to the United States it also has a conviction rate of five percent due to its “sluggish” criminal justice system.
On Tuesday, Jamaican lawmakers debated a proposal to decriminalize marijuana for personal use. No bill has been drafted or vote scheduled. As the Associated Press noted, Jamaicans are growing tired of prohibitionist laws that result in “300 young men receiving criminal records each week for possessing small amounts of ‘ganja,’” hurting their employment opportunities. The article also highlighted that previous efforts have stalled over fears of U.S. reprisal, but that marijuana legalization initiatives in Washington and Colorado have calmed those worries.
This appears to be part of a growing trend in the Caribbean as EFE reported Puerto Rico’s Senate will also begin to consider a proposal to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. It also noted that St. Lucia has been debating the issue for some time now and that the prime minister of St.Vincent and the Grenadines has proposed his counterpart from Trinidad and Tobago who currently heads the Caribbean Community, or Caricom, push debate on legalizing medical marijuana.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
This post was compiled by CIP intern Benjamin Fagan
This week, world leaders converged in New York City for the 68th UN General Assembly. Numerous Latin American leaders were invited to address the UN body. Below are some highlighted quotes from their remarks.
Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil
President Rousseff garnered considerable press attention for her scathing criticism of the United States' National Security Administration spying programs that targeted both her personal email and the state owned oil company, Petrobras. A full statement and a video of her address is available here.
“... it emerged that we were targeted by this intrusion. Personal data of citizens was intercepted indiscriminately. Corporate information - often of high economic and even strategic value - was at the center of the espionage activity.”
“Tampering in such a manner in the affairs of other countries is a breach of International Law and is an affront to the principles that must guide relations among them, especially among friendly nations.”
“The right to safety of citizens of one country can never be guaranteed by violating fundamental human rights of citizens of another country.”
“The arguments that the illegal interception of information and data aimed at protecting nations against terrorism cannot be sustained. Brazil, Mr. President, knows how to protect itself. We reject, fight and do not harbor terrorist groups.”
“Brazil, Mr. President, will redouble its efforts to adopt legislation, technologies and mechanisms to protect us from the illegal interception of communications and data.”
“Brazil will present proposals for the establishment of a civilian multilateral framework for the governance and use of the Internet and to ensure the effective protection of data that travels through the web.”
Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia
President Santos’ remarks focused on violence in the country, the FARC peace process and a reevaluation of global drug policy. He addressed the guerillas directly, calling for fighters to put down their guns and join the political process. A transcript and video of his remarks are available here.
“Right here, in this same headquarters, 52 years ago, the Convention that gave the birth certificate to the war on drugs was approved. Today, we must acknowledge, that war has not been won.”
“If we act together on the drug problem with a comprehensive vision devoid of ideological or political biases, we will be able to prevent much harm and violence!”
“I hope the guerilla understands that the time has come to leave this 50 year confrontation behind; that the time has come to change from bullets to votes, from weapons to argumentations; that the time has come for them to continue their struggle, but with democracy.”
“We are tired of being afraid, we are tired of violence, we are tired of a conflict that confronts children of a same nation and delays our development.”
Laura Chinchilla-Miranda, President of Costa Rica
Laura Chinchilla, President of Costa Rica, praised the United Nations and the covenants of international law in her speech. She then challenged Nicaragua to respect the International Court of JusticeJ ruling of the two nations’ border dispute. A video and transcript of her statements are available here.
“In October of 2010, Nicaraguan forces occupied part of Costa Rica’s territory. Following out denunciation, the international Court of Justice took provisional measures which, among other things, prohibit the presence of Nicaraguan personnel in the zone under dispute.”
“Nicaragua has continued sending contingents of political activists, funded and organized by its Government… The Nicaraguan and Costa Rican people wish and deserve to live in peace, but the Nicaraguan Government insists on preventing it.”
José Mujica, President of Uruguay
President Mujica was perhaps the most entertaining of the speakers, giving a 40-minute speech that was more philosophical, touching on issues of the environment, the failures of capitalism and the meaning of life. A statement and audio can be found here.
“We rip out the true forests and replace them with anonymous concrete forests. We face a sedentary lifestyle as walkers, insomnia with pills and loneliness with electronics… Are we happy with the human experience?”
“Today is the time to prepare for a world without borders.”
"So long as mankind lives in a climate of war, he is in prehistory"
“The United Nations languishes and becomes more bureaucratic because it lacks power and autonomy.”
“Nevertheless, with talent and collective work, man can make the deserts green, bring agriculture to the seas, develop our agriculture with salt water and more.”
Horacio Cartes, President of Paraguay
Horacio Cartes, the newly elected President of Paraguay, immediately praised the recent presidential election process as democratic and exemplary, overseen by outside observers. His remarks largely focused on Paraguay as a “land of opportunity” for investment, growth, and social inclusion. A transcript and audio of his remarks can be found here.
“My country asks for opportunities to achieve progress in a dignified manner, not for hand-outs; to work and study and truly become a land of opportunity.”
“Paraguay encourages peace, dialogue and harmonious global development, along with the integration that is respectful of the Rule of Law, national dignity and asymmetries.”
Sebastian Piñera, President of Chile
Mr. Piñera’s remarks were largely focused on international norms and the UN as an international body. He said that UN veto power was the relic of a previous time, and that governments should not be allowed to use veto power when human rights are at stake. He then went on to list the lessons that Chile has learned from its 1973 coup. His remarks can be found here.
“The reforms required of this body are neither based in its composition nor substance, but in the need to leave behind the logic of vetoes, which is from a world that no longer exists.”
“... there exists a very close relationship between the health of democracy, social justice and economic progress. These factors are mutually strengthened and renewed, so much so that if any of these suffer, sooner or later the rest will deteriorate as well.”
Ollanta Humala Tasso, President of Peru
President Humala focused his speech on indicators of improvement in his country, touching on issues of regional integration, economic successes and progress toward reaching the Millennium Development Goals. On security issues, he noted that relations between states no longer cause the most serious threats to peace. A video and transcript of his speech can be found here.
“It is particularly gratifying and a source of pride for Peru ato have managed, in the most constructive and cooperative way, the maritime delimitation dispute with Chile.”
“We are referring to terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime, mafias and corruption. All these crimes pose a real threat to life, progress, and development, mainly affecting the poor.”
Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal, President of Panama
President Martinelli praised his country’s progress on the Millennium Development Goals and affirmed Panama’s commitment to sustainability in economic, social and environmental development. Martinelli also joined President Chinchilla of Costa Rica in expressing concern over recent actions by Nicaragua to delimit maritime boundaries.
The Panamanian President also said he would respect the decision of the Security Council in regards to an investigation of the detainment of a North Korean ship carrying weapons through the Canal. A video and transcript of his address can be found here.
“My Government finds itself in the pressing need to categorically reject the Republic of Nicaragua’s attempt to delimit its maritime boundaries, because this violates the existing treaties with the Republic of Panama, which we have honored in good faith, as well as our legitimate maritime rights, recognized and accepted by the International Community in this area.”
“After the ship was seized, an enormous amount of war material that, by definition and destination clearly violates Security Council Sanctions Committee mandates, were discovered hidden under 200 tons of raw sugar.”
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
This post was written by CIP Intern Benjamin Fagan
On Friday, in its statement on Major Drug Transit and Drug Producing Countries for FY 2014, the White House declared Venezuela and Bolivia had "failed demonstrably" over the past year to adhere to international counternarcotics agreements.
The determination called for increased “support for programs to aid” anti-drug policies in Venezuela, but did not mention Bolivia as a candidate for such assistance. While Venezuela has a strained relationship with the United States regarding anti-drug efforts – former President Chávez kicked the DEA out in 2005, -- with Bolivia that relationship has been particularly tenuous under President Evo Morales, who promotes legalized coca cultivation.
Although Morales rejects the legalization of drugs, he has expanded an "alternative model," first implemented in the country in 2004, intended to combat drug trafficking while allowing for the domestic cultivation of 20,000 hectares of coca. Although this measure appears to have caused potential cocaine production numbers to have dropped, even according to White House numbers, this stance runs counter to official U.S. policy and has created a rift.
The United States has been scaling back on aid to Bolivia, cutting counternarcotics funding from $15 million in 2011 to $10 million in 2012. In 2008, Bolivian President accused the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of spying on him. In April of this year, Morales ejected USAID from the country, ending U.S.-sponsored alternative development programs, and in May, the U.S. announced it would close its counternarcotics office in Bolivia.
Other countries described as "major drug transit and/or major illicit drug producing countries" in the region were: The Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela.
Additionally, the statement notes the government’s “deep concern” over the 5% increase in cocaine trafficking from the Caribbean to the U.S. It also highlights the necessity for strengthened cooperation in Central America under programs such as the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI).
Both Venezuela and Bolivia were outraged over the “failed demonstrably” designation. The head of Venezuela’s anti-drug office, Alejandro Keleris, responded, “We strongly reject the accusation ... The United States is trying to ignore our government's sovereign policies.” In an official statement from the Venezuela National Anti-Drug Office, Keleris states, “Venezuela sticks to a balanced drug policy, utilizing strong efforts in both prevention and interdiction.” He noted the following indicators of commitment to anti-drug efforts: 6,400 arrests related to drug crimes in the last year, 80,000 pounds of drugs seized in the last year, the capture of 100 drug gang bosses since 2006, 75 of whom have been deported.
Bolivian Vice-Minister of Social Defense and Controlled Substances, Felipe Caceres, stated, “The Bolivian government does not recognize under any circumstances the US as an authority to certify or decertify the fight against drugs, the only internationally accredited body is the UN whose report was recently met.”
The U.N. report to which Caceres was referring, released in August by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, found that from 2011 to 2012 Bolivia decreased the total area of coca cultivation by 7% and had eradicated upwards of 11,000 of coca. Both countries’ anti-drug measures were given the same classification last year by the United States.
Friday, September 6, 2013
This post was written by CIP interns Benjamin Fagan and Victor Salcedo
The large-scale protests that paralyzed many Brazilian cities and captured the attention of the international press this summer have mostly fizzled out following political promises to tackle corruption and other social woes. As noted in an earlier blog post, the conduct of Brazil’s police raised serious concerns about violence against peaceful protesters and journalists. Since then, Brazilian lawmakers and the Rousseff administration have sprung into action to appease protesters demands. First, Brazil’s Congress voted to allocate 25% of the royalties from newly discovered oil fields into the health system and 75% to education.
Yet this rapid response by Congress has not equated to across the board substantial changes. According to Globo, 60% of the government proposals in response to the protests are caught up in Congress. Some analysts note that repeat protests are likely if the government does not take the necessary measures to fulfill the demands of the Brazilian people. Shari Wejsa and Vitor de Salles Brasil write in the Americas Quarterly, “While the protest movement has waned for now, the fundamental conditions that sparked them have yet to be addressed. Without a continued push for reform, Brazilians are likely to take to the streets once again.” Thus far, some of the government’s key stopgap measures intended to address the protesters’ calls for reform have had mixed success:
The first failure of the Rousseff administration was a poorly planned proposal for a constituent assembly that was quickly squashed only 24 hours after being unveiled due to its unconstitutionality. LAC Press notes that the Brazilian Vice President, a constitutional lawyer, was not included in the policymaking process.
An anti-corruption bill, meant to classify corruption as a “heinous” crime, has been stuck in the lower house of Brazil’s Congress. Valeriano Costa, a professor at Campinas University, is quoted in DW as stating, “If it comes to mass protests against corruption on September 7, they will be targeted directly at the legislative branch.”
President Rousseff signed a controversial agreement, called Mais Medicos (More Doctors), with Cuba and other countries to recruit doctors to Brazil’s underserved rural regions. This measure is an immediate response to public concern over the health system; a Datafolha survey found that almost 50% of Brazilians cited healthcare as the most pressing issue in the country. Yet, this proposal has sparked more social unrest, this time among the medical community. Thousands of medical professionals and students protesting the government’s plan to import doctors from abroad have taken to the streets in a number of cities such as Brasilia, Santa Catarina, Fortaleza and Pernambuco. Doctors contest that a lack of adequate resources, not a lack of doctors, is the root of the country’s medical woes and are in opposition to new professionals that have not taken the "Revalida" medical exam and may not have the Portuguese language skills needed to treat patients.
As the Rousseff administration is focusing on a political solution to the crisis, other sectors of the government have begun to implement new security strategies in preparation for future protests:
The Government of Bahia is implementing a new strategy that prevents protesters from blocking major transportation avenues.
Brazil’s military police have announced a measure that will ban the use of masks during public protests to maintain order. “Anyone with a mask will be detained,” said Jooziel Freire Melo, commander of the Military Police in Brasilia.
Security measures also have been increased in preparation for the Independence Day celebration and a soccer match this Saturday, September 7th. The Department of Public Safety is expecting around 150,000 people in Brasilia for the festivities. Social media sites planning demonstrations, like the Anonymous Brasil Facebook account, have been monitored for the past 30 days. So far, there are major protests expected for this weekend in 135 cities around the country. 4,000 military police officers will be on duty to ensure civil security in Brasilia during the celebrations.